The families of those who suffer from addiction carry a lot of weight. They may be dealing with stress, anger, and hopelessness as their loved one struggles, and even more so when the person refuses to accept help. Can family intervention help?
Family Intervention Versus Staging an Intervention
Family intervention can refer to a meeting involving family members to help a person suffering from addiction or substance abuse to accept treatment. The term also refers to therapeutic sessions in which family members learn about healthy ways to support a loved one who suffers from addiction or a mental health issue.
Trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction can be difficult. A direct conversation may help someone suffering from substance abuse to start their road to recovery, but the addiction often makes it hard for the person to see or acknowledge that they need treatment help. In these cases, joining forces with other family members and taking action through staging a formal family intervention may be necessary.
Families with members who struggle with mental health may have difficulty in finding healthy family dynamics, or not know how to best help their loved one. They may carry burdens that affect both themselves and the person with an addiction. These families may require a family intervention with a therapist so that everyone can learn about ways of managing difficulties and supporting both themselves and their loved ones.
What Are Family Interventions?
A family intervention involves members of the family in therapeutic sessions, with the goal of improving everyone’s mental well-being, as well as their understanding of a loved one’s mental health disorder or addiction.
The process aims to improve the ability of both patients and their families to manage disorders and solve problems. Participants can learn about their loved one’s illness and instructions for medication, or adhering to treatment. The therapeutic sessions may also include cognitive behavioral aspects in order to improve problem-solving and communication skills, as well as to reduce highly expressed emotion.
These interventions are especially useful when a family is undergoing loss, has suffered a traumatic event, experiences marital or financial stress, or carries repercussions of a family member suffering from drug dependence or mental health disorders.
Different Grades of Family Intervention
A therapist helps families to work through ill health or addiction, understand more about it and learn about ways to achieve recovery. Family members gain therapy for themselves while learning how to best support their loved ones in recovery. This is their chance to explore the feelings and behaviors that they find most difficult to cope with. New strategies to help resolve these issues are also introduced.
A family intervention creates the perfect space for the people in a family to openly explore their thoughts and feelings and work through issues while planning an addiction-free future.
There are different grades or types of family intervention, each addressing specific things.
Psychoeducation: Basic Information
Families with a person suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, brain disorders, alcohol/drug use disorders, or any other illness require information on how to support the person suffering from it.
Psychoeducation gives basic information about disorders, their causes, course, and treatment options for it. These informative sessions may last two to six sessions but can vary from family to family. Psychoeducation may also include training in behaviors that motivate a person toward treatment.
Family Interventions: Specific Information
Here, the family learns about medication supervision, coping mechanisms, stigmas, behavioral management, and improving communication. There is also the chance to address future plans, such as job prospects.
Some simple interventions could deal with conflict at home and may involve brief counseling to facilitate understanding and direct, open communication. Specific information, such as the marriage prospects of an individual with mental illness, or marriage and pregnancy counseling may be dealt with here.
Family Therapy: Systemic Framework
In this structured form of psychotherapy, personality or conduct disorders, chronic neurotic conditions, and severe expressed emotions can be addressed. Family therapy seeks to reduce family discord, distress, or major conflicts by improving the interactions between family members. The aim is to help the family to adjust to a member who is struggling with a medical issue, mental health diagnosis, or addiction. Family therapists will focus more on the relationship of individuals than the struggles within them. The therapist may analyze previous instances of conflict, suggest alternative ways of responding, or directly point out patterns of interaction that the family may not notice.
This therapy is done by understanding that a current problem upsets the family dynamic and therefore needs addressing in the context of the whole family. Even though family counseling is used when a person struggling with addiction is in recovery, in the context of family intervention it can focus more on families who are having difficulty in getting a loved one to accept treatment so that they may overcome addiction.
Why Use Family Intervention?
Behavioral therapies such as family interventions are not only concerned with improving the relationship between a person and their family. The guided approach encourages those suffering from addiction to change their attitude, adopt healthy life skills, and most importantly, seek treatment for substance abuse.
Family interventions address a wide range of problems, such as conflict, family communication, social interaction, or problems at school or work. These elements strongly influence drug or alcohol use.
The intervention process can improve the lives of the concerned family, and reduce the harmful behaviors of the person. The outcomes for the person suffering from ill health are improved by bettering family engagement and improving their ability to handle the challenges associated with the problem. Enhancing the capacity of those involved in the day-to-day care of people with mental disorders has a clinically significant impact on the course of the mental condition.
Advantages in Mental Health
Whether it is depression, anxiety, or an eating or bipolar disorder, family intervention provides a crucial context for the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from mental illness. Barriers to seeking help include the perceived stigma of having a mental health issue, and a reluctance to ask for help from mental health services. The stigma of being ill not only applies to the individual but also to their family members and caregivers. Usually, families are unaware or lack information about mental health issues, as well as how to deal with them. This may in turn cause them to maintain or perpetuate the problem.
Family interventions focus on providing information about disorders, as well as addressing burdens such as financial output, or emotional impact. Expressing these concerns and learning about mental disorders can help break down stigma and improve the situation for families.
Other advantages include:
- Facilitating major lifestyle changes
- Increasing communication regarding the disorders within and outside of the family
- Help the family to accept the illness, or what they can not control, and focus on what they can
- Help in grieving inevitable losses of function or life
- Help in setting individual and family goals
- Heighten the awareness of shifting family roles
Alcohol and Drug Addiction
Alcohol and drug addiction places strain on the well-being and strength of family life.
Through family intervention, each family member is taught to use communication tools that are adapted to the needs of loved ones suffering from addiction. Social training skills can also be applied.
Intervention can enhance the family’s ability to cope while reducing the negative consequences of drug abuse on members. It also eliminates factors within the family that may constitute barriers to treatment. By using family support to engage a person with alcohol or drug addiction in therapy, the intervention process may also change any elements in the family environment that risk contributing to relapse. Therapists can also utilize a general family intervention as a strategy to help a specific member. For example, couples therapy may help one member to stop abusing alcohol.
Families may receive training in ignoring alcohol or drug abuse behaviors. They also learn about avoiding enabling, such as allowing the individual to experience the consequences of their addiction, or refusing to provide them with money for necessary expenses like rent when they have spent all their money on drugs. Training also focuses on positive reinforcement of healthy behavior, such as praising a person’s refusal to socialize with friends who engage in substance abuse.
Staging a Family Intervention
A family with a person undergoing treatment or recovery from addiction has quite a lot to deal with and could benefit from family intervention. But a family with a loved one who refuses addiction treatment has additional pressure. This may require the active participation of members in staging an intervention to convince the loved one.
This is done by bringing all affected members together to discuss strategies to help the person see the need for change. They then have a meeting with the person suffering from addiction and discuss it with them. This kind of family intervention does not aim to proactively hurt loved ones but instead points out how their addiction has affected others and the necessity for treatment.
Staging an intervention is a considerate, carefully planned approach to help someone seek treatment, and lets the person know that others are concerned for their welfare. If done properly and non-judgmentally, interventions can greatly alter family dynamics, and it has been found that changes in family behavior can increase the probability that an individual will seek help.
Interventions are typically held by a qualified therapist or intervention therapist, and members will gather together to confront a loved one about the consequences of their addiction and ask them to accept treatment.
Advantages of Staging an Intervention
For an intervention to be successful, the family has to have realized whether they are enabling an alcohol or drug user and recognize that they have put off living a healthier life. Understanding this is the first part of changing a family dynamic that may have been blocking both the family and the user from a better or healthier way of living.
Everyone involved in the intervention will identify and develop insight into how the addiction has affected their lives. They will also become aware of the signs of addiction and its deteriorating effects. New understanding in communication and problem solving will help them become more able to support the loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol. As a united front, an intervention team can let a loved one know that the family fully supports the choice of accepting treatment. In many cases, family members entering into their own therapy or recovery increases the likelihood of a drug or alcohol user seeing the need of accepting help.
A person who suffers from addiction may not be able to see the benefits of living a life without substance abuse, may not be prepared to stop using, or could be in complete denial of having an addiction. Through the course of the intervention, they may begin to realize how their choices or actions affect those around them and may see a glimmer of hope by accepting treatment.
How to Stage a Successful Intervention
A loved one may storm out of the room, have an angry outburst, feel ashamed and withdraw, or deny any substance abuse when they are addressed in a family intervention. So how can a family stage the process successfully?
Prepare in Advance
Meeting in advance is crucial, as it will make family members feel calm and prepared for the intervention. Everyone has to have a chance of sharing and getting feedback on their statements, so naturally charged emotions may have to be expressed beforehand. They can then be shaped into more neutral statements that can be conveyed calmly, as they could harm the intervention if they come out in the actual meeting.
The intervention team has to be a united front, so decisions and goals have to be discussed beforehand. Does the family want the person to seek treatment or attend a rehabilitation program? Or do they want them to join a self-help group or a support group? An end goal is a structure around which the whole intervention process is structured. After the intervention, the person will have to make an immediate decision as to whether they will be accepting treatment or not. This means that the person will have to be presented with an agreed-upon course of action, whether that is the consequences of rejecting treatment or a ready, fully explainable treatment program in the case that they agree to treatment. Everyone has to agree on the outcome, so planning in advance is vital.
It is very helpful when trained, professional interventionists are present in the actual intervention, and not only in the planning of it. They not only serve as a third, objective party who can focus on keeping communication open, but also as people who have experience in handling reactions and ensuring that the conversation stays on track. The presence of an interventionist is essential for creating a non-hostile environment and keeping the intervention moving. Intervention specialists are especially recommended if a loved one has a history of violence or serious mental illness, is taking several mood-altering substances, or has shown or talked about suicidal behavior.
Although immediate family members may seem like the obvious choice to be participants, it is important to consider exactly who will be attending. The people involved are one of the most important aspects of an intervention process, as it centers on the sharing of personal experiences of how the person’s behavior has negatively affected everyone.
Therefore, the presence of a family member with whom the person has a very bad relationship, those who are overly emotional, or someone with unmanaged substance use or mental health disorder, may not be a good idea. Intervention specialists can assist the family in deciding who will be present at the actual intervention, and those who won’t may be able to write something on a paper that someone else could read.
What to Say – Be Direct, but Don’t Attack.
It can be hard, but with the help of a therapist formulating what each member will say and how, an attack can be avoided. Explaining concerns and how the disease impacts members is good and it should be done as directly as possible, but it has to be without criticism or blame. Many people who struggle with addiction feel tremendous shame and experience the stigma associated with it, so family members should try to avoid making the situation worse. The person should feel that others are there to help.
Discuss the Consequences of Not Seeking Help
Usually, by the time a family intervention is considered, life has become unbearable for some of its members. This means that the intervention will have to include the discussion of an ultimatum in the case that the person rejects treatment. These can not be empty threats, and everyone must be prepared to follow through.
Propose Specific Treatment Alternatives
The family will have to propose well-researched and specific treatment alternatives. By offering a range of options, being prepared for trade-offs, and proposing the preferred treatment process, there is a better chance of the person accepting help.
The family has to be prepared for anything, as no one can predict or control how a loved one will react when confronted. Interventionists have particular training in this field and can help the family to better prepare for any potential outcome.
Where Can I Find Family Intervention Services?
If you are feeling helpless or worried about a loved one’s addiction, Brookdale is here to help. We understand that many people may need treatment but may not be able to recognize it.
At Brookdale, our highly trained professionals and licensed interventionists with decades of experience can provide your family with the resources to have the conversation about addiction treatment. Our team of experts is ready to help you stage an intervention for a loved one, and will offer support and guidance throughout the whole process.
We know that a safe environment and the help of a professional can make the difference in convincing a loved one to accept help, which is why we work with compassion, empathy, dignity, and respect.
Our Family Educational Program can also provide your family with knowledge about the complexity of addiction, teach skills for coping healthily, help you heal emotionally, and help the family unit to better support a loved one struggling with addiction or mental health.