Conducting an Intervention – for the Alcoholic or Addict

Some good news: recovery treatment has advanced and it’s no longer true that someone has to hit “rock bottom” to get help. A structured intervention might possibly be the solution that will start a lifetime of sobriety. An intervention helps a person see the link between their alcohol or drug use and the problems in their life.  In other words, it gets the person out of denial. The goal is for the addict (or alcoholic) to see that they need help. An intervention is not just a brief conversation.  This is a serious, well-thought-out talk with a lot of preparation. You are going to confront the person — and show concern over their drug or alcohol use.  It should be supportive — free of anger or blame.

If absolute necessary, interventions can be a one-on-one conversation, but it’s going to be more powerful, if all the people

TV - alcohol
Intervention911 offers many types of intervention services.

involved in the illness, are there.

You didn’t Cause the addiction.
You can’t Control the addiction.
You can’t Cure the addiction.
“You can’t stop drinking or using for another person.”

There are five consistent myths about an intervention, according to the Association of Intervention Specialist

Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to.
Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.

Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. Addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.
The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.

You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help.
Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful.

Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again.
Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause.

I’m overwhelmed – where do I start?

Do your research. First, you should get some background information about the disease. This will help you to understand what is going on with your loved one. You may even want to talk to a therapist or attend a support group to gain a better understanding of substance abuse.

Drug Alcohol Intervention
Here is how to conduct a brief intervention.

Get people involved. Most commonly it is a group of 6-8. Children may be included if appropriate. Get out some paper and make a list of key family members, friends, co-workers and employers to take part in the planning and intervention.

Strategize. Discuss barriers and difficulties that have been a problem in the past. Each person should write a letter to the person and read it during the intervention. This should focus on your love, care, and respect for the individual, as well as your concern and desire to help.

Practice. The group members should rehearse reading their letters to one another and edit them to remove anger, judgment, and blame. They should also decide the order in which the letters will be read, putting more sensitive readers in between stronger ones. There should be some bottom lines and “ultimatums”.

Intervention Day

Have each member speak. Following the rehearsed format for the meeting, everyone should go around and read his or her prepared statement. If a professional interventionist is involved, he or she can act as the leader of the meeting and call on people to speak. Give each family member or friend the chance to say how the person’s actions have personally affected their lives, and how much they love the person and want things to get better.

State Consequences. The impact of an intervention is its ability to create and present the “crisis” in the addicted person’s life to a point where the person chooses treatment. If the person chooses not to go to treatment, then there are usually some significant consequences that go into effect.

Enforce Consequences. It might be painful, but the most loving thing — is to follow your plan. The very best thing you can do is cut off funding, break up with the person, or do whatever you personally know will create a significant life change that may help the person take a new path.
◦ If another crisis happens later, take advantage of it. For example, if the person ends up in jail or in the hospital, use that experience to show the person that he or she really does need treatment. Having a second intervention may be helpful.
◦ Remember, you are helping him or her to heal. Sometimes, we need to endure the pain of a loved one in order to provide the person with the help needed to get well.

Warning. Be very careful of the mental state of the person you are performing an intervention on. An intervention should only be performed on someone with a normal state of mind, for both the target individual’s safety, and the safety of the people performing the intervention. Click here if you want immediate confidential guidance.

More Information Than you Need to Know

There are several different intervention approaches

The first one I found is called CRAFT. It was defined on an HBO page that is dedicated to addition. Who knew?

“The CRAFT goals are to teach you how to encourage your substance user to reduce use and enter treatment. The other goal is to help you enhance your own quality of life. This non-confrontational approach teaches you how to figure out the best times and strategies to make small but powerful changes. And it will show you how to do so in a fashion that reduces relationship conflict.”

The second method is the Johnson Method

“The Johnson Model of Intervention is a confrontational approach to drug and alcohol intervention that was introduced in the 1960s. Named after Vernon Johnson, often considered the father of intervention, it is based on his belief that denial is so pervasive in addicted individuals that they are only able to see the reality of their situation when presented with the crises it has caused in their life. An interventionist leads the family and close friends in this planned confrontation, which is unknown to the addicted individual beforehand.”

The third is the Family Systems Therapy

“Family systems therapy draws on systems thinking to view the family as an emotional unit. When applied to families, systems thinking—evaluating the parts of a system in relation to the whole—suggests that an individual’s behavior is informed by and inseparable from the functioning of his or her family of origin.”

There are more:

ARISE Intervention Model
Confrontational Intervention Model
Love First Intervention Approach
Tough Love Intervention Approach
Our 800RecoveryHub site offers free and confidential help

8 thoughts on “Conducting an Intervention – for the Alcoholic or Addict

    1. Good point. If the person finds out about the intervention, it’s common for them to flee. In that case, you should still stick to the ultimatums you have decided on. My family practiced tough love on me and I am so grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent question. Recovery rates are going to vary depending on the addiction and depending on the individual. According to the folks at the National Institute on Drug Abuse “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives. The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely, with symptom recurrence rates similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses.”


  1. This is extremely well-written and informative. Particularly important, in my opinion, is the removal of blame. Speaking as an alcoholic in the early stages of recovery I think your debunking common myths or preconceptions surrounding addiction very important to highlight. There’s still a lot of secrecy, shame and self blame surrounding addiction – sometimes just hearing someone say “this isn’t your fault, but you can change it” might be all thats needed. Take the anger and resentment out of the equation but set out clear consequences and then support that person in their recovery whole-heartedly; unfortunately it’s just not as simple as no longer drinking or using and thats important to remember in supporting someone you love to become sober.
    I enjoyed reading this.


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