Mental Health

Intervention, A Collaborative Approach To Healing Addiction

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

One of the worst parts about addiction is its blast radius. Like a land mine going off, addiction does not just impact the person who encounters it. It also hits anyone close to them.

This is a big part of many programs that focus on the mental, emotional, and social aspects of recovery. If you are an addict, you have likely done something that has hurt your loved ones.

It is difficult to reconcile this in oneself. Most people who find that they have hurt a loved one will slink away in shame rather than seek forgiveness. The vulnerability of reconnection is sometimes too much for a person to deal with. It is easier to just run and hide.

That is why interventions are so important. An intervention happens when someone in an addict’s life reaches out over the barriers the addict has set up. But that is not very specific.

When do interventions happen? What do they involve? Are they even effective? If you are planning an intervention, expecting one, or just received one from your loved ones, then there are some things you should probably know so that you can navigate the event effectively.

When is an Intervention Necessary?


The natural answer to this question is that an intervention is necessary whenever someone develops a substance abuse problem. And that is actually correct. But there are times when an intervention is more necessary and times when an intervention is less necessary.

We mentioned earlier that addicts have a habit of being hurtful to those around them. But what we didn’t say is how they are hurtful. There is the general moodiness that comes with being an addict, of course, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. What causes addicts to be hurtful most frequently is often a failure to meet obligations.

While intervention is always necessary when someone had a substance abuse problem, their loved ones might only find out they have a problem when they start noticing that their loved one is constantly short on money, distracted, or unable to keep a consistent schedule.

Interventions are not just necessary because they help the addict, they are also necessary because an addict in these circumstances is far less likely to help themselves.

What do Interventions Involve?


So, what are the steps involved in an intervention anyways? How do they work?

They are actually quite simple, as they contain two main ingredients: Logistical support and emotional support. That basically means recognition of the problem and how to deal with it, as well as recognition of the person that has the problem and how they are still a person.

Logistical support is about helping establish an actionable plan to fight addiction. That means setting up times to check in on the addict, helping the addict get medicine, and assisting the addict in changing their environment to make exposure to their vice less likely or frequent.

Emotional support is the hard part, but it is not always hard for the reason you might expect. For instance, many people expect the addict to be the difficult one to deal with during an intervention. But more often than not, people show up to an intervention with an ax to grind.

The thing to remember is that emotional support is meant to help a person. It is a collaborative process intended to reach an outcome that benefits the addict and the intervener both without compromising the addict’s agency or reducing their decisions or personhood down to their vice.

An intervention should not be about giving orders or taking control of an addict’s life. People who go in trying to “fix” an addict will create a highly alienating environment. An intervention should fix the addiction, not treat the addict like some kind of less-than-human creature.

Are Interventions Effective?


This is the concern many people have, and it is a hard concern to deal with. Even when you are in the midst of an intervention that is going perfectly well, the constant pull of drug cravings can make both the addict and the intervener feel like it can unravel at any moment.

Here is what we will say: Yes, interventions are effective. But there is no secret sauce that makes them effective. There is no plan you can make or support you can offer that will guarantee that they will result in the desired outcome of the addiction being overcome.

What makes interventions effective is actually much simpler than that: The most effective interventions are the ones that do not stop. Even if they have loose plans and imperfect support systems involved in them, as long as you do not give up it will work out eventually.

It is worth noting that most programs designed to fight addiction are laid out over months. Their effectiveness is generally only charted over years. In short, they are not bound up to tight time scales. The individual days that make up the intervention will be difficult, but that means that bad days that involve arguments and relapse are just a small part of a larger whole.

This also means that it is better to start an intervention early and maintain it for a while than it is to put off an intervention looking for some silver bullet cure to one’s problems.



The greatest lesson you should take from the study of interventions is that they do not have to be treated as a big, dramatic event. There does not have to be raised voices and tearful confessions of guilt and absolution. These things will probably happen, but it can be an intervention without them.

What an intervention needs are logistics and support. It is much easier to maintain these rather than maintain a constant cycle of emotional highs.

One thing we haven’t talked about here is rehab. Rehab is an option for interventions, but it might not work how you think. If you want more information on how it can play into your intervention, you can find it here:

Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction

How to Stage an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Intervention

How Do I Hold An Intervention?

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