Professional Interventionist

Deception in an Intervention – Playing to Win

  • Posted by: Steve Bruno
Deception in an Intervention
An intervention is one of the most loving things a family can do, but the reality of doing one effectively may require calculated deception. Don’t immediately start beating yourself up about it as a lot of parents and children of alcoholics, spouses of addicts tend to do. The fact is, my mother deceived me in order to get me to the meeting where my family offered me help, and as much as I cursed her name at the time, now I thank her every day for whatever she and the rest of my family did to get my head out of my ass and into a decent program.

If my family hadn’t done what they did the way they did it, I would not have even shown up and probably would not be writing this blog, having helped literally hundreds and hundreds of families just like yours. The fact is, your loved one deserves a well planned intervention and the “deception” part includes keeping your plans under wraps until you’re ready to move. If you get all honest on the guy in order to allay your fears that he’ll accuse you of going behind his back, he’ll have you for lunch. So why put yourself in a losing position? If anything that is a misguided sense of honor. It’s usually out of fear. Fear of the addict feeling betrayed, fear of his accusing you of lying and being a hypocrite, fear of him getting scared of being “ganged up on” and running away, worsening an already bad situation. But fear is often a horror move that never plays out in real life, or if it tries to, recognize it for what it is, an attempt at controlling you. So don’t let it.

Another example would be my need to get an addict to agree to go to treatment but telling him I am a professional interventionist up front is not the best way to build trust. I’m usually introduced as someone the family came across over the course of researching programs. I tell the addict I’m there as a friend, a “negotiator” to help facilitate things. If the addict asks me if I’m an interventionist, I’ll tell him I’ve been involved in a few interventions and his family offered to throw me a little something and cover my expenses to come out and help get things going. I try and play it as lightweight as possible. Adding heavy significance can frighten an already paranoid addict.

It may seem like a fine point but it’s important that the addict doesn’t feel threatened. By putting myself on the back burner and not coming off as the person in charge, the addict perceives the ultimatums and the force behind the intervention as coming from the family, not from me, which is in fact true even though I act as a guiding force. The addict can still feel safe talking to me and the treatment center can be made to seem like a refuge, not a prison sentence.

While the use of deception may be justifiable when it comes to strategy, you do need to be careful about being dishonest in describing the program. It’s alright to exaggerate a little in terms of the amenities: If you can make the satellite TV sounds like a good place to hang out or watch football on the weekends, go ahead. If you want to make the facility’s gym sound like the perfect place for the addict to get his health back, fine. You could probably even make the whole time there sound like a vacation for him from the family. Do not, however, tell your loved one that there is a lake if there isn’t one or that they have a hot tub if they don’t. That’s playing “bad pool.” When your loved one goes there and discovers these outright lies, he might reject the program on sight, get paranoid about you and the facility, and wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.

In conclusion, be careful how you use deception. Don’t be afraid of it – just be smart about it. And don’t ever use deception out of anger or as a reaction; only use it if you know it will help your cause. You can read more about it in my book, More Than Hope, Intervention Guidebook in the chapter titled Secrets and Lies.



Steve Bruno
Author: Steve Bruno
Hi, My name is Steve Bruno. I'm here to build my name as a professional interventionist, an author, blogger, and - to the extent I establish myself as such - an authority on the subject of alcohol and drug addiction interventions.