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Identify the Best Person For an Alcohol Intervention

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Treatment for alcohol problems has evolved considerably over the last several decades. For example, we used to say that the alcoholic had to hit 'rock bottom' before successful treatment was possible. The recovery community no longer sees things that way. In fact, it is now generally accepted that employing what is known as an intervention is an excellent way to motivate alcohol abusers to get help before they ever hit the rock-bottom state.

You might already be familiar with alcohol intervention and how it works. If not, an intervention is a type of support that brings together family members and close friends willing to confront the alcoholic in a supportive, non-judgemental way. Intervention encourages the alcoholic to step back and assess his or her situation as objectively as possible. It can be a very good motivational tool when used correctly.

There are several keys to conducting a successful intervention, which we will describe in this guide. The first is to identify the best person to lead the intervention. Whoever accepts this responsibility has the task of coordinating the effort and keeping the intervention on track throughout its course. This person should be thoughtful, organised, and compassionate yet firm.

The best person to lead an intervention might be:

  • A Spouse – The alcoholic's spouse might be the right person to lead the intervention because of the closeness of the relationship between the two. The spouse may be the only person an alcoholic is willing to listen to. If not, there are other options.
  • A Parent – Parents tend to have a connection with their children that no one else enjoys. This connection is a lifelong connection that can be very instrumental during the intervention process.
  • A Close Friend – In the absence of a spouse or parent willing to lead the intervention, a close friend can take the lead role. This can be somewhat challenging, however. A friend must have that close connection in order to influence the alcoholic and, at the same time, still be able to keep things on track.
  • A Professional Counsellor – Sometimes the best person to lead an alcohol intervention is a professional counsellor. Counsellors have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they can use to take full advantage of the process. Furthermore, some alcoholics respond more positively to a third-party than their family members and friends.

Our role as an independent advice and referral service is to connect our clients with treatment providers. We can give you advice about conducting a successful intervention and if you prefer, referrals to professional counsellors offering intervention services. We strongly urge you to speak to a counsellor even if you ultimately decide to conduct an intervention without professional help.

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Tips for Conducting an Intervention

Alcohol intervention has proven successful as a motivational strategy to encourage alcoholics to seek treatment. What must be understood is that there is no black and white set of rules as to how an intervention needs to be conducted. Just as there are different kinds of treatments to help alcoholics rehab, there are many different ways to perform interventions. This is why we suggest talking with a counsellor first.

Below are some tips for conducting an intervention:

  • Choose a Neutral Location – It is helpful to choose a neutral location in which everyone will be equally comfortable. If you are working with a counsellor, his or her office may be the best place to gather.
  • Choose the Right Time – Confronting the alcoholic while he or she is under the influence is not a wise idea. Therefore, pay attention to the person's schedule in order to identify a time when you might be able to conduct the intervention without alcohol being an influence.
  • Be Upfront – When you invite your friend or loved one to the gathering, be sure to be upfront. Tell him or her that you are concerned and that you and the rest of the group want to help in any way you can.
  • Avoid Accusatory Attitudes – During the intervention itself, avoid accusatory attitudes that will put the alcoholic on the defensive. The person who leads the intervention should do his or her best to keep accusations to a minimum.
  • Stay on Track – Another function of the intervention leader is to keep things on track. It is very easy to be side-tracked by peripheral issues that are only indirectly related to the problem at hand. Keeping things focused increases the power of alcohol intervention as a motivational tool.
  • State the Consequences – The whole idea of approaching the alcoholic is to provide motivation to seek treatment. More often than not, that motivation must be accompanied by consequences to be effective. Those on the intervention team must be clear to state consequences for not seeking treatment, and then follow through on them.
  • Be Careful to Listen – Alcohol intervention is supposed to be interactive in nature. Therefore, the entire team needs to make an effort to listen as well as speaking. Listen for questions the alcoholic may ask; listen to his or her concerns about treatment. The best listeners are often the best motivators.
  • Work as a Team – It is not uncommon for alcoholics in the midst of an intervention to attempt to divide team members by playing one against another. Do not let that happen. Work as a team to present a united front in challenging the alcoholic to take ownership of his or her problem.

Some professional counsellors prefer an approach that focuses on the harm alcohol is doing to the person using it. This method is based on the idea that the alcoholic does not fully understand how much harm alcohol is causing to physical and psychological health. It is a strategy that works in some cases.

Other counsellors prefer to take an approach that focuses on family members and friends. In other words, they prefer that team members challenge the alcoholic by describing how his or her behaviour is affecting them. This strategy works in cases where an alcoholic is very concerned about how his or her behaviour might affect a spouse, children, siblings, or parents.

There are other approaches you might adopt depending on your situation. As we mentioned earlier, there is no black and white way to conduct an intervention. Whatever works in your case is the right way to go.

Please bear in mind that alcohol intervention does not always succeed in the first attempt. There are plenty of instances in which the alcoholic needs to be approached multiple times before being motivated to make a change. Failing on your first attempt should not dissuade you from trying again. Simply wait enough time for things to die down and then give it another go.

Alcohol intervention may be the tool you have been looking for to help a loved one dealing with alcohol. Please feel free to contact us for more information about conducting an intervention. We can connect you with professional counsellors should you decide you want help in your situation. As always, all of our services are free and completely confidential. You have nothing to lose by getting in touch with us.

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