Stage an Intervention


It can be difficult to love someone who abuses substances like drugs, alcohol, or other behavioral addictions such as gambling, shopping, work, or sex; however, if they continue to deny it or relapse after a period of sobriety and refuse to admit it, an intervention might be an option to redirect the situation.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a process in which loved ones of the addicted person’s life come together to help their loved one realize there is a problem and persuade him or her to get treatment. Interventions can include family members, close friends, and sometimes a professional interventionist. They can meet one or more times to discuss issues, concerns, and potential outcomes of the intervention. The process concludes with a meeting involving all parties pleading with an alcoholic/addict to receive help.

An intervention should stress the importance of how the behaviors of the alcoholic/ addict have caused pain and what the family needs. Family members are presented with saspace to share their feelings and frustrations in a supportive environment. However, this is not the time to seek vengeance on the alcoholic/ addict by punishing or verbally beating them up. The purpose of the intervention is to show unity in concern and love for the alcoholic/ addict.

If the intervention is successful, the client will enter treatment and begin the process. However, if the intervention does not result in the alcoholic/ addict seeking treatment, this process can still be beneficial. Family members can leave knowing they collectively expressed their love and concern.  The ownness of the decision is on the alcoholic/ addict.

When the intervention is successful, the alcoholic/ addict and everyone around him or her benefits. It stresses the importance of everyone’s needs and whether or not the alcoholic/ addict agrees to treatment, everyone becomes aware of the changes they need to make in their own lives. This experience can be liberating as loved ones can share how the behavior of the alcoholic/ addict has led to suffering. In addition, this allows family and friends to take a stand to start healing themselves and begin to distance themselves from their part of the problem through silence or enabling.

When is an Intervention a Good Idea?

When all other attempts or suggestions to get help have been rejected, the alcoholic/ addict is engaging in denial or self-deception. This can be very clear when strong factors such as job loss, medical issues, relationship problems, and legal factors do not motivate the alcoholic/ addict to seek treatment on their own.

When is an Intervention Not a Good Idea?

An intervention may not be appropriate if the client has never or rarely approached the idea of treatment. An intervention usually takes place after a person has incurred a series of social, occupational, physical, and/or legal problems because of abusing alcohol/ drugs. It is important to have many examples of addictive and harmful behaviors.

How Do I Know if We Need Professional Help?

If the family bonds are fairly strong and the alcoholic/ addict does not have a history of violence or self-destructive behaviors, family and friends could handle an intervention alone, possibly with consultation from a professional. However, it can be more effective to hire a professional to set up the intervention. This is particularly important if you believe the alcoholic/ addict is likely to become violent, run away, or otherwise react badly.

Who Should Participate?

It is important to pick people who are closest to the addict and will have the most impact. These individuals can be family, friends, clergy, coworkers, medical providers, and others. Bringing in as many people as possible is important as it reinforces that the problem not only affects the family unit but affects all relationships. The group should be large enough to have an impact and demonstrate power in the message. On the other side, it should be small enough so that it is manageable, and everyone has an opportunity to speak to their loved one, and not overwhelm him or her. Typically, this is no more than eight people.

Does the Intervention Need to Be a Surprise?

Not necessarily. Unlike the popularized show Intervention, strategies for running an intervention have evolved and an invitational approach has proven to be successful amongst those who use a professional interventionist. In this particular approach, the loved one is told up front that people who care about him or her are planning an intervention. He or she is invited to take part in the entire process, which may include several meetings.

How to Stage an Intervention?

Typically, there are nine steps to an intervention:

  1. Decide if an intervention is appropriate
  2. Make a list of all potential participants.
  3. Contact a professional interventionist or a professional with experience of running an intervention.
  4. Arrange a preliminary planning and educational meeting.
    – This is important to receive information about how the intervention will work, alcohol with drug and alcohol information.
    – Everyone at the intervention will write about past events when they were hurt by the addict’s behavior. Each incident should be a firsthand experience and include the following:
    i.    When and where it took place
    ii.  What the behavior was (be specific)
    iii. How it related to alcohol or drug use
    iv. How it affects them (e.g. emotionally, endangering them, or financially damaging)
    v.  How it made the person recounting the story feel
    vi Avoid situations that are not common knowledge (e.g. an affair)
  5. Get the facts on treatment
    – Research different options (residential, outpatient, individual therapy)
  6. Hold a rehearsal
  7. Make final preparations (e.g. reserve space at the treatment center or schedule an outpatient appointment)
  8. Set up the intervention.
    – Choose an ideal spot, day and time that works for all parties.
    – The room should be chosen and arranges so the escape is not easy, and free from weapons.
  9. Do your lifesaving work.
    – Each person reads from prepared notes and talks about past events, potential consequences, and a plea to get help.
    – The interventionist will conclude the session with a final urge to help get the client professional help.

Possible Intervention Outcomes

When an intervention is well planned and executed, the alcoholic/ addict typically agrees to go to treatment. However, sometimes the response received is bargaining and pleading for another chance. How do you respond? Reminding the loved one about all the previous broken promises. If your loved one is adamant that he or she is not going to treatment, you can choose to agree and negotiate that he or she attends a 12-step support group like AA or NA and then go to treatment is he or she does return to using alcohol or drugs.

If your loved one runs from the room, flatly refuses to make any changes in his or her life, or refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem; the intervention has not failed. On the contrary, you have planted seeds and possibly helped the loved one move closer to choosing treatment when he or she is ready to seek help. Families can move on without the burden of believing they have not done everything they could despite their loved one continuing to engage in self-destructive behavior. The most difficult aspect that family members face is following through on consequences that were decided upon prior to the intervention, which can include no longer providing financial support or allowing their loved one to live in their home. These consequences can vary and strongly recommended to be discussed with a professional before reading to your loved one.

Related Posts