Conducting an Intervention

When dependency reaches a point at which people are hurting themselves …

When dependency reaches a point at which people are hurting themselves and do not know they need help, a guided intervention may be necessary. Intervention is an attempt to change an influencing force that is destroying a person's well-being.

The principle of intervention is certainly not new since the Bible records interventions into the destructive behavior of many people. Genesis 3 gives an account of God's first intervention with the first parents of the human race. After Adam and Eve's act of disobedience, they needed a recovery program, and we have been in need of recovery since that time. When they hid themselves from God among the trees, He sought a conversation with them asking, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). God was keenly aware of their fallen condition and obviously knew their whereabouts, but He wanted a response from them. Through this intervention, God helped them see their condition, held them responsible for their actions, and provided a way out of their web of deception.

After David took Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, and then had Uriah murdered in an effort to cover up their sin, the Lord sent Nathan to intervene in David's destructive course. Nathan sought a response by telling him about two men in a certain community: one was rich and the other was poor (see 2 Samuel 12). When a traveler came to the rich man for a meal, the rich man would not give him one of his own sheep. Instead, he took the only ewe lamb the poor man had, one that had grown up with his family, and prepared it for the traveler. After hearing the story, David responded with anger toward the rich man, suggesting his death. Nathan then said to David, "You are the man!" (v7). Nathan discussed the consequences of David's behavior, and David acknowledged he had sinned against the Lord. The Lord used Nathan to conduct an intervention on David to help him see his sinful condition, its long-term consequences, his need for repentance, and how to get back on the track of recovery.

Showing guided level-by-level interventions, Jesus deals with the principle of restoration in Matthew 18:15-17. He begins with an early intervention: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you" (v15). Early intervention should be done privately with careful confrontation based on observations (show him his faults), not with judgment and condemnation. This should be done soon after the fault has been observed to prevent delusion. If the brother in the wrong responds favorably, then the issue is over with and restoration accomplished.

If the brother does not respond to early intervention, he is probably in a state of delusion. The next step, intermediate intervention, is described in verse 16: "But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' " There should be descriptive facts presented based on times, places, people affected, and so forth, as they relate specifically to the problem.

The third level of restoration is crisis intervention. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (v17). At this level the church should already have a plan in place to assist this person if he is repentant and shows a willingness to receive help. If not, he should be made aware of the church's continued love and compassion for him, but the church members will lovingly detach themselves from him until he shows evidence of wanting to change.

This principle of intervention shows three levels with people being added at each phase. All involved are people who are meaningful in his life. To prevent gossip, it is important to inform only those who need to know. The purpose of intervention is to help people, not tear them down.

How does the local church intervene when a person's addictive behavior reaches a crisis stage? After the individual has been approached with early and intermediate intervention without success, who should be involved in the crisis intervention-the entire church body or just a few meaningful people in the person's life? A crisis intervention should involve only meaningful people. Involving the entire local church body would probably include enablers, carnal Christians, and those who do not understand addictive behaviors which would hamper restoration.

An effective intervention requires much planning since it is a process. Louis B. and Elizabeth Krupnick in their book, From Despair to Decision, present an approach to the process of a guided intervention which is adaptable to the local church (55).

First, there must be a time of assessment to gather information about the person, the family, others who care about the individual, and the person who will lead the intervention process. Certain questions should be asked. Do the concerned persons have the emotional stability to be involved in the process and follow-up? Does the information from the concerned persons indicate the individual is dependent and unable to seek help voluntarily? Is the person who will direct this intervention caring and compassionate? Will the pastor or a member of the pastoral staff be involved to provide spiritual direction? If the interventionist, pastor, and family members decide a formal crisis intervention may be helpful, there should be a meeting to help the family understand intervention techniques.

The family members need to understand not only the dynamics of dependency but also how the entire family will be affected. They should understand codependency (which will be discussed later) and enabling behaviors as well as the role defenses and feelings play in the dependent person's life. It is important for the family to understand that dependencies will normally get worse before they get better. Since addictive behaviors are progressive, the person is unlikely to get help on his or her own. With life already out of control, the dependent person probably lives in a state of crisis. The family members should understand that a directed intervention is a way for them to begin to take action-at their initiation-with a controlled crisis.

After the family has been educated, an intervention team should be selected. Along with the interventionist, the team can include family members, pastor or a member from the pastoral staff, employer, social friends, or others who are meaningful in the individual's life. A good-sized intervention team is six to eight people. Less than this number may lessen the impact; whereas, a larger number of people may lessen the intimacy desired in the meeting.

The intervention should be held at a place where there will be no interruptions. The pastor or counselor's office may be better than the home because there would be fewer distractions. The intervention must be at a time when the dependent person has a sober mind.

One of the most difficult questions may be: How do we get the dependent person to the pastor or counselor's office? I worked with a dependent high school student after he overdosed on drugs over a weekend. In planning for the intervention, the parents told the son they had a meeting planned for him and themselves with me to discuss ways they could help him and the family. The concerned persons should not lie to the individual but insist on attendance at the pastor's or counselor's office and continue until the person responds. After a significant event in life such as an arrest, traffic accident, threatened loss of job, or loss of a friend, the dependent person may be more willing to meet. After all, the person probably knows something is going on because family members have reduced their enabling behavior.

A pre-intervention rehearsal with the team will help prepare them for the event. Since participants may experience fear and an uneasiness about the meeting, a rehearsal will help them gain a sense of direction. Each concerned person should be prepared to give written data listing specific dates and events that document the dependent person's powerlessness over an addiction and the concerned person's feelings. The data should not refer to terms such as dependency, addiction, alcoholic, or drug addict; instead, let the facts speak for themselves. (Team members should understand that data documenting child abuse must be reported to proper authorities as required by law.) The rehearsal should close with a summarization and with prayer for God's guidance.

Once the actual intervention begins, the interventionist should explain that all present should hold their questions until each concerned person's data is shared. If the dependent person seeks to sidetrack the data, the interventionist should ask the person to wait until all have shared their concerns. It is important that the data be presented with love and compassion. The information should directly show how the dependent person's behavior affects each of the concerned persons.

After the data is presented, alternatives such as treatment programs or support groups should be presented. It is important that the team has already made arrangements with appropriate alternatives to insure that the dependent person can go for help immediately. The team should be prepared to follow up because the process of recovery has just started.

It should be made clear that if the dependent person leaves the room or refuses to receive help, the family members, pastor, employer, and others who may be on the team will continue to pray for recovery but will no longer offer support until the person chooses to change directions. They are letting the person go, trusting God to get his or her attention.


Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
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