Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Do you know of any interventions that worked?

Asked by wundayatta (58617points) December 22nd, 2009

I think these things called interventions are used in a variety of situations where concerned friends and family want to change the self-destructive behavior of someone they care about. I’ve heard of kidnappings and days and days of deprogramming, and of forced hospitalizations. I’m sure there’s more.

Have you ever been either the subject or the proponent of such an intervention? What did you do? Did it work? Would you recommend it as a useful procedure?

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23 Answers

Jeruba's avatar


I’d be happy to say more offlist.

Blondesjon's avatar

My third drove me to drink.

azlotto's avatar

Yes…It took 3 separate relocations to a gated community to stop my cousin from dealing and using drugs.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The effectiveness of any intervention initiated by friends and/or family depend on a number of factors.

1) The extent to which the object of the intervention can be made to accept that he/she has a problem.
2) The strength of the object’s willingness or desire to change.
3) The competence of the expert or clinician to work with families.
4) The underlying factors that contribute to the object’s attachment to the maladaptive behavior or the lifestyle – in other word those things that make them NOT want to change.

“Reality TV is not to be taken as a realistic representation of life’s problems or the approaches to resolving those problems. “Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” are as much entertainment as is “reality TV” about interventions.

Open_Your_Mind's avatar

Trust me when I say I have a family member who needs that kind of intervention.
This person has been on alcohol a long time. Has suffered so much physical and mental damage they are no longer Able to make sound, rational decisions and lack even the motivation to save their own life. This person does not live in denial but in a delusion everything will be ok. Even after being hospitalized.
I’ve been told “when the person hits bottom they will wake up”. Perhaps that is true for some but for this family member it appears death is their bottom. The person can’t relate that death, for them, could happen at any time. It’s in their mind but never made it to their heart with any meaning. Long term effects of alcohol and the brain damage it has done.
If I was able, I’d take charge and have the person picked up tomorrow and hospitalized.
regardless of how they feel about it. Now it’s a matter of life and death.

Freedom_Issues's avatar

No actaully. Everyone I know has relapsed.

Jeruba's avatar

The way it was put to me, @Open_Your_Mind, was, “They do have to hit bottom, but we can raise the bottom, and we can do it under controlled conditions rather than in a wide-open state of crisis.” The intervention itself forces a crisis so that it doesn’t have to happen as a result of an accident, an arrest, or something worse.

This book received a recommendation here on fluther. I bought it and read it. It is very simple but not necessarily simplistic. I learned some valuable things from it.

A relapse is not the fault of an intervention any more than the cavity you get next month is the fault of the hygienist who cleaned your teeth last month.

I didn’t know there was a TV show about interventions.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

LOLLL…when I first looked at this I thought you said “inventions”. I thought “uh…hello???” cork the wine bottle, jb

Berserker's avatar

Suicide watch can nullify a potential tragedy, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem, not really. But it is a type of intervention which has proven useful for many, since it’s not easy ending it all.

As for me, well the only time I’m not drinking is when I don’t have any money lol. Indirect intervention?

Silhouette's avatar

I’ve been invited to a few family interventions and I was cured. They cured me of my feelings of responsibility. You have the guy they want to fix sitting on one couch, and the enablers and codependents sitting on the other. They sat and stared at each other until I’d cave and bring the meetings to order. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to…...crickets. I used to try to keep it moving, now I stay away. Presenting a united front only works if the united stand up and stand together.

Jeruba's avatar

@Silhouette, I don’t think families can do it for themselves. Maybe they can, but I don’t think so.

Silhouette's avatar

@Jeruba Some try but can’t, mine never tried. They all had their reasons for keeping the status quo intact. If they fixed the victimizer how would they get their daily does of victimized? Felt need motivates.

Jeruba's avatar

Sorry, @Silhouette, I meant that I don’t think they can do their own interventions. I think they need the help of an experienced facilitator.

Families’ having a stake in the user’s staying addicted, now, that’s another matter, and I agree with you there. Usually the one with the obvious “problem” isn’t the only one who has some work to do.

Chikipi's avatar

I’ve have a family member who we have tried to get help for several times, but it never worked. It was hard to watch him slip and see his world crumbling to nothing. In the end, two years later, he asked for help. He told us that the interventions never work because he wasn’t ready and didn’t want to stop. It takes the person to want to make that positive change. I still think bringing up the issue is okay and will bring it to thier attention, but it may not happen over night so just be patient. I feel the one on one conversations he had with each family member hit harder than in one big group because I think he felt attacked/uncomfortable.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well there is one person I know for whom it did work long term. Not to sound cliched, but Betty Ford got sober as the direct result of a good old-fashioned organized intervention. Her eldest daughter was the one persistent enough to convince the rest of the family how necessary it was. She goes into quite a bit of detail about it in her book.

Some may say this was because of the status/wealth of the family but there was just one other person there aside from family, a trained interventionist.

And she went into a ward at the Naval hospital just like the family member of any other sailor from the lowest to the highest.

She had to share a bedroom and sweep floors and do chores just like everybody else.

Even tho the book came out a long time ago, the truths it contains are timeless.

Intervention and relapse are two different subjects altogether. At least an intervention is a step in a positive direction because the alternative is just waiting for them to kill themselves or worse to drive impaired and take others with them.

It would be great if every intervention were followed by long term sobriety but that’s not reality.

Personally, I think that it hinges more on the amount and quality of time spent in rehab. It’s unfortunate that short-sighted HMOS frequently disallow longer treatment even if the medical experts involved deem it necessary.

If nothing else, an intervention brings the dirty little secret out in the open and puts all the cards on the table.

The first necessity for a successful solution lies in defining the problem. Even if that’s all that a particular intervention accomplishes, it’s a start and preferable to everybody being in the same dysfunctional rut.

My brother wouldn’t be alive today were it not for those who intervened and persisted in doing so. He had already wrecked two cars in a drunken stupor and working on his third.

For those who feel that interventions are a waste of time or useless, what alternative do you propose? I would be really interested to know.

Btw. I would hardly put the program “Intervention” in the same category as the Simpsons or Family Guy. That may be a cute little sound bite, but needlessly cynical IMO. Why discourage people from trying. Have you ever actually watched it more than once? I’ve watched most of the episodes and overall find it pretty realistic. Even the fact that many are unsuccessful or only temporary is accurate for the statistics typical of success/failure ratios presents it pretty accurately.

What’s the point of discouraging even the attempt?

rooeytoo's avatar

I am old school, which may or may not be a good thing??? I am always willing to be enlightened but my experience is that “yougottawanna” and if you don’t there isn’t too much hope for a lasting change in behavior. I don’t think anyone else can make you wanna no matter how much training they have.

But hey if it works, more power to you. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, that is what I have seen happen over the years.

Jeruba's avatar

I think you’re right, @rooeytoo. But you can know you need help, can truly want the help, and still not be able to make yourself take the first step to getting it. When help is held out to you, what you do with the offer is up to you. If you wanna, the intervention gives you the chance.

I would have paid a whole lot more and worked a whole lot harder and kept it up a whole lot longer if it would have given my family member the necessary chance. But he seized the proffered hand the minute it was held out. I think he wanted it.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Jeruba – First thing they tell you in an AA meeting is that there is no __right__ way to heal. So I would never argue or say don’t try it.

My parents tried so many times for my brother and it never worked. I am a skeptic, but willing to learn. Glad your results were favorable!

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Buttonstc you are correct about my comments. The show is more credible that the comedies I referred to. My main point was not to treat reality TV as a source of expert guidance.
Never be afraid to try and do something to help someone at risk. It is essential to find the most qualified facilitator you can because even expert professionals have a hard time effecting lasting change in cases whether the person at risk denies there is a problem or is unwilling to change. I appreciate your critique.

Buttonstc's avatar


You are absolutely correct about the denial that a problem even exists.

But that’s one of the primary characteristics of an addict. It is a disease of denial.

There are basically two things that can cut through that enough for the person to come to a state of wanting to change. As Rooey mentioned also ” yougottawanna”

But what will bring someone to that stage? The first thing would be some severe and and many times irrevocable consequence of addictive behavior. This could be job loss, divorce, or jail time for DUI or a homicide charge after killing someone while driving impaired. There are many similar horror stories about addicts out of control. And sadly enough even some of those consequence don’t cut through the denial and the addict hits the inevitable trump card of “hitting bottom”. They die.

But why does something irrevocable have to be the ONLY thing to bring the addict out of denial long enough to be amenable to go to rehab.

That, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind the whole concept of an organized intervention. As Jeruba put it so succinctly “raising the bottom” rather than waiting for the chaos of a crisis.

SOME people, when listening to a roomful of people who love them mirroring back to them specific incidents of their addict behavior and how it made them feel, can snap out of the denial long enough to surrender and accept help to get their asses into rehab.

That’s why it is done in an organized manner as they are then taken to a pre-arranged treatment center before denial can set back in.

This entire approach is fairly recent. I wish it had been around in my Mother’s time. There’s a possibility she could have had some extra years rather than being dead at 51.

But fortunately it was there for her son (my younger brother) who has been sober for 20+ years now.

It is certainly desirable to have an experienced interventionist to guide a family through the whole process so it doesn’t degenerate into an unresolved shouting match in which no decisions get made.

But this person can not effect lasting change in an addict. That’s not his job, even if it would be possible. He is there solely to aid the families’ efforts to get the addict into treatment. THAT’S where the resolve for lasting change begins.

But no one ( not even intimate family ) can effect lasting change. No one but the addict himself can do that.

All that the intervention is designed to do is to get them out of denial long enough to get into treatment.

Interestingly enough, Betty Ford goes into considerable detail describing how absolute her denial was ( she was an Ex-Pres wife, for crying out loud.)

But listening to each member of her family reading off the list of specific incidents of how her being high and in a fog had affected them opened her eyes. Prior to that she didn’t have a clue that she had a problem. She had a picture of herself as basically a social drinker who enjoed moderate amounts of alcohol who was also taking necessary medication (Valium) for a pinched nerve. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, as they say.

Anyhow, her case was a success story. Sadly for many others, the relapse rate is typically high as statistics unfortunately indicate.

So, just as in real life, there are all too many of the people on the program (Intervention) who do end up checking out of treatment prematurely or relapse six months later. But there are enough successful cases to show the possibilities.

What’s most encouraging is seeing young people (in their 20s or 30s) who have avoided wasting an extra 20+ years of wrecking up their lives because caring family and friends decided to raise the bottom rather than merely watching as they kept falling.

Nothing carries an iron clad guarantee. There are some addicts who will prefer to die in their addiction. But if an organized intervention has been done at least the cards are on the table. The big secret has had a bright spotlight shone on it and if nothing else, it makes absolute denial just that much more difficult to maintain.

Open_Your_Mind's avatar

Only the ones I’ve seen on TV.

Jeruba's avatar

Great responses, @Buttonstc and @rooeytoo. @Roo, it is too soon (and may always be too soon) to say if the results were favorable or even if we have results. We did accomplish the step of getting the person into treatment. I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is I can’t control and manage it. It isn’t up to me.

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