How to talk to your loved one about Treatment

How to talk to your loved one about Treatment


Having “the talk” with your loved ones is rarely successful in motivating them to change. Simply talking to a substance user about their problem will most commonly have one of two results. Either they become angry and rebel at the idea of getting help; or they will placate you so they can continue to use their substance of choice. This conversation without action leave both the substance user and their family in the same place as before the conversation. This reality is based on a multitude of reasons but the most common is that the family is often the least qualified to facilitate a successful intervention.

In the rare occurrence of the individual approaching their family or friends to ask for help the next step is to involve a professional who can make appropriate recommendations for the facilitating of the treatment process. Whether it is a detox center, residential program, outpatient treatment or a long term case manager. This professional recommendation will guide your loved one on a path to long-term recovery.

This may be the first time that you have personally delt with an addict or alcoholic, or the hundredth time you’ve delt with the same individual. The unfortunate truth is even if a family member is highly qualified in a field that relates to substance abuse or mental health treatment, it is still necessary to seek professional help. This is akin to a surgeon treating a family member, or a therapist seeing their loved ones. It is not the correct approach because of the close proximity to the issue. A successful intervention requires objective reasoning and appropriate support.

That is not to say that your loved one is destined to remain in addiction or alcoholism forever. With guidance and support from a qualified professional they will not only see their issue but recognize the path to recovery.

Addiction is a Medical Disease

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) classifies Substance Use Disorders as a brain disorder and a mental illness. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) classifies addiction as a treatable disease. Narcotics anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes alcohol/drug consumption as being a “phenomenon of craving”. All of these share in common that they identify not only is substance abuse a problem but also that it can be treated with appropriate support. That requires guidance from someone other than the alcoholic or addict and their families.

Unfortunately, most substance users will not surrender themselves to the fact that they need support. Even fewer will take the time to learn about and implement effective recovery options. Many often try to beat the addiction themselves; this tretterous path will often take family, friends and acquaintances along with them. As the family of an addict or alcoholic it is key that you lead by example and enter recovery yourself. Not from drugs or alcohol but from unhealthy behavior that will allow your loved one to continue their use. A family that is enabling and co-dependent on their addicted loved one will encourage them in the wrong ways; in most cases they will allow or even encourage their use to continue. This is never intentional but as we have covered, as a family you are likely not even aware that this it the case, or able to stop without guidance. 

Talking to a Loved One About Addiction or Substance Use Disorder

When the goal is to motivate a loved one to seek treatment professional guidance is integral to the conversation being successful. As we have covered it is highly unlikely for someone to be able to control or change a loved one in addiction with a simple conversation. It will require real and concrete changes in the entire family system. These changes are what gives an alternative to the common approach of waiting for them to hit “rock bottom” and reach out for help independently. A qualified professional interventionist will offer the expertise to manufacture a rock bottom for your loved one in a controlled and safe environment; allowing them to exercise their right to choose help while compassionately but firmly pushing them to make that overwhelming decision.

Helping You and Your Loved One Find a Path to Recovery

Addiction and Alcoholism are not a victimless crime, it affects not only the substance user but their family and friends. Achieving long-term recovery requires the internal motivation to recover. This motivation will not come on its own, there must be a reason for them to change. The best way to bring them to the point of change is to change yourselves as the family system. Once they are being held accountable and see the consequences of their actions they realize necessity of real change. The best way to bring about that real and necessary change is to facilitate an intervention.

There are many options for intervention; unfortunately the most common is a “DIY intervention” facilitated by the family system that may be enabling the continued use. The most successful alternative is an intervention; facilitated by a trained and qualified professional that will guide the conversation towards a successful recovery plan. This process will be the catalyst for true recovery and can be initiated by simply doing the one thing you want so badly for your loved one too do, reach out for help.

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