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How to Do an Intervention

When it comes to alcoholism and drug dependence, it is not just the addict who suffers. The people who care about them are also affected by their actions.

8 Minute Read | Published Sep 14 2023 | Updated Mar 11 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by

Most people view intervention as a last resort option when a loved one has become addicted to a substance, or harmful behavior, such as alcohol abuse. In many cases, it is. But in some cases, a successful intervention strategy can be an effective way to get a loved one to get treatment for an addiction problem.

The effective intervention process is an intense experience for everyone involved. You may need to prepare yourself and your loved one struggling with addiction for the experience. If you’re thinking about how to do an intervention, keep in mind the following suggestions recommended by intervention professionals.

What is an intervention?

An intervention is a meeting where everyone who cares about the addict gathers to discuss the addiction issue and the possible treatment and rehab options. To seriously consider staging an intervention, you must be honest about the nature of your loved one’s problem and how it is affecting the family.

An intervention should be a small group of trusted people, family and friends, counselors, faith leaders, and medical and substance abuse professionals from treatment centers. Emphasis on small and trusted, too big of a group can get out of control and make a person feel attacked, including strangers will limit the effectiveness of the intervention.

Before you intervene, your planning should identify your concerns and what you want to accomplish. Is your loved one living with a substance use disorder? If so, what’s your biggest concern? Is he or she at risk of hurting himself or herself or others? Is he or she suffering from any other mental health issues? Is he or she unable to function at work or in social situations? Is he or she using substances despite negative consequences?

If the answer is yes, then you should consider how you want to help your loved one. Is it time for a change? Are you scared for his or her safety? Are you trying to prevent your loved one from dying?

Consider How You’ll Handle the Intervention

Before you intervene, you should consider how you will handle it. You should also consider the emotional state of everyone involved. You should not intervene if you think you will lose your temper or if your loved one will potentially become violent. If you think the potential for that to happen is there, seek the help of a professional interventionist.

You should also consider how your loved one will react. A substance abuse disorder can make people very emotional. Your loved one may become angry, sad, or upset. This is normal, but it can also make it difficult to have an effective intervention.

Prepare for the Addiction Intervention

Before you have an intervention, it’s a good idea to consult an addiction professional or professional interventionist for education on how to do an intervention and planning. You should talk to the people you want to include in the intervention. Make sure they are on board and prepare to be firm but compassionate to your loved one. Everyone must be prepared and coordinated to handle the situation with self-control, even in the light of an unpleasant reaction. If they cannot keep their emotions in check, the intervention will be a failure.

You should also think about what motivates your loved one and what he or she might be interested in. For example, does your loved one have a dream job or hobby? If so, you can use it to your advantage.

Here are some things to consider before planning and staging an intervention:

  • Identify the addiction.
  • Identify the effects of the addiction on the addict and everyone else.
  • Identify the causes of the addiction.
  • Identify the risks of not treating the addiction disorder.
  • Know your role in the intervention.
  • Reach out to people who care about the addict to participate in the intervention.

How To Stage an Intervention for An Alcoholic?

Alcoholism is a terrible mental health disorder and, unfortunately, a common affliction. Staging an alcohol abuse intervention for an alcoholic will depend on the situation. Still, there are some general issues even a professional interventionist who often stage interventions for alcoholics run into.

First and foremost, alcohol is embedded into our culture and is not an illegal drug. Although it spares an alcoholic from the kind of consequences that drug users face (which can have negative long-term effects), it also makes it harder for many people to accept that they are alcoholics when alcohol abuse is so normalized culture.

Relatedly, the environment we live in is geared towards selling alcohol. It is often hard for an alcoholic to resist the temptation when it’s pushed onto them in our consumerist culture.

In light of these facts, it’s a good idea to do a little research and get guidance from intervention professionals on alcohol addiction. Doing so allows you to approach your friend or family member with statistics and information that shows them how damaging their drinking is and how it is not, in fact, normal.

Many alcoholics don’t know, for example, that drinking a six-pack a day is not normal or healthy behavior, or that going to the bar every weekend and getting 10-15 drinks is not something “everyone does.” Calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Mayo Clinic, and the National Council on Alcoholism can help you collect more information.

Alcoholics can get into their own universe and own individual reality and giving them accurate information about the problem can help.

How To Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction?

Drug abuse is a similar but distinct challenge to alcoholism. Both illegal substances like heroin and legal substances like alcohol can impact and destroy a person’s life. Still, our society’s treatment of them makes the necessary type of intervention approach different.

An addicted person with drug addiction participates in illegal behavior, but to them, through a combination of drug use and the social world they are inhabiting, it seems rational.

By the criminalization of the substance, people with substance abuse issues are more likely to be engaging in criminal or risky behaviors. The family drug intervention team will have to address those addictive behaviors, mental health issues, and the substance abuse itself during the actual intervention.

For criminalized substances, some families choose to threaten legal consequences, such as prison, to force the addicted person to seek help. The decision, especially considering the damage that the person is doing to themselves in others, is hard.

However, families should know the efficacy of these so-called “forced drug interventions” without cooperation from the loved one, and treatment options are extremely low, in the range of less than 1%.

Prison can have negative effects on someone’s safety, mental health disorders, and future employment prospects. As in alcoholism, it is important to get buy-in from the addicted person who targets a public health intervention to have the achieved effect.

Staging a Successful Family First Intervention

The best way to get your loved one to have an intervention is to have a face-to-face conversation with him or her. You should be honest and tell your loved one that you are worried about his or her substance abuse and want him or her to get help. It also helps to have other people with you when you are having this conversation.

Once you have had a conversation with your loved one, you should set up an actual intervention. You need to get together with the people you want to participate in the intervention team. It should include family members, close friends, and possibly an intervention specialist.

You should all come together and talk with your loved one about his or her substance abuse. It can be a good idea to have a social worker or someone who has had experience with substance abuse problems mediate, if possible. You should also have something important to your loved one like family photos or sports memorabilia that connects them to the best times of their life.

You should all talk together about how you are all concerned about your loved one’s substance abuse problems and that you all want him or her to take the first step toward recovery and get professional assistance.

The person must realize that the group is there to help them and not to embarrass them. The intervention team should not be judgmental and should be supportive. This is the lowest point in their life, and they should be treated with respect. The group should be honest about the problem and not sugarcoat anything. They should be supportive and not confrontational.

Getting Help

A formal intervention is not a chance to air grievances or criticize without offering solutions. It is the beginning of a treatment plan and an opportunity to get someone’s life back on track. They should be offered rehabilitation, information about treatment providers, and a support group.

After the intervention, the group must follow through. They need to make sure that the person is getting the help they need.

They should be there to support the person through the process. Many options can help, including:

– Personal therapy and counseling

– Support groups

– Medication-assisted treatment (depending on the substance)

If you don’t know where to go, talk to a medical professional at your local hospital, a professional intervention specialist, a social service agency, or a healthcare provider for the best options in your area.

It is important to follow through with the consequences of their actions. The person needs to know that they are being held accountable. They need to hold themselves accountable for their responsibilities and their loved ones. They need to be willing to change and to be open to change. The person needs to be willing to try to work on their problem and learn new coping skills.

It is also common for someone to relapse, often multiple times, on the road to recovery.

Addiction is a chronic condition, and no one is ever fully cured. But the important thing is if they are willing to try, keep offering support to the loved one so that they can better manage their affliction.

Conclusion – Find Help for Your Loved One

Doing alcohol and drug interventions is an extremely difficult endeavor, involving years of pent-up emotion and emotional wounds for an entire family, and sometimes, an entire community. But done the right way, an intervention can help a loved one struggling with the disease of addiction. You are not alone; help is available. We offer access to an array of addiction specialist teams and addiction treatment plans for people to start the recovery process and get on the path to wellness. Call us and find out what rehab treatment center options are available to you.


bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
"A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Mayo Clinic.
"Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Alcohol Rehab Guide.
"How to Stage an Intervention."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Addiction Center.
"Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Psychology Today.
"How to Stage an Intervention."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
"Getting the Right Help: How to Plan an Intervention."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Partnership to End Addiction.
"Holding an Intervention: How to Help a Loved One Seek Treatment."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet American Addiction Centers.
"Staging an Intervention: How to Help a Loved One with Addiction."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
"Alcohol Facts and Statistics: Understanding the Impact of Alcohol Use Disorder."
Retrieved on June 28, 2023

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