Many families avoid interventions altogether because talking about things like addiction, mental illness, or eating disorders can be so stressful. People worry about fights, arguments, broken trust, and hurt feelings. Thankfully though, we can avoid those issues as much as possible by setting some intervention rules.
Why do we need intervention rules?
While it’s true that holding an intervention is a loving act, that doesn’t mean it won’t involve some conflict or uncomfortable feelings. Each participant will have their own challenges to overcome when they arrive to the family meeting.
Challenges for the Identified Loved One
An intervention is something we do as friends or family when we see that our loved one is struggling. Typically, interventions are useful for problems with addiction, eating disorders, untreated anxiety or depression, and other mental illness. We use this tool as a means to motivate that person to:
- Recognize that a problem exists – Denial is a major challenge during interventions. It can be painful to admit when you have a problem with drinking, getting high, or other compulsive behaviors, so it’s easier emotionally to just deny that it exists.
- Accept treatment – Perhaps more challenging than moving past denial is getting your loved one to say yes to rehab, therapy, outpatient care or whichever path your family has chosen. Many people resist the idea of getting clean and entering a program because it is scary.
When we organize a family meeting, we have to be mindful about these 2 challenges from the start. It’s important to understand that our loved one will probably have a hard time during the conversation. They will likely experience some degree of denial, and probably feel uncertain about treatment. That means they might feel the urge to resist what the group is saying, and can get very defensive or angry. The intervention rules we discuss below will help the identified loved one feel respected and safe.
Challenges for the Family
Not all of us are comfortable with talking about these types of difficult subjects. In fact, most of us will probably feel at least a little bit awkward, sad, scared, or angry during the intervention process. That’s natural! The family meeting is a chance for family members to air those feelings out, talk about them, and seek a resolution.
Unfortunately, though, since people are joining together while feeling so uneasy, conflict is likely to erupt. However, we want to try to minimize that conflict as much as possible so we can focus on the bigger picture. After all, motivating your loved one into seeking treatment is the whole point of the meeting. Getting lost in an argument is a distraction from that goal.
So far, we’ve talked about why we need rules during a family intervention. Now, let’s talk about what those rules should be.
- Participate in a climate of Love, Caring, Acceptance, Safety and Mutual Respect
Everyone should be mindful of their attitudes. That means taking the time to think about their motivation before speaking a thought out loud, especially if it is critical or potentially hurtful.
The leader should open up the conversation with this rule and STRONGLY emphasize its importance. He or she should also bring this rule up with all the participants during the planning phase before the meeting begins. Everyone should be fully prepared to behave with kindness and understanding when the identified loved one is brought in.
- Choose a comfortable, regular setting to have the conversation
Settings that are too formal or completely unfamiliar can set the wrong tone. They may make your loved one feel unnecessarily stressed or anxious. Just get together where you normally do!
- Turn off all devices
During the meeting, everyone should be 100%, fully present. That means not tuning out to scroll through your Facebook feed while waiting your turn to speak; that’s not fair.
Everyone should put their devices away and silence them so the meeting can proceed without distractions.
- Do not Argue, Yell, or otherwise Raise Your Voice.
Keep it cool. Everyone should be advised that yelling of any sort is not acceptable, no matter what. If someone is getting very upset and starts to raise their voice, the other members should gently remind them of this rule.
One way to make this rule a little easier to follow is to include an extra direction. Whenever someone accidentally starts yelling, the other members can ask that person to count to 5 in their head to calm down, and then continue with the same thought.
- Do not Belittle, Preach, or Bad-mouth
Similar to rules #1, and #4, this rule is all about self-control. Family members and friends may remember to keep their voices down when they’re feeling emotional, but forget to control the tone of their words. It’s easy to start belittling and talking down to our loved one if we’re not careful about controlling our anger. Unfortunately, doing so will just push our loved one away and break up the whole group. That’s why this rule is so important.
An intervention doesn’t have to explode into conflict. With these 5 simple intervention rules, your family can cooperate to make moves in the right direction. Don’t forget that you can always call in for outside help. Families can always benefit from a fresh perspective and expert voice, especially when past interventions have gone awry.