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Teen Intervention

Teen Intervention

By nature, intervention is no easy feat. It is awkward, painful and can make the person on the receiving end feel attacked, driving a wedge into relationships. Interventions involving teenagers, or teen intervention, can be particularly difficult, but talking to them about drugs and your feelings on the subject is always the best policy.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is the process in which the family or friends of an addicted individual, often utilizing counselors or professional intervention specialists, can show the addict the effect of their destructive behavior on their life and the lives of those around them. The hope is that, by putting this behavior in front of them in a non-threatening way, the addicted person will choose to seek treatment as soon as possible. While interventions are most commonly initiated by family members, anyone with a vested and loving relationship with the person can participate.

The optimal result would be that the addicted person realizes how their addiction if affecting their life and chooses to never engage in the addictive behavior again. This is not a likely outcome, however. Normally, the entire purpose of an intervention is that the addicted person would immediately enter some sort of rehabilitation program. Having a larger number of people involved in the intervention can show the addict how far the damage of their addiction has spread, hopefully furthering their desire to make a change. It is also used as a “last stop” show of strength – that the family and friends of the addicted person will no longer continue to support or ignore their behavior.

Teen Intervention

There are two types of interventions: formal and informal. The formal type of intervention would involve a large group of family, friends and other affected parties, along with some sort of addiction professional all getting together to confront the addict with the effects of their behavior on everyone around them. This is most often used on those who have been struggling with addiction for long periods of time, or are known to be abusing some sort of drug or alcohol.

If you’re unsure if your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, or it’s the first time you’re talking to them about the issue, an informal intervention is probably the best approach. Essentially, it’s just you and your spouse or partner and your child having a conversation about addiction and what the abuse can mean for them. Because having a teen intervention can be a difficult undertaking, there are some tips and tricks that will help you prepare and keep things running smoothly.

These tips include:

  • Avoid bad timing. The worst time to engage your child in an intervention for teenage drug use is when they are already high. Try to catch them at a time when they are less likely to have used recently, or are coming down from a high.
  • Morning is best. Morning is the best time to plan a teen intervention because they are less likely to have had an opportunity to use, and everyone that needs to be involved can typically be available if it’s not a work or school day.
  • Don’t engage in hypocritical behavior. If you are going to have a conversation with your child about substance abuse, it is best to do so without the help of any type of substance use yourself. Things like lighting a cigarette, making a drink or taking a drug to calm you down before, during or after your intervention will dissipate the power of your argument, and will likely have the complete opposite effect than what you were going for.
  • Practice. As awkward and difficult as it can be, the best practice is to practice your talk ahead of time. Say it out loud to yourself in a mirror and practice keeping eye contact and a confident delivery. You can also enlist the help of a friend or family member and go over your speech with them as well to make sure that your point is coming across as clear and collected.
  • Knowledge is power. The best thing you can be during a teen intervention is prepared. This means getting all of the facts you possibly can from the most reliable of sources. This could mean talking to your child’s friends, going through their things to find their stash, noting unusual behavior or anything else you think might be helpful in proving your point. Teenagers are also extremely resourceful, and may be prepared with a counter-argument, so part of your job is to brainstorm the arguments they may come up with ahead of time. Another thing to prepare for will be any hurtful statements they may make in the moment. It is part of human nature to lash out when you feel attacked, and your teen will feel that same instinct if they feel it will lead to a safer conversation. Make sure you stay on track and let them know that anything they would like to discuss can be reviewed at a later date.
  • Pay attention. Turn off your phone, find a private space and make sure that your teen is the sole focus of your attention for this conversation. Let them know that you are serious and that they are the most important thing to you during this conversation.
  • Set a goal. Going into the conversation, make sure you have an idea of where you would like the conversation to end. Make sure that you achieve that goal before ending the conversation, and let them know that there can or will be consequences for future negative behavior.
  • Be upfront. Let your child know your feelings on drug or alcohol abuse, and what your expectation is from them moving forward. Encourage them to talk to you about their feelings as well – there may be some underlying cause or feeling of pressure causing them to think drug or alcohol abuse is necessary.
  • Keep your cool. Your teen may not take their intervention with the calm and collected attitude that would be ideal. They may lash out or dig in their heels, and it’s up to you to stay calm and keep on track. Keeping your temper in check, keeping tears to a minimum and refraining from making exaggerated accusatory statements can be extremely difficult, but the conversation won’t last long if you aren’t able to remain calm and level-headed.
  • No judgement. Give your child an opportunity to be open and honest with you, and let them know that you are willing to hear them out for the length of this conversation without recourse or punishment. If they feel like they are being judged or will be punished for coming clean, they will be less likely to be forthcoming.
  • Be honest. If you have past experience that could be helpful in backing up your feelings (for example, you struggled with drug abuse in the past, or had a friend that overdosed when you were experimenting as kids) don’t be afraid to share it. This shows your teen that you have relatable experiences and that you are speaking to them as someone who has been in their shoes before. If you don’t have experience with drugs, it’s OK to say so. Give them a chance to express why they feel the need to abuse substances.
  • Pace yourself. It’s OK to take a break if need be. Teen intervention is no small task, and will likely be an emotional conversation for both parties. Don’t hesitate to take a 10-minute time out to let everyone cool down. Just take a few minutes to breath and center yourself, or allow your child some time to process or cool down, and then come back calm and fresh to finish your conversation.

Teen Intervention Programs

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 70 percent of teens try alcohol by their senior year in high school, 50 percent have abused an illegal drug and 20 percent have used a prescription drug recreationally. Just because a teenager is not yet addicted to drugs or alcohol does not mean that abusing substances is not a problem.

The important thing to know is that you and your teen are not alone in this struggle. There are many different options for teen intervention programs. Often times, schools or community outreach programs will offer some forms of prevention strategies or programs that talk about teenage substance abuse, and may even provide additional resources for struggling individuals. There are also options for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. It is important to look into all of the options available to determine what avenue is the best for your teen and your family.

Whether you decide to have a quiet, one on one conversation with your teen, or you enlist the help of someone who can guide you through the intervention and healing process, the important thing is to talk to you child about their substance abuse. Talking about it shows that you care, and lets your child know that you have expectations about substance abuse that won’t go unsaid.

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