When Is the Right Time to Hold an Intervention?

Staging an intervention for someone who is living with a substance abuse or addiction problem is often the best way to help that person swiftly and safely transition into the treatment process. Essentially, an intervention:

This one event can be life -hanging, not just for the person struggling with a drug or alcohol dependence but for the entire family as well. But when is the best time to stage an intervention in order to increase the chances of getting a positive outcome?


holding hands of a family member who is getting an intervention for their addictionFor every family, the best time to stage an intervention will be determined based on:

The subject of drug rehab is rarely broached for the first time at an intervention. In most cases, families have repeatedly suggested that the person enter drug treatment, or at least go talk to someone about the problem to determine what treatment services will be most appropriate, to no avail. If it is clear that the person is struggling with an addiction and continually facing extreme consequences as a result, yet is unable to stop using or moderate use of the drug of choice, then it is time to stage an intervention.

Too Soon?

woman sad after an intervention was staged for her to get help with her addictionSome may be concerned that if they hold the intervention “too soon” it will decrease the likelihood that it will work later if the situation progresses. If there is an addiction in progress, there is no such thing as “too soon.” The sooner that someone begins treatment of any kind, the better. Early treatment is always recommended because a less severe addiction is easier to treat, and many patients have better outcomes (e.g., fewer relapses, if any, and a quicker return to abstinence after relapse).

It’s also important to note that even if an intervention does not end with the person agreeing to seek immediate treatment – the consequence many fear by staging an intervention “too soon” – there is still value to creating positive momentum in a person’s life. One of the components of an intervention is to state clearly how the status quo will change if the person does not agree to go to rehab. Following through on that promise, whatever it may be (e.g., a spouse or roommate moving out, a person who previously provided financial support no longer doing so, etc.), can demonstrate to the person that not only is the support that previously enabled addiction no longer available but also that addiction truly is causing the person to lose a great deal in life. It is often the case that someone who initially refuses treatment at an intervention returns within weeks, if family members follow through on their removal of support, and asks to get the help necessary to break free from addiction.

‘Rock Bottom’

It is commonly said that an intervention or any addiction treatment will be effective only after the person hits “rock bottom.” The problem with this concept is that this puts concerned friends and family members in the position of attempting to gauge where the person is in the use of substances and whether or not enough has been lost to constitute “rock bottom.” This is difficult to do for a number of reasons. First, friends and family may not be privy to all the consequences that have befallen the person, since most in addiction tend to try and hide the negative issues as well as the intensity of their drug use. Second, bystanders may not know about the many opportunities that have been lost, the chronic medical issues that are building, and whether or not the next dose will be lethal.

“Rock bottom” is not necessarily an issue related to whether or not treatment is necessary.

Whether or not someone will do well in treatment is not dependent upon whether or not all has been lost. Some people who have hit “rock bottom” and indeed lost everything – family, health, home – enter treatment and still cannot find the way to sobriety for any length of time. Others who have suffered one or two serious blows due to drug and alcohol use, on the other hand, may be able to get and stay sober for the long-term through treatment. Each person is different, and if it is clear that an addiction is present, then treatment is necessary, no matter how much damage has or has not been caused.

Is the Time Right to Stage an Intervention in Your Family?

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you do not need to feel helpless. Staging an intervention is an empowering act – one that can help you move closer to regaining control over your life, your emotions, and your relationships. Though you cannot control whether or not someone living in addiction will agree to get help or remain sober once enrolled in treatment, you can make choices that protect your overall health and wellbeing, and contribute to your loved one’s ability to make positive decisions. Staging an intervention is a demonstration that you support your loved one’s ability to stop drinking and getting high, that you recognize that the issue is a medical and psychological disorder, and that only through medical and therapeutic treatment will your loved one be able to begin the healing process.

Recovery is a journey, but with the right treatment and support, you and your loved one can start on the right foot. Staging an intervention is often the best possible way to begin.

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