Should We Do An Intervention?

This is a question that I get asked frequently. I have posted about this before, and it is such an important question, that I realized that I need to comment about it often.

Families and friends of addicts and alcoholics rarely come to me to ask for help for themselves. They are worried about someone else’s use of drugs and alcohol on that person. It doesn’t take much for them to start sharing about how the addict or alcoholic’s behavior is affecting them and the rest of the family.

As the addict (seemingly) goes blissfully about the business of using, the rest of the family feels that their life is turned upside down and inside out:

  • They walk on eggshells, either to not upset the addict, or not upset other family members.
  • They aren’t sleeping
  • They are overeating or not eating
  • They are developing illnesses and emotional issues
  • Their finances are affected
  • Their own work or school performance is suffering
  • They worry the addicted person will die

Family members and friends seem shocked when I tell them “Help Yourself First!” I remind them of the instructions on the airplanes. You know, the one that says put your oxygen mask on first then help others; even (and especially) if you are traveling with small children, put your mask on first so you don’t pass out before you can help them. Those few precious seconds can save both (or all) of you.

So I ask them questions about themselves. It’s not why they think they came to me, but it is so important. In order to develop the plan they need to address the addiction, we need to explore their values, their knowledge about alcoholism and drug addiction; their strengths, hopes and fears.

Then we move into the story about the addicted person. What is their (his/her) Age, relationship, do they live in the home, what is their level of functioning as a student, employee, parent, child, spouse, and friend? Have they had treatment before? Was it considered successful or completed? What was the family’s involvement in any treatment?

.With the popularity of the TV show “Intervention” some people think that a “formal” intervention is the only type of intervention. This type of intervention requires time and resources. It can be very effective in some cases. The anticipated end result is the addicted person in residential treatment. That’s great if that is the appropriate level of care needed, and in many cases, an addicted person can be helped in other ways. Inpatient, or residential drug or alcohol treatment is not the only alternative, and is not always necessary or indicated.

So to answer the question “should we do an intervention?” my answer is you already are, you are here, asking for help and guidance. Once the secret it out, the family is eager to know, what do we do next?  The plan is individual for every family. Some families have more influence than they realize, and can engage the addict with a focused conversation. That focused conversation is actually an intervention. The family coming to a therapist, counselor or recovery coach to ask for guidance is an intervention. Breaking the silence is the first step to stop enabling; to stop keeping the addict’s secret, to healing the family and creating an environment of healing that strengthens the family and invites the addict or alcoholic to participate in the new paradigm.


Can I help your family take the first step? You can email me at to set up a complimentary consultation.

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  1. Jerri, I can relate to this scenario and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you reframe the idea of an intervention as being as “simple” as coming to your website, looking for answers. Great stuff. I definitely want to share your post because I also see some of these behaviors in my clients whose kids have ADHD. And interesting and stimulating post. Thanks so much!

    • Jerri Shankler says:

      Thanks Margit, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Yes, intervention with mental illness or challenges is the same as with addiction I think. It’s addressing an issue that is a problem, and teaching the person and the family how to support, change and live with it in a healthy way. Jerri

  2. That’s really a good one. And wishing you all the very best for Ultimate Blog Challenge.

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