How do we execute an intervention?


I know a lot of us on this forum have been through some challenging times. My husband’s family has (finally!) decided to confront my SIL about doing something with her life and caring for her 5 children.

The situation is very complex and I don’t want to fall into gossip, so I’m just asking for dos and don’ts pretty much. Also if you know of resources in the state of Michigan, especially through the Church rather than through the state.

Our goals:

  1. Help her define an attainable career path so she can support her family regardless of what her ex is or isn’t doing
  2. Inspire her to seek appropriate education for her children
  3. Get her back on track regarding drinking and internet dating before they become addictions or put her in a compromising situation
  4. Convince her to get special help and training for her 8yo son who probably has some form of autism spectrum disorder or high functioning autism.
  5. Help her improve her self-image
  6. Encourage family cohesion and a stable environment where the 12yo is not responsible for caring for the younger kids by herself


As I don’t know where in the state your SIL lives, here is a link to the Archdiocese of Detroit website. You may find some useful services there.

Could she be suffering from depression? Perhaps a full medical evaluation should be encouraged.


That sounds like a load for anybody, and can turn into a bashing instead of an intervention. I can’t say I’d exactly recommend having you on the do-and-don’t committee. Why? Because you are an in-law, and it’d be really easy to put you in the middle, particularly if bashing starts. I don’t want you hurt in your effort to try to help her, because you are a fantastic person, and you probably make her look “bad” just by your example of a good life.

The best possible thing to do is have your FIL and MIL, or whoever is the eldest statesman in this quest, seek a profesional for this, to guide you through the process. Your local Catholic Charities should have a counselor who specializes in this, or know of one who does. You can also check through Alanon. Perhaps your local parish priest has a few tips. The rest of you can be brought into the intervention when the professional decides the details with the elders.

I would never do this as a family committee, and directly decide this, without a professional. And I think (my opinion) that hitting her with all six of the goals at once is a bit much. Perhaps the professional can narrow down one of the goals that attributes to the others.


we did an intervention with an adult family member who needed to sign himself into rehab, but it was directed by a counsellor from Al-Anon who worked with his wife and children, and then brough the rest of us in, coached us on what to say and what not to say. They also helped us have all things we wanted him to agree to lined up, a place in the facility and the other things he needed to do (physical exam etc) arranged. Counsellors also coached family on how to provide ongoing support for his wife and children so they did not feel like they were the bad guys or handling it alone. We also met again when he was due to come home, about how to help the transition, make sure other steps in the process were taken, etc.


Have you tried contacting AA? Since you did not specify which city in Michigan, here’s a link to all the central offices of AA in the state of Michigan.


I’m on the do and don’t committee because MIL and FIL intend to tell her "Let us keep the girls and catch them up in school, or someone is going to call Social Services."
Bad idea, right?
I’m the one who’s pushing for some professional advice, because I really want to see it have the best impact possible. I just can’t seem to find the right resource in the diocese, and I’ve been asked not to contact anyone outside the Church for help. She lives in Warren just outside Detroit.
Al-Anon is a good idea, but I really don’t know how far extending this drinking problem is. I know very little, but from the sounds of it, the problem is the socialization (going out at night while the 12yo has to put the others to bed, not getting home until wee hours of morning), not the drinking itself (so far anyway). I really don’t know, though. I hate to make a problem out of something that really isn’t the root cause.


Here is a professional counseling service that uses several Churches in the Detroit Archdiocese as counseling sites.
The one in Sterling Hts. is at 15 Mile between VanDyke & Schoenherr. Sterling Hts is next to Warren.

This is the link to Catholic Services of Macomb. Macomb is the county Warren is in.


Someone from the diocese is supposed to call me back. I will try your suggestions next, rayne.


I realize you don’t necessarily have the power to decide anything.

But I think the simple answer to the question, “How do we execute an intervention?” is that*** you** (plural)** don’t***.

A professional should be the one to execute the intervention and the rest of you should just be ‘the cabinet’ to assist.

But again, you may not have the power to do things right if the rest of the family cannot be convinced.

I’ll pray for you all.


I agree with SMHW. At the very least, if you are not able to disassociate family from this, is to have professional and objective help available. Someone who is not family or family friend, who can assist from a non-biased position to be neutral in the case of argument, which I’m sure will happen.

Here is a link to Catholic Social Services: They may be able to assist as well.

Best of luck to you all, I’ll keep you in my prayers.



well, they (FIL and BIL, the oldest son) decided to confront her last night. Apparently she later talked to MIL, who took it upon herself to mention that “someone in the family is thinking about calling SS” which isn’t even true, as far as I know.
She assumed it was either me and my husband, or DH’s younger brother, and left nasty messages on their phones.
sigh At least out of all of this she is letting the almost 7yo daughter stay with MIL and FIL to get her caught up in school, but she’s “unschooling, and the kids will let me know when they want to learn something.” :rolleyes: She said this to excuse the fact that the 7 and 8 yo.s haven’t the foggiest idea how to spell their names.
Like I told MIL, if she had a clear conscience, she wouldn’t worry one iota that anyone was thinking about calling SS. She could gather up all her evidence and show them why a visit is unwarranted. Her tantrum is only evidence that she knows something is wrong. I just hope she can swallow her pride long enough to admit it rationally and get some help.


What is ‘unschooling’? I have never heard that one before…

First of all, I need to let you know that your sister-in-law is very blessed to have a family that is this concerned and wanting to help. It may not seem this way to her, right now, and she may lash out at all of you but if you knew how many women I sponsor in AA who have been completely disowned by their families and have no encouragement or support at ALL you would be amazed.

oh, and btw…I understand why their families have disowned them. We - alkies and drug addicts - wear people OUT with our behavior.

You have been given some good advice regarding checking with professionals about how to do an intervention. What I have always been told is that the only way an intervention works is if every family member is on the same page, have specific consequences they are willing to hand the person (if you do not do such and such, we will do so and so) and will hold FAST to their decision and not crumble in the face of tears, anger, false and desperate promises etc.

The problem, therefore, is deciding exactly what it is you want her to do instead of the rather vague outline you all came up with that I read in the original post. I think you are on a good start but you will need a professional to get it into concrete form

as an example: improve her self image = take one shower every day, brush your teeth twice a day, put on clean clothes every day and brush your hair.

Believe it or not, when I first started working with a sponsor I was so unfamiliar with going to work every single day that I was instructed to call upon wakening, call when I was leaving the house and then call again when I got to work. The mornings I tried to say things like, “I don’t feel so good” my sponsor would tell me to get to work and if it turned out I was really sick I was to make a doctor appointment and LEAVE work…well, as you can imagine usually, once I got there, I wasn’t sick…I was just not used to be a responsible grown up that went to work every single day of the work week.

Good luck, my darling sister in Christ…you are your’s are in my prayers.


Unschooling is supposed to be a form of schooling where the educator, usually a parent, waits for cues from the child to decide what they want or need to learn. Your child is fascinated with tadpoles? Teach them about amphibians or how some organisms have different stages. Loves to draw? Age-appropriate geometry.

It is somewhat similar to what I understand Montessori to be (I really don’t know that much about it, so please excuse me if it is not similar at all). In any case, the premise for unschooling is not to use any kind of curriculum, and not to stress academic subjects. I can see how it could be good for a very motivated individual who has problems dealing with too much structure or who has a short attention span for book learning.

For SIL, it is utterly and completely a cop-out. She doesn’t pay one ounce of attention to those kids, not the kind of attention they need and certainly not the kind of attention necessary to unschool “properly.” I’m not a big fan of unschooling myself.


Not to hijack the thread, but “unschooling” is really supposed to be child-interest education, where the children have input into their educational process, and where that input is applied in everyday life. It does NOT preclude learning to read, spell, or do math. A few people use it as an excuse instead of as an application for home education- such as SIL.

Well, at least the 7 year old is going to get some care. I wish your in-laws had waited. I would be more than a bit annoyed that they left your husband, your younger in-law and you out to dry. Intervention works much better when it’s planned.


Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like my sources didn’t quite hit the mark.


That really sounds like a bad situation for the kids… I personally think it would have been better if your mother in law had just gone over there one night while the 12 year old was trying to put everyone to bed and loaded all the kids and taken them home.

No 12 year old should be left to raise their siblings just so mom can go out and get wasted. If she needed like one or two nights off during the week, then maybe grandma could come over and get the kids in bed on those nights but otherwise she needs to step up and take care of those kids. :mad:

sorry if this post offends anyone. I can’t tolerate neglectful parents.


It doesn’t offend me, Redtech. I had to do that to my own daughter. Actually, I took the kids back to her place to put them in their own bed, and ended up telling them to pack what was important to them, because they were going to stay at Grandma’s. I took their baby books, as well.

I hope you are not telling Grandma to “step up” but the mom.


sigh It only gets better.
Apparently MIL, who has a tendency to backfill her memory with false information, told SIL that I was planning to call Child Protective Services. SIL calls DH all in a tissy that I would do that, and DH has the nerve to storm into the kitchen while I’m making his dinner and correct me when I denied ever having threatened to call CPS. All this over a comment I made almost THREE YEARS AGO that the now almost 7yo could not even begin to complete a puzzle for age 6mos to 2yrs. It’s laughable, except for the fact that those kids are in a horrible way because of SIL’s neglectful practices.

I told DH since everyone seems to think I plan to call CPS, I might as well validate their concerns.


Ya know, none of these in-laws seem to want to get good help. They are instead willing to throw you under the bus. Even your husband seems to participate in their misdirected efforts. Admittedly, the kids need help. Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle instead pull power plays rather than getting asisstance. No good can come from all these power plays, and too many chefs and not enough salad preppers. Your in-laws have done this to you not once, but twice.

IF IT WERE ME, I would request that my husband back out- now; in fact, I would insist upon it. I would refer the person from the diocese to whomever in your husband’s family you feel will do the best with accepting professional advice. When the call comes about poor Mary (Betty, Chantal, whatever), tell them you refuse to participate in this without a professional to lead the way.

IF IT WERE ME and I felt the children were truly in danger, if possible I would do what RedTech suggested, or I would call social services.

But this constant Mom says this and Dad says that and the Big Brother throws in his two cents, and everybody else is blamed for the elders actions- No.


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