If someone you love is struggling, reaching out and offering help is the compassionate thing to do. However, sometimes the person doesn’t realize how far they’ve fallen and how their behavior affects everyone around them.
When someone you care about needs help battling a mental health disorder or addiction, stepping in requires the right approach. In addition to the 5 step guide below, I have included a useful guide on 39 Ways to Help Get Your Loved One to Rehab.
Here is your five-step guide for how to stage a supportive intervention.
1. Recognize the Signs That One Is Necessary
Some people recognize that they need help when they run into trouble with the law or their marriage begins crumbling. However, others spiral out of control, unaware that their choices and behaviors drive their worsening problems.
If you notice the following signs in someone you love, consider staging a supportive intervention:
- Trouble working or focusing efficiently: It’s understandable if someone’s performance temporarily drops off if they’re nursing a sick relative through COVID-19 or their homestead needs massive plumbing repairs. Pay attention if the pattern continues even after the dust settles.
- Boasts or complaints about high rates of substance use: Statements like, “I got so ripped last night!” aren’t bragging matters. Instead, they should cause concern, especially if you hear them every morning.
- Frequent illness or absences: Both addiction and mental health crises can cause changes in eating and sleeping habits, leading to missed work and health woes.
- Increasingly reckless behavior: Pay attention if the one you love needs a drink to brace themselves for the workday or drives under the influence.
2. Form the Team and Choose a Location
The next step entails forming your intervention team. You should include anyone who knows the addict well, including friends, family, and possibly even co-workers — although you should use caution with the latter. If a toxic work environment contributes to the person’s stress or they fear repercussions, inviting such individuals could backfire.
Likewise, leave out anyone who has an ax to grind with the person in need of an intervention. This meeting isn’t a gripe session for assigning blame — it’s a loving, supportive attempt to help. Your goal is to make the individual feel safe and loved, not attacked.
You might also want to include a professional interventionist. If you’ve lined up resources to help — like an inpatient treatment center — ask them about such services. Otherwise, talk to your primary care doctor or insurance carrier for a referral to a specialist.
Choose a neutral, private location for your intervention. Someone’s home is usually best, although you should inspect it beforehand to ensure there are no readily accessible means for self-harm, such as weapons or a well-stocked bar.
3. Write Your Impact Statements
Part of a supportive intervention entails telling the individual in question how their behavior affects you and your relationship. It’s tricky, however. Your job is to express a desire to care, not cast blame.
When composing your impact statements, use “I” language. For example, instead of saying, “You don’t care about anyone but yourself or where you get your next drink,” say, “I feel frustrated and hurt when I have to attend family events and shoulder the household responsibilities alone.”
Asking focused questions gives the person receiving the intervention a chance to speak — and realize the extent of their behaviors without others accusing them. For example, you could inquire, “When was the last day you went without a drink?” Broader questions like, “Are you where you want to be in life right now?” and “What do you wish could be different?” get the individual reflecting on what they would like to change.
4. Find Professional Help
Staging a supportive intervention requires you to create a plan for helping the individual get control of their mental health and behavior. Tragically, your options for treatment might hinge upon your income in the United States. However, knowing what you have available can help you develop a strategy:
- Inpatient treatment: The most restrictive and pricey option is an inpatient treatment program. Such interventions work best in severe cases, particularly where the individual poses an imminent risk to themselves or others. It’s also useful to help people detox if they’ve been heavily using alcohol or other substances.
- Outpatient therapy: Various outpatient treatment programs exist. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping individuals recognize dysfunctional thought and behavioral patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
- 12-step programs: Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have stood the test of time. Best of all, they’re also free, relying on donations to keep going. You can find both in-person and online support meetings — the latter run nearly any time of the day or night.
- Mental health apps: A modern solution, many mental health apps offer an intermediate stopgap for those who can’t afford monthly health insurance premiums or psychiatry services. Some allow unlimited texts with licensed professionals and even limited one-on-one appointments.
Additionally, some medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms and make getting clean safer. Lorazepam can help with the anxiety of severe alcohol withdrawal, and methadone can help those struggling with opioids safely detox.
5. Manage Your Expectations
If life were a Hollywood movie, everyone would hug and shed happy tears when your intervention ended. Reality is seldom that linear.
For example, the person you love may say no to even the most supportive intervention. Here’s where you need to bolster your courage. You have to accept their choice — but hold firm to your boundaries. You might have to limit contact with the individual and enforce whatever consequences you expressed would occur if their behavior continues. You might have to make tough decisions yourself, like cutting off financial support to someone who uses your money to buy drugs and alcohol.
Even if the person you care about agrees to treatment, be patient with their progress. Many of those who struggle with substance abuse, for example, relapse several times before reaching lasting sobriety. Enforce healthy boundaries, but offer continued support, especially if they express a genuine desire to change.
How to Stage a Supportive Intervention
If someone you love is suffering from a mental health crisis that’s interfering with their ability to function in everyday life, it’s compassionate to offer help. However, it can be tricky to know what to do, especially if the person in question doesn’t seem to understand how their choices and behaviors impact others. Follow the five steps above to stage a successful intervention and help someone you care about regain their strength and sense of purpose.