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Although people most commonly associate interventions with drug or alcohol addiction or substance abuse, interventions are simply a tool to convince a person needing some form of treatment or change in life to accept the help that’s being offered.

An intervention can help a person who struggles with any number of destructive or compulsive behaviors or addictions, particularly when a loved one minimizes or denies the extent or existence of the problem as a rationale to continue on as they are. Some examples of situations that may call for an intervention are:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drug addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Porn addiction
  • Internet addiction
  • Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Compulsive overeating etc.)
  • Compulsive spending or shopping
  • OCD
  • Hoarding
  • Having an elderly relative move to an assisted living environment
  • Others

Why Do Interventions Work for So Many Different Types of Problems?

Interventions have little to do with alcohol or drugs and a lot to do with getting someone you love to accept the help you are offering, no matter what type of help that is. People with different types of addictions and destructive behaviors may deny the existence of a real problem and may believe their actions have little impact on their loved ones.

It is very difficult, however, to deny that your actions are hurtful to those around you when everyone you love sits down with you to ask you to get help and to give specific examples of how your actions do everyone harm – and this holds true whether you’re drinking, using cocaine, overspending or harming yourself with disordered eating.

The challenges may differ but no matter what problem a loved one struggles with, the principles of effective interventions remain the same.

  • Prepare well – interventions are emotional and difficult events and your team needs to be ready to do the job well
  • Get as many friends and loved ones involved as you can
  • Give specific examples of how the addiction or negative behavior has done harm
  • Ask the person to get help or make some sort of real change
  • Provide clear and concrete consequences for choosing to deny this offer of help
  • Do it all with love – keeping anger and hurt and blame and shame out of the equation

When to Call in an Expert

Family run interventions can be effective, provided they are well planned and executed and run with caring and love. In some situations, however, it pays to have an expert on board who can guide the family through the challenging preparation period and help to ensure that the actual event runs as it should.

Although the services of a professional interventionist don’t come cheaply (likely a few too many thousands of dollars after all is said and done) they can help you to assess the situation accurately and make a good treatment choice and they can help to improve the odds that your intervention will lead to a desired outcome.

While not everyone will need the services of a professional, expert advice is strongly recommended in some situations, such as when:

  • The person has a history of serious mental illness
  • The person is likely to react with strong denial and minimize the extent or existence of the problem
  • The person may react violently or has a history of violence
  • The person has been talking about suicide or given other behavioral indications of self harm or suicidal intent1
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Page last updated Nov 12, 2015

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