For most people, the first time they heard of a drug intervention is from the popular show on A&E. Intervention begins with showing the addict and their extreme abuse. The viewer often watches the person use drugs and/or alcohol and the ensuing issues that come along with that. Next, viewers are given a snippet of the family meeting that includes the interventionist, followed by the intervention itself. If the addict agrees to go to treatment, the cameras follow the person on the flight or in the car, and film the checking-in process. At the end of each episode there is usually a small update about the addict. If they successfully completed rehab, the show will air footage of the individual being healthy, happy and rejoining society.

There are some similarities between the show and real life interventions. However, it is important to know that the producers have really set the stage for drama. In real life addicts are obviously not followed around by cameras and interviewed regarding their drug use. By doing this, the show really preps the person for an intervention. In real life, the addict goes about their business unaware that they are going to have an intervention. And while the viewer is led to believe that the addict has no idea that they are going to be intervened upon, it is more likely that they know something is up (exceptions include various forms of the invitational model).

Interventions that are done off the show, in households throughout the country, are generally less dramatic, but the outcome is the same. Families confront the addict, hopefully in a loving way, and explain how they have been hurt by the drug use and what they expect to change, the addict is given the opportunity to go to treatment. If the addict agrees the interventionist immediately leaves with the addict to escort them to treatment. If the addict refuses, the family is forced to enact the bottom lines that they came up with.

What are Bottom Lines?

Bottom lines are crucial to any intervention. This is what the individual family members decide will be the consequence for refusing treatment. So, parents of an addict may say that if treatment is refused then the addict can no longer stay in their home, or have their bills paid for, or have access to the vehicle. These are examples of bottom lines. These bottom lines are included in the show as well.

Another accurate component of the show is the use of letters. Letter writing is a major step in any intervention because it allows the family members to communicate with an addict in such a way that they are concise, heartfelt, sincere and stern. Oftentimes talking with an addict, especially regarding their drug use, can be an impossibility. Putting these painful and emotional thoughts on paper allows everyone to express their feelings and also helps to deliver more impactful statements to the addict. Oftentimes the interventionist will have the family members give the letters to the addict after the intervention as well. This allows the person to reread the letters, and if need be, refer back to the bottom lines if they are threatening to leave treatment early.

Interventions Include Family Education

The producers of Intervention do a good job of depicting what occurs in an actual intervention, but they miss out on one key component. They do not effectively show how much counseling and education the family receives prior to the intervention. The reason why interventions are such a successful method of getting someone into treatment, is because the family members and those closest to the addict are the ones who undergo the most change. Addicts can not maintain their lifestyle unless those closest to them allow it. This may seem harsh, however if one looks closely at any addict they will eventually see the parents who allow them to live rent free, or the spouse that looks the other way, or the friends who drink with them, or the boss who allows them to come to work late. These behaviors are often not done maliciously, but are often an attempt at helping the addict, or ensuring that they are safe. A good interventionist will educate family members on more effective ways to help the addict, and ultimately get the addict to agree to treatment.