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What To Say At An Intervention

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 9, 2024

Table of Contents

Article at a Glance

  • During an intervention, avoid blaming or shaming language, as it can make the person feel attacked and less open to accepting help
  • It's important not to make excuses for the person's behavior or enable them, as this can undermine the purpose of the intervention
  • Avoid making empty threats or ultimatums that you are not prepared to follow through with, as this can decrease the intervention's credibility

For those who have loved ones struggling with substance use, there comes a time when an intervention is needed in order to try to save them from destroying their life. 

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If you’re considering staging an intervention for a loved one, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how to go about it, as well as what to say (or not to say). 

Read on to learn more about how to stage an intervention so that your loved one agrees to go into addiction treatment

What to Say During an Intervention: 5 Tips

As you’re deciding what to say during the intervention, it’s important to keep in mind that addiction is a progressive brain disorder that usually gets worse unless treated. Staging an intervention can help someone you love to accelerate the recovery process.

Here are some useful things to say at an intervention which apply to all members of the intervention team: 

  • Communicate your message calmly: Interventions can be emotional events, but you should stay calm and composed when speaking to your loved one. By keeping all of your statements as objective as possible and using specific examples, you can ensure that the atmosphere is supportive and that you convey your message clearly without unnecessary drama.
  • Speak from a place of love rather than judgment: Frame your statements from a position of concern and unconditional love. Set accusatory or judgmental phrasing aside. This is liable to make the person defensive, and it might even lead to a total breakdown in communication.
  • Stress that addiction is a treatable condition: Help to reduce stigma and increase confidence in your loved one by focusing on the chronic but treatable aspect of substance use disorder. If this message is carried by all members of the intervention team, the individual with an addiction should feel supported and understood rather than blamed or stigmatized.
  • Use “I” statements: Everyone addressing the person with an addiction during the intervention should try to use “I” statements in order to convey their message less directly and emotionally – “I’m concerned about your alcohol intake” instead of “You need to stop drinking”, for instance.
  • Offer ongoing support: Make it clear to the person that your support extends beyond helping them get to rehab. Reassure them that they are not alone on their recovery journey and that you’ll be there to help them through the challenges ahead. 

These strategies are designed to promote a positive and supportive dialogue that can motivate the person to seek help and kickstart their recovery. 

What Not to Say at an Intervention

Now you know what to say at an intervention, consider avoiding these phrases and approaches to mitigate the chance of resistance or complete emotional shutdown:

  • Avoid blame and accusations: You should steer clear of language that blames or accuses the person of failure or wrongdoing. Using phrases like “You never…” or “You always…” can lead to the person feeling attacked and tuning out the message. Central to addiction is the compulsive use of substances regardless of adverse outcomes. Keep this in mind at all times during the intervention.
  • Don’t minimize their experience: Never make statements or comments which trivialize or downplay the person’s addiction or emotional pain. When someone battling addiction is told to “Just snap out of it” or that “It’s not really that big of a deal”, it can make them feel misunderstood, unsupported, and alienated.
  • Refrain from issuing ultimatums: Unless an ultimatum is unavoidable and considered part of the intervention strategy, avoid using this approach. Statements like “If you don’t get help, I’ll leave you” can create resentment and fear rather than instilling motivation for change.
  • Never use emotional blackmail: You should refrain from manipulating the person’s feelings with statements like “Think about how much you’re hurting me.” While some statements like this might be valid, emotional blackmail tends to increase feelings of stress and guilt, which could inflame the situation rather than prompting the person to get the help they need.
  • Avoid overwhelming the person with information: Although you should express concern and give the person examples of why you are concerned about their substance use, avoid bombarding them with too much information or too many emotional statements. All members of the intervention group should keep their messages clear and straightforward. 

By avoiding these pitfalls, you can help create a more positive and constructive intervention environment that encourages open communication and helps the person get the recovery process started. 

Mistakes to Avoid

An intervention can be a delicate time. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you have a successful encounter with your loved one that doesn’t turn them off:

  1. Choosing the wrong time or place for an intervention can severely impact its success. Avoid times when the person is likely to be stressed, tired, or under the influence of substances. The setting should be private and free from interruptions.
  2. Going into an intervention without a clear plan can lead to confusion and ineffectiveness. Make sure that everyone involved knows their role and what they will say. Also, have a clear outcome in mind, such as getting the person to agree to treatment.
  3. Trying to handle an intervention without professional input can lead to problems, especially in complex cases with potential for high emotional volatility. Consider consulting a therapist or an intervention specialist who can guide the process and offer professional advice. Alternatively, consult a treatment provider for help with the intervention process.
  4. An intervention is not the end of the process but the beginning of recovery. Failing to plan for immediate follow-up actions like a treatment program start date can result in lost momentum and the person potentially reconsidering their decision.
  5. While it’s important to be honest, being too confrontational can provoke defensiveness and close off communication. Maintain a tone of empathy, concern, and support throughout the discussion.
  6. Everyone in the intervention team should be prepared for various responses, including denial, anger, sadness, or even acceptance. Have strategies in place to handle these reactions calmly and constructively. 

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can help ensure that the intervention is a supportive, structured, and effective step toward recovery for your loved one.

Get Help for an Intervention & Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you need help staging an intervention for your loved one, reach out to Renaissance Recovery‘s friendly recovery experts for help. We’ll walk you through the process, help arrange transport to treatment, as well as get insurance and other affairs on order. 

As well as helping with the arrangement of interventions, we can also connect you with suitable outpatient, inpatient, detox centers, and sober living homes if your loved one needs help withdrawing from drugs or alcohol before beginning outpatient treatment. 

Because all addictions are unique to the individual, Renaissance Recovery’s treatment programs offer custom treatment plans that include therapies like: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Talk therapies (CBT or DBT) 
  • Holistic interventions
  • Motivational therapies
  • Group therapy
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning 

To help your loved one get the addiction treatment they need, call 866.330.9449 right away. 

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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