Preparation is a vital part of a successful drug or alcohol intervention. A professional interventionist can guide your family through the steps to help your loved one.

Article at a Glance:  

  • An intervention involves interceding in a person’s life to help change behaviors and outcomes.  
  • People come together to confront an addicted person during an intervention.  
  • There are intervention professionals who can help stage an effective intervention.  
  • It helps to establish boundaries and rehearse what you will say during an intervention.  
  • Some interventions work, while others do not.  

What Is An Intervention?

Intervention is a word frequently used by people, but they’re unsure of what it really is or what happens in an intervention. The following answers “what is an intervention,” and outlines what happens.

An intervention involves interceding in the life or behavior of a person, in the hopes of changing their behavior or the outcome of the situation at hand. Interventions often happen when an addict’s loved ones see their life spiraling out of control, want to do something to help them and want to end their own enabling behavior. In many cases, an intervention may also include an ultimatum presented to the addict. In some cases,  a professional interventionist will work with the group to prepare for and mediate the event.

What Happens During An Intervention?

In an intervention, a group of people come together and confront the person addicted to drugs or alcohol. They work to persuade them to make changes in their life. More specifically, they encourage the person to seek help from a professional or a rehab center to deal with their substance abuse. A group that does an intervention usually includes very close friends and family of the person with an addiction. It can even include colleagues in some cases.

Preparation is vital, so what happens in an intervention is usually decided upon before the addict is involved. The intervention group meets beforehand to discuss how the intervention will go and what will be said. Usually, interventions have a leader who is selected by the rest of the group.

The group initially meets to discuss what they know about the confronted person’s drug abuse. They will usually write down a list or letter (or maybe several letters) to be read, highlighting how the addiction affects each of them individually. The letters may show how addiction has affected the addict’s own life as well. These prepared statements end by letting the person know that it’s their wish that he or she go to treatment.

There are also consequences outlined as to what will happen if the person doesn’t go to treatment. The group should define the outcomes in clear terms if the person doesn’t agree to treatment.

In most cases, the group will try to find a reason to get the addict to a specific place at a certain time. The objective is usually to catch the addict off guard, to allow for more honesty and vulnerability from the addict. Once the addict arrives at the agreed-upon location, everyone is present in one room. The addict is asked to have a seat; everyone reads a letter or shares their thoughts, and provides clear boundaries they want to set.

Goal of an Intervention

The goal of an intervention is to motivate an addict toward treatment. Although an intervention may not affect how well the treatment itself will work, it is a valuable start. 

If an addict does agree to treatment, they need to go as quickly as possible after the intervention itself. If an addict doesn’t agree to treatment following an intervention, they must face the consequences outlined by their friends and family during the meeting.

How Do Interventions Work?

Interventions can work by showing an addict just how profoundly their substance abuse affects the people around them. It lets members of the group highlight specific, definitive ways the addiction affects them. A strong factor in how interventions work is that they create financial or social boundaries for the addict. 

Some general things to consider so your drug intervention works are the benefits of having a trained professional with you and the potential reactions of your loved one. Intervention groups are better equipped when someone with experience conducts the event. Professional counselors and interventionists are neutral third parties who can mitigate defensive reactions from all participants. What a lot of people don’t realize is how emotionally charged interventions can become because of the intricate personal relationships at play. A professional drug intervention specialist is detached from these personal relationships, which can be incredibly helpful. 

During an intervention, the addict will not only be defensive but may minimize their problematic behavior, guilt their loved ones or start to present themselves as a victim. Denial and victimhood are two of the primary obstacles to a successful intervention, and professional interventionists are specifically trained to address these areas.

Related Topic: Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Intervention

Who Needs a Drug Addiction Intervention?

Once people understand what a drug intervention is and the drug intervention definition, they may wonder who needs a drug intervention. A drug intervention is ideal for someone struggling with drug abuse but seems unaware or unable to see how their addiction is negatively affecting their lives and the lives of the people around them.

In many cases, a drug intervention takes place when someone denies that their drug use is causing problems. The addict may place blame on others rather than accepting the effects of their abuse.

Intervention Professionals

While some people may not use professional guidance to stage an intervention, finding professional drug intervention help can improve the likelihood that an addict will seek treatment following an intervention.

There are experienced professional interventionists who can train loved ones over the phone so they can guide the process, help them in person during preparations and be present at the actual intervention.

Even if you’re not going to have a professional interventionist present when the meeting takes place, it is almost always better to seek drug intervention help during the planning process. They can help you understand the best way to approach your specific situation and increase the chances the person will accept help.

Family Intervention Specialist

A family intervention is designed to help an addict’s caregivers and family members who have experienced severe stress and negative consequences because of the addiction. Several distinctions make family interventions different from traditional ones. 

The family intervention model is based on the concept of the entire family’s well-being, mental and physical. Unlike other classic models of intervention, the family intervention model does not surprise the addicted loved one. With the family drug intervention, the addict is kept in the loop with every detail of the actual intervention. In essence, they’re part of the family intervention team, and they are invited to all family drug intervention meetings.

Family interventions require the family intervention team to take part in meetings that span a few days, not hours. During a family drug intervention, the family intervention team begins to learn how to change old patterns of behavior, communicate with one another and implement lasting changes.

What’s also unique about the family drug intervention is that everyone is considered the patient. The family intervention specialist works with the entire family at once. This model is about group therapy without placing blame or writing letters.

While the objective of working with a family intervention specialist is ultimately to encourage the addict to seek treatment, family relationships can continue whether they do or do not seek treatment. Instead, it focuses on continuously working through issues as a family. 

Drug Intervention Specialist

A drug intervention specialist or addiction intervention specialist is someone who can work with an intervention team before, during and after an intervention. They help build an appropriate strategy and can improve the chances that the intervention will be successful.

An addiction intervention specialist usually has an educational background and license as a counselor or therapist. Some of the specific tasks taken on by a drug intervention specialist or alcohol intervention specialist may include: 

  • Helping loved ones with planning the intervention and what to expect
  • Explaining how to communicate that the addict needs to seek help 
  • Teaching the intervention team about addiction and related issues
  • Keeping the intervention on track and mediating
  • Identifying treatment options best suited to the confronted individual
  • Working with the family and loved ones to arrange treatment

When a group opts to work with a drug or alcohol intervention specialist, they usually do so in the early stages of planning. The sooner the group works with an addiction intervention specialist, the better prepared they are. The specialist can not only help during preparation, they’re also trained to be more persuasive to an addicted person. 

Finding an Intervention Specialist

When you’re searching for an interventionist, you will want to interview the candidates. You want to consider their professional credentials; most states have their own set of professional credentials for interventionists. They may also be a psychotherapist, a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or a certified chemical dependency counselor.

You’ll want to ask someone how many addiction intervention situations they have handled. Experience is important as you search for professional addiction intervention resources and services.

You may also consider the intervention model they use. Sometimes an interventionist will develop their own approach, or they may follow something specific such as the Johnson Intervention Model or Systemic Family Intervention, among others. You may want to speak with the professional about the steps they take before the intervention takes place.

As you get to know addiction intervention specialists, you may talk to them about what happens if the intervention does not go as planned. For example, how do they handle an emotionally-charged situation or when the addict doesn’t accept treatment? What happens if the addict doesn’t come to the intervention, or refuses to participate? It’s important to gauge how a specialist deals with difficult situations and obstacles during an addiction intervention.

You may also opt for addiction intervention services from someone who’s connected to a particular rehab facility. Some treatment centers have relationships with interventionists, and this may make the process of finding and setting up treatment easier for everyone involved.

The Cost of Addiction Intervention Services

Intervention, unlike many rehabs and treatment programs, isn’t covered by insurance, so expenses can vary significantly. When you decide how much you can spend on an addiction intervention, consider the costs of continuing the addiction, such as legal fees or lost wages, and compare it to the cost of addiction intervention resources and services. Intervention professionals can often work with families to help them receive the help they need at a reasonable cost. 

Drug Intervention Programs

It can be overwhelming when a family or group of loved ones decide to stage an intervention, and that’s when drug intervention programs can be helpful. There are drug intervention programs and drug intervention services that provide resources to help loved ones as they plan and stage an intervention.

There are a few things to know about interventions that can make it better to seek help from a drug intervention program or service.

There are risks that can come with an intervention that can be managed or mitigated with help from a drug intervention program. Drug intervention services can also help you understand and follow the outlined steps for staging an effective formal intervention.

There are specific interventionist certifications that professionals should have. One example is the Association of Interventionist Specialists (AIS), which has two certification levels, BRI I and BRI II. People in the second level are more experienced in the area of intervention. The AIS is one of the primary certification boards for interventionists. To become an AIS Board Certified Interventionist Specialist, professionals must show they have a great deal of experience in conjunction with an educational background.

When you decide you’re going to work with a professional drug intervention service provider, that person will help you plan the meeting to try to help the addict and facilitate all steps of the process. There will usually be at least one preliminary meeting between the people who will participate in the intervention and the professional. This is when the group will prepare their letters, outline their strategy and practice.

Different approaches may be used for drug interventions. Two of the most common are the Johnson Intervention and the ARISE Intervention. With the Johnson approach, the addict is confronted by a group of loved ones, and they’re presented with consequences if they don’t agree to treatment. This tends to be the most successful type of intervention.

The ARISE drug intervention program strives to be less confrontational, and it’s usually about compassion and healing for everyone in the group. It’s also more collaborative, in that the group and the addict work together in the recovery process.

How To Stage an Intervention

An intervention is something that’s meant to provide the motivation an addict needs to seek help for drug or alcohol abuse. In some cases, interventions are also staged as a way to overcome other addictive behaviors or eating disorders and encourage the individual to seek help.

Many times, before learning how to stage an intervention, families and loved ones of people with addiction problems will have conversations with the person unsuccessfully. It’s difficult for people with addiction problems to step outside of their own drug use and see how they’re affecting others. That’s why a focused, strategic intervention can be helpful. If you’ve tried talking to the addict about their use and behavior and it hasn’t helped, a group intervention is usually the next step.

The following steps detail how to do a drug intervention effectively.

Step 1: Contact a Professional

The first step in doing an intervention for a drug addict is to contact an intervention specialist who is qualified to help you understand what needs to be done and how to do it. Even if an intervention specialist isn’t present during the face-to-face meeting, they can equip you with the tools and resources you need to hold an intervention. An intervention specialist is trained and experienced in overcoming some of the obstacles loved ones face during an intervention, including facing addicts who continue to deny there’s a problem.

Without guidance from a professional, it can be tough to break through the stubbornness the addict may display.

Step 2: Gather Loved Ones

Once you have connected with a professional, the next step is to bring together the friends and family that will be participating. Some of the people that may be part of an intervention can include parents, spouses, siblings, colleagues and very close friends. In some cases, children of the addict may participate, but it generally isn’t recommended for younger children because it can be a difficult experience. 

Step 3: Make a Plan

You may not even realize just how emotional and even combative an intervention can be, which is why it’s so important to be prepared and work with a professional if possible. The team is finalized during the initial phases of planning. You want team members to be the closest people to the addict, and you want them to have communication with one another during the planning stages. 

Step 4: Gather Necessary Information

The next step to have a successful intervention is gathering the necessary information. The intervention group members can consult each other to share stories and determine all the known details about the addict and their drug or substance abuse. Then, the group considers the steps and arrangements that can be made for the addict if they agree to treatment.

Step 5: Establish Boundaries

One of the key components of staging a successful intervention is the setting of boundaries and consequences if the addict refuses help. These consequences need to be extremely specific and decided on in advance of the actual intervention. Each individual who’s part of the group has to decide on their own set of consequences.

All of the intervention team should write letters or take notes that they can use to ensure they make all of their relevant points during the meeting.

Step 6: Rehearse What You’re Going to Say

When someone is addicted to drugs, one of the most important things to realize is that the person may not see how they’re affecting others. They may be putting the drug so much above everyone and everything around them that they’re blinded to the effects, which is why personal stories and sharing during an intervention are so critical.

Once you’ve rehearsed what you’ll say, the next step is to choose the meeting time and location. You want the addict to feel like they’re going to a place that isn’t threatening, and it’s best to try to find a time when they’ll be sober. Regarding length, most interventions last around an hour, but that’s up to the people holding it.

Step 7: Follow Through

Finally, during the actual meeting, it’s important that every person shares their specific thoughts and consequences that they’re ready to follow through with if the person doesn’t go to treatment.

How to Write an Intervention Letter

A drug intervention letter or alcohol intervention letter is one of the most important components of a formal intervention, but how to write an intervention letter can be difficult to understand. First and foremost, you want the letter to reflect compassion and the sense of love and concern you feel for the addicted person. You want them to understand the seriousness of the situation, but without blaming and shaming them.

Writing a successful intervention letter depends on being able to communicate your love, concern and a strong desire for the addict to get better. You want it to highlight the severity of the addiction and show how the addict’s actions hurt the people around them.

You also want it to show your hope that they will participate in the treatment being offered during the formal intervention and that there will be clear, defined consequences if they don’t.

When you are exploring how to write your intervention letter, keep in mind that you must be willing and ready to carry out the consequences you list.

Do Interventions Work?

Are interventions effective? Can interventions work? There’s not a definitive answer. Ultimately, it depends on the individuals, including the addict and the group holding the intervention. Also, how success is defined may differ.

A family may not define the success of an intervention as immediately entering treatment. Instead, they may measure their success by how well they follow through with statements and boundaries voiced during and after the intervention.

Drug interventions tend to be more successful when a formula is followed, and when the group works with a professional. An intervention’s success is always dependent upon the actions and reactions of everyone involved, but following a plan and implementing steps can increase the chances of success.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.