March 25, 2019 Blog No Comments

Have you ever dealt with a difficult family member? I have and I am breaking a family rule of silence to even write this.  But there are important lessons in my experience I would like to share.

My parents have spent most of our lives tolerating something the rest of my siblings have found intolerable. It has been a source of great family distress. We have a family member who has not successfully left home.

Now finally, the siblings have taken charge and have organized an intervention. No more silence, no more ignoring the problem.  We are doing this before it is too late, before it’s transferred to us and we become part of the problem.

Let me share a few tips that have been learned the hard way. if you are dealing with someone in your family who consumes all the attention and never gets better or improves their life, this will help you take action.

Understand the WHY

I am in the field, I know how to assess and make sense of dysfunctional behavior when someone willingly seeks help. But when that someone is in your life, living in denial and complete resistance, it can be really hard. You have to take action in a different way.

You need to understand why the behavior exists. Is it mental Illness, is it addiction, is it a refusal to take responsibility for behavior that’s burdening others with the consequences? To get clear, you may need professional help to know what you are dealing with.

Understanding the problem helps you find the solution.

Conduct An Intervention – Get the Needed Services

When you understand the nature of the problem, you can arrange the appropriate services. But don’t for a minute think this is going to happen easily. If you could suggest a solution and have it understood and acted on, there wouldn’t be a problem. You have to take a stand, which usually means conducting an intervention.

An intervention requires bringing all the important players in the person’s life together for a clear and single purpose – to get your loved one to make a change. get treatment, move out, or whatever is needed. You need to plan ahead, know the services you’re recommending, and have it completely organized so at the end of the conversation, you are moving in that direction. You may need help just to organize it. Our intervention took extensive planning, hours of discussion, arranging many meetings and a week to conduct. It’s not over, that was just the beginning.

An intervention requires that you plan the details and have services ready.

Let Providers Know What’s Happening

Providers can only work with what they know. If you’re talking about behavioral health issues, it’s necessary to keep the counselor/therapist/Dr. informed on what’s causing problems. If it’s substance misuse, getting the person into a treatment program is essential.

For a provider to address problem behavior, they must understand it too. Denial can make a person present themselves as fine when it’s far from the truth. There has to be an understanding that you aren’t going to keep secrets, fall prey to manipulative threats and your provider is going to know the truth.

Assistance is only as good as the information given.


This is the hardest part. You have to follow through, mean business, draw a line in the sand and say the gig is up. Bad behavior continues when and where it’s allowed. Everyone has to change and agree to the new expectations. No more enabling – no more tolerating the intolerable.

In my family, a dysfunctional pattern was tolerated because it was misunderstood. It’s been a generational issue; my parents had the expectation that they “take care of their own”. But now we know, if you assume someone can’t change and take responsibility for them, you are part of the problem. It’s called enabling. Recovery is only possible when you put the responsibility for it on your loved one.  Get tough.

The only way to solve a problem is to be aligned with the solution.

Since I am still in the middle of this change, I can’t tell you how it turns out. I can say we set up the change process to be as clear and promising as possible. We agreed why the problem existed, set up new expectations for change, had providers involved, got everyone together and conducted an extensive intervention over a lengthy visit. Now we stand firm. Because of our clarity, planning and determination the intervention went as well as possible. You can do it too.

Does any of this sound familiar – Is it something you need for a loved one? Know that there is help out there and recovery is possible. If you want support working through how to address a needed change, I offer a free consultation session. You can reach me at www.spectrumtransformation,com. I’m happy to guide you through how to structure an intervention and point you in the right direction for help.

*Photo – Montgomery, AL

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com