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How Does Intervention Work

There is still a stigma surrounding addiction and rehab. This prevents people from seeking the help that they need because they are afraid of what other people will think, how society will see them, and what consequences they may face.

Navigation: What is an Intervention?, When is an Intervention for Drug Addiction Necessary?, What Are the Steps Involved in a Drug Addiction Intervention?, Forming the Intervention Team, Planning the Intervention, Deciding on Consequences, Holding the Intervention Meeting, Offer a Solution for their Substance Abuse, Work with a Professional Interventionist for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Increasing the Chances of a Successful Drug Abuse Intervention, What to Do if Your Loved One Refuses Help for their Drug or Alcohol Addiction, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


It’s not easy having a loved one who is struggling with any type of addiction. It can be difficult to support them, especially if you don’t really know what to do. But the first step in the long journey towards sobriety is helping them recognize that they need help.

Not everyone will quickly accept treatment. There is still a stigma surrounding addiction and rehab. This prevents people from seeking the help that they need because they are afraid of what other people will think, how society will see them, and what consequences they may face.

Other addicted individuals simply do not recognize that they have a problem. In any case, a direct conversation with your loved one may get them started on the road to recovery. In the event that they refuse to acknowledge the problem, there is still one thing left to do: set up an intervention.

When a heart to heart talk doesn’t work, you need a more focused approach. A formal intervention may be necessary for people struggling with alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, or illicit drug addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines drug addiction intervention as a planned process to confront an individual struggling with substance abuse or addiction and encourage them to seek professional help and treatment. The primary goal of a drug addiction intervention is to motivate the person to acknowledge their substance use problem and to initiate the necessary steps to enter a treatment program.

This is a great way to get a family member to recognize their drug and alcohol addiction, especially if they are in denial about their situation or unwilling to seek treatment.

Here we will take an in depth look at drug addiction intervention and how it works.


What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a planned process that may involve family members and close friends of an addicted individual, usually in consultation with a doctor, a drug counselor, an addiction expert, a healthcare professional, or an intervention specialist.

During this meeting, the people involved gather to confront their addicted loved one about how their addiction has affected them. They will then present a treatment option that they have researched beforehand, and the person will be asked to accept it on the spot.

The intervention team will provide examples of how the person’s addiction has led to destructive behaviors that have impacted their friends and family members. A proper intervention process offers a prearranged treatment plan complete with clear steps, guidelines, rules, and goals.


When is an Intervention for Drug Addiction Necessary?

An intervention for drug addiction is necessary when an individual’s drug use has reached a point where it is negatively impacting their health, relationships, work or school performance, and overall well-being.

An intervention is a formal and structured approach that will encourage them to seek help and treatment. The first sign that you need to conduct an intervention is severe addiction. When the person’s drug use has escalated to a severe or chronic level, and they are unable to control their drug use despite negative consequences, they may need outside help.

Keep an eye on their physical and mental health, as those may deteriorate over time due to drug use. An intervention may be necessary to prevent further harm. When the person has tried unsuccessfully to quit on their own multiple times, a well-planned intervention may be beneficial in providing the support they need to enter treatment.

Unfortunately, addiction not only affects the individual but also the people around them. So if their drug use is damaging their relationships, their career, and their social life, that is another indicator that an intervention may be needed. Their drug use may strain their relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues.

Sometimes when a person is addicted, they don’t even realize that they are hurting the ones around them. This is why an intervention may be able to help them see the real impact of substance abuse. If the person is isolating themselves from loved ones and denying that they have a problem, an intervention can break through the denial and help them recognize the need for help.

When a person becomes addicted to a certain drug, they tend to prioritize it over everything else. This is why they tend to neglect their responsibilities in favor of the substance. Their work and school performance may decline. They may also have financial and legal problems as they try to obtain their drug of choice.

Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of drugs, such as driving under the influence or sharing needles, puts the individual and others in danger, may warrant an intervention.

What Are the Steps Involved in a Drug Addiction Intervention?

Now that we know what a drug intervention is and when it is necessary, let’s talk about the specific steps involved in the entire process.

While an intervention for drug addiction may involve confronting a person over their substance abuse, it should still be done in a caring and supportive manner. The goal is to encourage them to seek help and enter addiction treatment.

Before you can arrange a successful intervention, you need to educate yourself first. You and everyone involved need to learn about addiction, its various physical, mental, and social effects, the stigma surrounding it, and the available treatment options. This will help you approach the intervention with compassion and understanding.

Many people still don’t recognize that addiction is a chronic and relapsing medical condition that requires proper treatment. This contributes to the stigma that addicted people are just weak-willed or morally bankrupt. In most cases, even if a person wants to get better, the changes within their brain caused by substance use prevents them from doing so.

There are also several risk factors that make a person susceptible to substance abuse in the first place such as genetics and their environment.

Once you learn more about addiction, its effects, and the various treatment options, you can begin with the intervention planning.

Forming the Intervention Team

An intervention is a carefully planned process and it’s not advisable to do it alone. You need to form a support team by assembling a group of concerned individuals who have a positive and influential relationship with the person experiencing addiction. This team could include family members, friends, coworkers, and even a professional interventionist, if needed.

These team members will decide on a set date and location where they can all personally participate in the intervention. Choosing the right people for the job is essential to the intervention’s success. So who should be on the intervention team?

The team should consist of four to six people who all play an important role in the addicted individual’s life. These should be people he loves, likes, or respects. You may include close relatives, their best friend, their partner, a mentor, etc. Having nonfamily members can help keep the discussion from getting overly emotional, which can distract from the facts that have to be presented.

At the same time, there are people you should not include in the intervention team. Do not include anyone the person dislikes or has the potential to sabotage the intervention. Do not include anyone who may not be able to stick with the rehearsed speech or anyone who may not be able to limit what they say during the meeting. Also avoid adding anyone with an untreated substance abuse problem or an unmanaged mental health issue.

Having an intervention specialist can help you form this team by identifying appropriate members.

Planning the Intervention

For an intervention to have a decent chance of succeeding, it needs to be well-planned and well-coordinated. First, you want to gather information about the person’s condition and the extent of their problem. Members of the intervention team can exchange information after doing their own research.

The team must learn about the person’s condition as well as the possible treatment options for them. They can then initiate arrangements in order to enroll the person in an appropriate treatment program. Avoid treatment centers that promise quick fixes. Addiction treatment is a long process that requires the patient’s participation and commitment to sobriety.

Intervention specialists can help make this decision by guiding you towards the ideal rehab facility or addiction treatment provider.

Choosing the right time and place for the intervention is important. Find a neutral and private location where the individual will feel comfortable and safe during the intervention. Avoid conducting the intervention when the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

With the date and time set, you can start rehearsing for the intervention meeting, Prepare what you want to say during the intervention.

Each member of the support team will have a pre-written script wherein they express their feelings and concerns, detailing how the addiction has impacted their lives. Discuss how the person’s behavior led to certain problems while still displaying empathy. The goal is not to blame the person but to let them know that you care about their wellbeing.

While writing these statements, make sure to use “I” statements to focus on your own emotional response to the problem. For example, you can say “I was upset and hurt…” instead of using “you” statements.

During the meeting, each member will take turns expressing what they feel, stating the facts without creating strong emotional responses. The intervention should not turn into an argument. Rehearse the intervention to ensure that the message is delivered effectively and with empathy.

Again, it is best to consult with an intervention specialist who can help organize the intervention. They can also act as a moderator during the meeting so that everything is executed correctly.

Deciding on Consequences

Part of the planning process is deciding on specific consequences that each member of the team will enforce if the person refuses treatment. During the intervention meeting, these consequences will be laid out so that it is clear that you all take this situation very seriously. For example, you may ask your loved one to move out if they decide to refuse rehab.

Let the addicted individual know that you will no longer enable their addictive behavior and that there will be consequences if they refuse help. These consequences should be specific and enforced consistently.

It may be difficult to draw boundaries, but it is ultimately important for your loved one’s recovery. Enabling them will only make the problem worse.

Consequences help create a clear link between actions and outcomes. When individuals struggling with drug addiction experience negative consequences due to their substance use, it can serve as a powerful motivator for them to change their behavior. This can be particularly true when the consequences directly impact their daily life, relationships, or employment.

Consequences also provide a real-life learning experience. When individuals face the consequences of their drug use, they may gain a better understanding of the negative impact it has on their health, relationships, and well-being. This firsthand experience can be more influential than simply being told about the potential dangers of drug abuse.

Accountability is very important when it comes to addiction recovery. When someone is addicted to drugs, their judgment may be impaired, and they may not fully recognize the extent of the harm they cause to themselves and others. Consequences reinforce the idea that they are responsible for their choices and actions.

When a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they usually experience a cycle of drug use, guilt, and more drug use. However, adding consequences into the mix can help disrupt this cycle. It will make them think twice about relapsing or continuing their substance abuse.

Use consequences to set clear boundaries for what is acceptable behavior and what is not. For loved ones or healthcare providers intervening in someone’s addiction, establishing and enforcing these boundaries can help protect both the individual struggling with addiction and those around them.

Finally, you need to keep in mind that consequences should still be implemented with care and compassion. They should be proportionate and aimed at encouraging positive change rather than shaming or punishing individuals struggling with addiction. A supportive and understanding approach, combined with appropriate consequences, may effectively promote lasting recovery.

Holding the Intervention Meeting

Without revealing the reason, invite your loved one to the intervention site. Once they are there, they may feel betrayed, resentful, or angry, which is why interventions tend to be highly charged situations. An intervention specialist can moderate the meeting and make sure everyone gets enough time to speak.

During the intervention, approach the individual with love, concern, and empathy. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory, and express how their addiction has affected you personally.

Avoid judgment and blame. The goal of the intervention is to encourage the person to seek help, not to place blame or shame them. Approach the situation with understanding, compassion, and empathy.

After members of the group have expressed their concerns and feelings, the addicted loved one is presented with a treatment option that they have to accept on the spot. If the person refuses, you need to detail the consequences and be ready to follow through with it. It might be necessary to enforce these consequences and continue to encourage them to seek treatment at a later time.

The individual may respond in various ways, such as denial, anger, or acceptance. Be prepared for any reaction, and remain supportive and calm throughout the process. If the person agrees to go to rehab, assist them during treatment and offer ongoing support throughout their recovery.

Professional guidance from an addiction specialist or interventionist can be highly beneficial during this process.

Offer a Solution for their Substance Abuse

During the intervention meeting, you and the team will present a treatment option that has already been selected based on research and the guidance of your intervention specialist. You need to prepare this and make the arrangements beforehand so all your loved one has to do is accept treatment.

Research rehab centers, therapists, support groups, or any other resources that could help the person with their addiction recovery.

Keep in mind that each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and what works for one individual may not be suitable for another. Here are some common treatment options to present during a drug addiction intervention:

Inpatient Rehabilitation: Inpatient rehab programs provide 24/7 care in a residential setting. This type of treatment is suitable for people with severe addictions or those who need a structured and supportive environment to overcome drug dependence.

Outpatient Rehabilitation: Outpatient programs allow patients to attend therapy sessions and treatment while living at home. This option is more flexible and can be suitable for those with less severe addictions or responsibilities that prevent them from attending an inpatient facility.

Detoxification Programs: Medical detox programs offer a safe and supervised environment for patients to withdraw from drugs and manage withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is often the first step in the treatment process.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a common and effective form of therapy that helps addicted individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug addiction.

Individual Counseling: One-on-one counseling sessions with a trained addiction counselor or therapist can be highly beneficial in addressing personal issues and building coping skills.

Group Therapy: Group therapy provides a supportive environment where recovering individuals can share their experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement from peers facing similar challenges.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT combines behavioral therapy with prescribed medications to help patients manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. This approach is commonly used for opioid and alcohol addictions.

12-Step Programs: 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a structured and supportive community to help patients maintain sobriety.

Holistic Therapies: Complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and mindfulness practices can aid in relaxation and stress reduction, promoting well-being during recovery.

Family Therapy: Involving family members in the treatment process can help repair relationships, address underlying family dynamics, and create a supportive home environment for the recovering individual. If they attend family therapy sessions, they can repair broken bonds and develop stronger connections.

Remember that successful treatment often involves a combination of these options and may require customization based on the individual’s specific needs and preferences. Encourage the person struggling with addiction to seek professional help from addiction specialists and counselors to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Work with a Professional Interventionist for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Working with a professional interventionist, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or any addiction professional can be highly beneficial. They can help organize and moderate an effective intervention. They will take into account your loved one’s condition and circumstances before suggesting effective intervention strategies.

While it is possible to conduct an intervention without professional help, having an expert to guide you may be preferable. The intervention can even be done at the professional’s office. This is especially important if the person has a history of serious mental illness, violence, or suicidal behavior. If the person’s condition is severe or if they are taking several addictive substances, then professional help may be needed.

Professional interventionists are trained and experienced in dealing with addiction and related behaviors. They understand the complexities of addiction, the emotions involved, and how to communicate effectively with the person struggling with addiction.

Interventionists help plan and organize the intervention to ensure that it is as effective as possible. They can guide the participants on what to say, what not to say, and how to approach the individual in a way that maximizes the chances of a positive outcome.

A professional interventionist brings an objective perspective to the process, helping to keep the focus on the individual’s well-being and the primary goal of getting them the help they need. During the intervention, they can keep everyone of track and prevent the meeting from escalating into a fight.

They can act as a mediator between the person with addiction and their loved ones. They can facilitate communication and create a safe space for everyone involved to express their concerns and feelings constructively.

A professional interventionist can even offer support and guidance both during and after the intervention. They can help the family navigate the process of getting their loved one into treatment and provide resources for ongoing support.

Studies have shown that interventions facilitated by professionals have a higher success rate in convincing individuals to seek treatment compared to those conducted without professional guidance. If you want to maximize the chances of a positive outcome, look for a professional interventionist.

Increasing the Chances of a Successful Drug Abuse Intervention

The intervention may involve intense emotions like anger, betrayal, and resentment. It may cause conflict once the person realizes that an intervention was arranged for them. They may feel hurt or embarrassed by this, so it is important to keep the process under control.

If you don’t want your intervention to fail, you have to make sure you plan it carefully. It cannot be done on a spur of the moment. Planning alone may take several weeks.

Everyone must agree on the time and date. This is incredibly important as each member of the intervention team must be in attendance. Do not include anyone who may not be able to follow through or participate to the degree that is needed.

When choosing a time and date, you also have to make sure it’s when a loved one is least likely to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They need to have a clear mind during the intervention.

You have to avoid confrontation and make sure the intervention is done out of love, respect, and concern rather than anger. Do not use the intervention as an excuse to attack them. Avoid name-calling or accusatory statements.

It’s also a good idea to anticipate your loved one’s objections so you can prepare calm and rational responses for each of them. They need to accept treatment on the spot. Do not let them “think it over”. Doing so will only let them keep ignoring the problem. They need to make an immediate decision. You have to stay on track and not let emotions sway you from the facts.

Once they accept, be prepared to support them through the long and tedious addiction recovery process. You need a lot of patience as people often relapse—this is a normal part of recovery. Do not let it discourage you. Instead, help keep them on the right track as they fight their substance abuse and addiction.

What to Do if Your Loved One Refuses Help for their Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Before the intervention, you need to remind yourself that not all interventions are successful. In some cases, people refuse the treatment plan no matter how well-planned the intervention was. They may get angry and insist that they don’t need help even when it’s not the case.

The only thing to do is enforce the consequences and remain hopeful for a positive change. You need to show that you are serious in your concern and that you will no longer tolerate their behavior. Enabling them will only keep them addicted, which will only hurt everyone in the long run. So as hard as it may be, you have to enforce those consequences. Everyone on the intervention team have to do the same.

Take care of yourself and try to stay healthy. Having an addicted loved one can be emotionally draining, and it’s very easy to blame yourself even if you have tried everything in your power to help them. Remind yourself that you don’t have control over their alcohol and drug problems. However, you do have control over yourself. You have the power to remove yourself and any children from a destructive situation.

Break the cycle of addiction today. Look for a professional interventionist near you today to learn more about the intervention process.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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