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Staging an Intervention for a Loved One

Mental health intervention, Addiction intervention

If your loved one is spiraling out of control, with substance use and/or with their mental health, it can be hard to know how to help. Depending on your personality and beliefs about mental health and addiction, you might gravitate toward “helping” too much (enabling) or toward being too tough and uncompromising. A happy medium can be found via an intervention. 

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a planned, formal meeting in which close friends and family members of a loved one share their concerns with that person and encourage them to seek help. It’s often beneficial to work with a professional therapist or interventionist and to have that person guide the meeting. 

An intervention is NOT an attack on your loved one or a time to place blame and list all of the ways the person has hurt you. An intervention is NOT a way to force someone to change. An intervention communicates love, concern, and some new boundaries that can motivate the person to seek the help they need. 

How do I Plan an Intervention?

Several things need to happen before the intervention takes place, but not necessarily in this order:

  • Decide who will be part of the intervention. Choose people who love the person in question and have been affected by their mental health condition or substance use disorder. However, everyone in the group should be able to control their emotions and reactions. Don’t include people in the group who are quick to anger or tears. There will be time during your loved one’s recovery to work through hurt and anger, but that time is not now. 
  • Consider hiring an interventionist. Having a professional guide the group through the preparation and the intervention itself is invaluable. The interventionist can help group members prepare what they want to say and how; offer advice for dealing with your loved one’s specific issue; keep the group on task before and during the intervention; help defuse any tension that will likely arise during the intervention; and provide resources for finding treatment. 
  • Learn more about your loved one’s condition and the treatment options available in your area. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and websites like This is My Brave, where people share their own stories of addiction and mental illness, are good places to start. 
  • Write a letter to your loved one that you can read out loud to them during the intervention.
    • Each group member should write a letter or a list of talking points describing the following: 
      • How much you love the person and are concerned for them.
      • The changes you’ve seen in them (appearance, health, behavior, moods, etc.).
      • Why those changes concern you (your loved one is unhappy, unhealthy, losing friendships, losing work opportunities, etc.).
      • How those changes affect you (constant worry, exhaustion, financial problems, loneliness, extra work, etc.). NOTE: Stick to the facts and avoid casting blame.  Instead of saying, “Your addiction/mental health condition is making me feel really lonely and overworked,” say something like, “I really miss the way we used to talk about our days and eat meals together. When you are sick or depressed, we don’t get to have that time. I feel lonely.”
      • What you want the person to do. Go to inpatient treatment? Meet with an admissions counselor for an evaluation? See a therapist or doctor? 
      • How you will help. Will you provide childcare or transportation? Will you go with them to visit the treatment center and meet with a counselor? Will you help them financially? 
    • Rehearse the plan with the group to make sure everyone is on the same page. Decide where and when to have the intervention. Choose a time at which your loved one is least likely to be hungover or in a bad mood.
    • Decide as a group what to do if your loved one refuses treatment. Set boundaries. For example, you could tell the person that they will not be allowed to use drugs or alcohol in your home or to come home drunk or high. You could refuse to take on their responsibilities or cover for them when they are absent from work or family events. 

How do I Stage the Intervention?

Once your plan is in place, it’s just a matter of following through. Again, a professional interventionist can help ensure that the plan stays on track; they will also know what to do if your loved one becomes confrontational. 

If your loved one agrees to get help, do what you can to make sure they get into treatment. If they refuse, stick to the boundaries you set in place during the intervention. 

Choosing the Right Treatment Option

If you’re not sure what kind of treatment your loved one needs, reach out to Eagle View Behavioral Health in Bettendorf, IA. We can talk with you about your situation and provide a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis for your loved one. We treat substance use disorders and mental health issues with compassionate, individualized care. Adults and teens alike can benefit from our inpatient or outpatient programs

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