Christmas is coming, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year…right? Sure, that’s what all the songs and holiday TV specials tell you. But, for a lot of people, the holidays can be tough enough to consider holiday interventions. There are just so many extra things to do, and, when you add the expectation that you should be enjoying every second…well, that’s a lot of pressure. For people with addiction or mental health issues, holiday stress can bring on a worsening of symptoms or an increase in substance abuse. When you mix that with a whole lot of family togetherness, problems that were previously easy to excuse often come into clear focus, to the point where they’re impossible to ignore. And that’s a good thing, because denial helps neither the family nor the individual who’s suffering.
But breaking out of denial of having a problem and facing reality poses a new question: Now what? Because addiction and mental health problems are so common, the treatment community has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. Here are answers to the 3 questions you should be asking about holiday interventions:
1. Shouldn’t we wait until the holidays are over to do an intervention?
In most cases, no. Nobody wants a loved one to spend the holidays in rehab or residential care, but the consequences of waiting can be severe. Not only will the problem likely get even worse, the related behavior can cause some pretty ugly scenes that would be traumatizing for the rest of the family, especially for any children who witness them. While waiting until after the holidays is a very understandable response, this is one of those situations in which the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do.
2. So what should we do? Get a few of us together and confront the person?
Absolutely not. Families should always enlist the aid of a professional interventionist. Here’s why:
Family members are often in disagreement about the best way to proceed, and the ambivalence that creates greatly undermines the intervention’s chances for success. If you’ve already attempted conversations with your loved one, you know that they’re very good at finding and exploiting weaknesses in your arguments. Professional interventionists are trained in getting family members who disagree back on the same page, and they’ll meet with you ahead of time to make sure this happens.
For most families, an intervention is the last resort. They’ve done everything else they could, and they’re mentally, physically, and emotionally spent. A lot of families are angry – and justifiably so. But those emotions rarely lead to a successful intervention. Professional interventionists know how to guide a family through those messy emotions and get them to a point where they’re ready to deal with the situation in an effective way.
Families also tend to focus too much on the person with the problem: “You’re causing trouble. You’re making things hard. You want to hurt us. You’re always hurting yourself.” And, while it may seem logical that an intervention would focus on the problems that caused it, that’s not the best approach. If the person in trouble knew how to help themselves, they would have already done it.
The better approach is to focus on the family as a whole…to present the intervention as something the family has decided to do to protect everyone involved. In other words, the focus should be, “We need to do this. If you want to continue being involved with the family, here’s what you need to do.”
Again, professional interventionists are skilled at helping families frame the intervention in the most effective way possible.
The subject of an intervention will almost always have objections – excuses for their behavior, reasons why your concerns are unwarranted, etc. A trained interventionist can help you anticipate and prepare for those objections.
Successful holiday interventions include a treatment plan that can be implemented immediately if the individual agrees. A professional interventionist can help make those arrangements.
Even the best plans can fall apart when a loved one reactions with anger, tears, and accusations of betrayal. The presence of a professional interventionist can help keep things on track even during emotional upheaval.
Unfortunately, not all holiday interventions are successful. Sometimes, the individual refuses help. That can be devastating for family members, and a professional interventionist can help everyone work through those emotions.
3. Who should and should not be included on the intervention team?
There’s no single answer that’s best for every situation. In general, though, you’ll want to include those who will contribute to the desired outcome and exclude those who won’t. Include anyone the individual likes, trusts, or admires. That could be a friend, a family member, a member of the clergy, a sponsor, even a respected co-worker.
Don’t include those who have their own addictions or mental health challenges, who might not be able to control their emotions during the intervention, or who might intentionally or unintentionally sabotage the plan.
Holiday interventions aren’t fun. They can be messy and traumatic – not the kind of thing anyone wants on their holiday calendar. But neither is a necessary intervention the kind of thing you should delay, even for the best of reasons. The team at New Roads Behavioral Health can help you identify your options and choose the solution that’s best for everyone involved. Let us help you give your family the gift of hope this holiday season. Call our admissions team today: 888-358-8998