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Intervention through constructive confrontation

In order to successfully intervene in the illness of chemical dependency, a process of breaking down the defence mechanisms being used by the addict must take place. This process is known as constructive confrontation and has three phases:
  1. Preparation
  2. The confrontation
  3. Follow through – action
Contact us at and we will help you set up an intervention get your loved one in to treatment quickly: +27 61 26 73422

Phase 1: Preparation

Being faced with suspicions or direct evidence that a person is dabbling in, or has become dependent upon a substance or behaviour provokes strong feelings of guilt, blame, anger, sadness and fear in the family members. To react to these emotions by blaming or becoming immobilised by fear, is very destructive and can frequently lead to a situation in which the user becomes even more defensive and communication breaks down completely. As part of preparing for a constructive confrontation, it is essential that the people involved have dealt with their feelings and can act in a direct, positive and non-hysterical way.

Facts about what is happening have to be detailed by those close to the user. These facts need to be clear, specific, and where possible, first hand. Those people who are going to  be involved in the confrontation process (parents, husbands, wives, employers, friends, children) need to write exactly what it is that is of concern to them.

For example:
  • You have been missing work, putting your job in jeopardy
  • Dagga has been found in your pocket
  • You have been spending our rent money on drugs
  • Your moods are out of control
  • You are mixing with criminals
Confrontation with vague suspicions and second hand information will not work. First hand knowledge prevents the addict from using defecnce mechanisms such as denial, repression, rationalisations, etc.

The people actively involved in the process of the confrontation need to be close to the suspected user and have some level of influence over them. A leader for the confrontation process should be selected. The leader’s role is to open and close the proceedings and ensure that those taking part do not become destructive, and that the confrontation keeps to its objectives.

As part of the preparation phase it should be decided by those conducting the confrontation and us at, what the preferred treatment option is going to be on successful completion of the intervention.

A pre-confrontation meeting should be held with those involved to discuss and practice the process. Where necessary and appropriate someone from or a suitable counsellor can be present. The element of surprise prevents the user from preparing his defence before hand. It is therefore important not to warn the person that they are about to be confronted.

Phase 2: The intervention

The intervention should be held in a private place where interruptions will not occur. The leader should open the process by explaining that everyone is here because they are concerned about the user and there are a number of things they would like to say to illustrate this concern. Once everyone has finished, the person being confronted, willl be given the opportunity to reply.

The facts that have been prepared are then expressed to the person by everyone in turn. Facts must be presented in a concerned, structured, non-accusatory and non-judgemental way. Should the suspected user try to de-focus them or deny them, the leader intervenes and reminds him that once everyone has finished he will be able to reply.

Usually this process has one of two outcomes. The suspected user may break down and admit to what has been happening, or he may continue to deny any use of drugs. If he admits that he is using, the leader, in summarising what has happened, needs to immediately implement the group’s pre-arranged plan. If the addict denies he is using chemicals the group needs to express that they are still concerned and that certain steps will now be taken to prevent further use. For example, no more pocket money or they are leaving them until they access treatment.

It is suggested that arrangements for the outcome to be implemented be made prior to the confrontation. This avoids delays which may allow the person to rebuild his defences.

Phase 3: Action

If the intervention has been successful the leader then puts in place the action needed for the person to be admitted to treatment – eg travel, finances, admission details.

If it has been unsuccessful the boundaries need to be put in place – eg money withdrawn, ask to leave the house, sacked from their work.

Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will help you set up an intervention get your loved one in to treatment.


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