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How to Stage a Substance Abuse Intervention

Regardless of the type of addiction, it can be difficult to watch someone you love deal with its consequences. Unfortunately, addiction does not only affect the individual.

Navigation: What is an Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence?, How Do You Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction?, Form an Intervention Team, Create an Intervention Plan, Gather Information about Treatment Programs for Drug Abuse, Write Impact Statements, Set Boundaries and Consider the Consequences, Hold the Intervention Meeting, Follow Up, How to Locate a Treatment Program that Offers Intervention, How to Improve the Chances of a Successful Intervention, What to Do if Your Loved One Refuses Help, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


It is hard having a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Regardless of the type of addiction, it can be difficult to watch someone you love deal with its consequences. Unfortunately, addiction does not only affect the individual. It also affects the people around them.

Not everyone realizes this, however. Some people are in denial about their situation. They hide their condition out of shame, fear, or regret. Others simply do not recognize that they have a substance use disorder.

Oftentimes, you need a direct conversation with the addicted individual to urge them to get started on their road to recovery. You need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them just so they could see the truth and finally accept treatment.

Sometimes it’s not that simple. You may have to join forces with other people and stage a formal intervention to get the desired result. Many types of addiction may warrant an intervention, including alcoholism and drug dependence, prescription drug abuse, illicit drug abuse, compulsive eating, and compulsive gambling.

An intervention may be necessary to help the person realize the weight of their actions and how their condition is affecting other people. But what exactly is an intervention? More importantly, how do you stage a successful one? Let’s take a closer look.


What is an Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence?

An intervention is an event that is set up by friends and family members of a person who is dealing with an addiction. The goal of this important process is to help the person realize that they have a problem and that they need help. This carefully planned process eliminates spontaneity, which may complicate the situation.

A drug abuse intervention shows the addicted individual that they have the support of their loved ones. It should motivate the person to seek help through encouragement from their peers.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) promotes early intervention as a healthier alternative to detaining people with behavioral health problems.

Don’t believe what you see on television about how interventions are normally done. These are dramatized for public consumption. But a proper intervention follows certain steps that can guide everyone on this delicate process.

The intervention needs to be organized properly. Everyone involved should know when they are going to gather, where, and what they are going to say. This should help avoid passing blame, making accusations, and saying hurtful things that may discourage the person from seeking help.

Interventions must focus on the positive. The point of an intervention is not to blame the addicted person for causing harm to the family or their friends. It is supposed to point the addicted person in the right direction so that they know treatment is available and they have all the support they could need.

An intervention may be done by family members and friends, but it can also be done with the help of a professional interventionist, a doctor, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. During the intervention meeting, these people gather to convince the addicted individual to recognize their addiction and accept treatment. The intervention group will provide examples of destructive behaviors that impact the person’s loved ones.

An intervention should have clear steps, guidelines, and goals, so that the patient knows exactly what to do next. This is a structured opportunity to help the person make the right changes in their life before they spiral even further.


How Do You Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction?

An intervention for someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is an organized event that needs to follow certain steps in order to be effective. If you are not sure what to do, it’s generally a good idea to get help from an intervention professional, a social worker, or a doctor. Alternatively, you may consult an addiction professional like a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist to help you organize the intervention.

You may also involve friends and other family members in the process but you all need to be on the same page. Do not try to do all the work on your own.

Professionals can help you create an effective strategy for the intervention by considering various factors such as the patient’s condition and circumstances.

While not all interventions are done with the presence of a professional, having one is preferred. You may need help especially if the person has a co-occurring mental health disorder or a history of serious mental illness or violence. The same can be said for people who have displayed suicidal tendencies or have talked about self-harm recently.

Form an Intervention Team

Whether you decide to do the intervention with a licensed professional or opt to do it without one, you will have to form an intervention group. Also known as an intervention team, this is a group that will organize and personally participate in the intervention. The members of the intervention group will work together to present a united front.

This means they all have to agree on a date and location for the intervention meeting. They need to have a consistent message as well as a cohesive plan. This must all be organized without the person knowing about what’s going on. They cannot know about the intervention until the day of the meeting.

Intervention group members should consist of close family members, friends, and coworkers. This team generally consists of four to six people. They should all be important to the person. A professional interventionist may or may not be added to this group.

There are, however, some people that you do not want to include on the team as they may disrupt the intervention process. Do not include someone who is also dealing with their own substance abuse problems. Do not include people who are disliked by the person or may sabotage the intervention process. You can also leave out those who have an unmanaged mental health issue or co-occurring disorder.

Stick with people that the addicted individual loves, likes, or respects. And since the intervention team will follow a certain script, you should also leave out anyone who may say too much or not be able to stick with what they are supposed to say.

An intervention cannot be overly emotional. It needs to be more rational and focused on solutions rather than emotional responses.

Create an Intervention Plan

You cannot go into an intervention meeting without a plan. This situation is usually tense for everyone involved. It can cause anger, resentment, and a feeling of betrayal. To avoid overly emotional reactions and placing blame on one another, the intervention meeting must follow a specific plan.

Ideally, it should be moderated by a professional interventionist who can keep everything in order, giving everyone time to speak, and helping get the message of support across. Having professional support will help you organize a successful intervention.

Even if you don’t have a professional interventionist with you, you still need a plan. Everyone on the team should schedule a specific date, time, and location. It should be clear who is participating and who is not. The plan will also include an outline of the process, as well as what everyone will say.

The situation can stay under control if you follow this guide that you have set up.

Gather Information about Treatment Programs for Drug Abuse

An intervention isn’t just about confronting someone and telling them how their actions are affecting you. It’s about laying down a set of steps that the addicted individual can follow towards recovery. This means you need to have a plan of action ready for them.

Do your research on nearby addiction treatment centers and find out what type of programs they offer. Look for a treatment facility that specializes in your loved one’s condition. Once they agree to go to rehab, you can take the initiative to enroll them. You have to make treatment accessible to them so they don’t feel overwhelmed about having to do their own research and seek treatment themselves.

The intervention team should offer their help and support by encouraging the person to go to rehab or join a different treatment program that is appropriate for them. The group should support the person as they go through detox, rehab, and long-term recovery, so they know they are not going through this process alone. You should be willing to attend family therapy sessions with them or accompany them to support group meetings. Your emotional support will go a long way as they face this long and difficult battle for their sobriety.

Before the meeting, the intervention group should do their part and learn all about substance abuse, addiction, detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and the entire recovery process. It’s easier to explain to your loved one why they need addiction treatment if you understand the process yourself.

Write Impact Statements

The intervention group needs to prepare impact statements. These impact statements are personal statements that detail how the person’s addiction has harmed the person they love. Everyone should have something to say about their loved one’s struggles with addiction.

It is important to write these statements down and have everyone stick to the script during the intervention meeting. The goal is to simply let the person understand that their situation is also affecting the people around them. The statements should be honest but written out of love. Impact statements should not include personal attacks.

Carefully plan what each member of the group is going to say. The statements should describe specific incidents wherein the addiction caused problems, whether emotional, physical, or financial.

It should be established that the intervention is being done because you all believe the person is still capable of change. It must express care, love, and support.

Set Boundaries and Consider the Consequences

Not everyone will immediately agree to seek help even after an intervention, so you need to be prepared for this scenario as well. The intervention team members have to decide on consequences for when the person does not accept treatment. Each person in the group should decide what kind of action they will take if their loved one does not cooperate.

An example of a specific consequence would be to ask your loved one to move out if they do not agree to go to rehab.

You have to set boundaries for yourself, especially if the person refuses addiction treatment. Their relationships with their friends and family have to change or else their behavior will not change. Supporting your loved one means that you cannot enable their behavior. You have to end codependency, so you need to be clear with the consequences before you even begin the intervention meeting.

Hold the Intervention Meeting

With the preparations complete, you are ready to hold the intervention meeting on the scheduled date, time, and location. You may do a rehearsal before the scheduled date just so everyone is prepared to say what they are going to say. Make sure the event does not turn into a fight or a confrontation. The meeting should not take too much time.

On the day of the intervention, ask your loved one to go to the intervention site without telling them the reason. Once they are there, the intervention group can take turns expressing their feelings and concerns. A moderator can help guide everyone through the process, making sure that every member has enough time to speak.

The loved one is then presented with a treatment option and is asked to accept it on the spot. If the person refuses, their friends and family have to make it clear what kind of changes will happen if they do not accept treatment. Make sure you are ready to follow through on these consequences.

Follow Up

Once your loved one accepts treatment, you need to follow up and give them the support that they need. The addiction treatment process is long and challenging, and you have to do what you can to make it as easy for them as possible.

You want to help them avoid relapsing as much as possible, but keep in mind that relapse is not a sign of failure. It is a very common thing that happens to anyone in treatment. Just think of it as another obstacle in their journey to long-lasting sobriety.

Do your part in helping them change their everyday living patterns so they can avoid their triggers, temptations, and stressors. You can even offer to participate in counseling.

A poorly planned intervention can make the situation worse, so make sure you organize everything and prepare for all the steps mentioned above. Intervention is naturally confrontational, but it does not have to be aggressive. It only needs to be firm and compassionate.

Be ready for anything. TV shows usually depict successful interventions wherein the person willingly accepts help, so you need to manage your expectations accordingly. Even with a well-planned and executed intervention, not everyone is going to agree to go through addiction treatment. This is not your fault, so you should not put the blame on yourself or anyone in the intervention team. At the end of the day, addiction treatment only works if the addicted individual agrees to participate.

How to Locate a Treatment Program that Offers Intervention

Look for rehab treatment facilities near you and ask about their intervention specialists. If they do not have one, they may be able to give you a referral.

Addicted individuals usually need to go through an evaluation process to determine the extent of their substance abuse problem. This evaluation will also allow the healthcare provider to identify the right treatment options for that particular patient. Everyone is different, so the best addiction treatment approach is always to come up with a personalized treatment plan.

For mild to moderate cases, sometimes an intervention isn’t even necessary. More severe problems require an inpatient treatment approach wherein the patient enters a rehab facility and goes through a structured program. The intensive nature of inpatient treatment allows them to focus on getting better without the distractions of their usual environment.

Treatment centers may offer varying programs including medical detox, counseling, addiction education, vocational services, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc. There are also alternative therapies that complement the more traditional treatments such as art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, equine therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, etc.

How to Improve the Chances of a Successful Intervention

An addicted individual will have plenty of intense emotions. Being surprised with an intervention is not going to be pleasant for them. The fact that there is an intervention in the first place may lead to anger, conflict, and resentment. There is no guarantee that the intervention will be successful.

That said, there are certain steps you can take to improve your chances of convincing your loved one to seek the treatment they need.

First, an intervention is not something you do out of the blue. It’s not a spur of the moment thing. If you want your intervention to succeed, you have to carefully plan and organize it. This planning process is crucial. It may take several weeks to plan a successful intervention.

With that in mind, you have to fine-tune the intervention process so that it’s not overly complicated or elaborate. Doing this will just confuse everyone involved and make it difficult for them to follow. Rehearsing is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and know exactly what to do and say during the meeting proper.

Each member of the intervention group should do their research on the person’s condition as well as possible treatment options for them. By understanding what they are going through, you can make better decisions in terms of choosing an appropriate treatment plan for them.

When setting a schedule, choose a time and date when your loved one is least likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They need to have a clear head in order to make the decision to go to rehab.

Appoint one member of the group as the liaison. This can be the intervention professional. Either way, everyone on the team should be able to communicate with just one person who is in charge of keeping everyone on the right track before, during, and after the intervention.

Communication is the key here. Make sure everyone has the same amount of information about their loved one’s condition. Share updates as you gather information so you can all present a united front during the meeting.

Your loved one will most likely have objections during the intervention. You should anticipate these objections and prepare calm responses for each of them. They may give you different reasons to avoid treatment and responsibility for their actions. You have to be rational when responding to them.

If they are concerned about child care, you can arrange for this to be taken care of so they don’t have to worry about their children while receiving treatment. You can also offer support in other ways to give them all the motivation they need to just go for treatment.

Rehearse your intervention and try to get everybody to stay on track. Do not let anyone veer from the plan or get confrontational or angry with the person. An intervention is not a forum for hostile attacks. Name-calling and accusations are to be avoided.

Finally, you have to ask your loved one for an immediate decision, making clear that there will be consequences should they refuse treatment. Even if they ask for a few days to think of an answer, you need to ask them for a response on the spot. Otherwise, they will just continue to deny the problem or even go into hiding.

Once they agree to the plan, prepare them for immediate addiction treatment.

What to Do if Your Loved One Refuses Help

You have to set everyone’s expectations because not all interventions are successful, no matter how well organized, planned, and executed it is. It is up to the addicted person to decide that they need help, and they need to accept treatment on their own. You can’t force someone into rehab because it won’t work anyway. They need to open themselves up to the possibility of change and actually accept the help they need. Their participation is crucial to the success of treatment.

What you can do is set up boundaries, stop enabling them, and actually follow through on the consequences you set during the intervention. While you are capable of supporting them, they also need to help themselves. You do not have control over their behavior and you cannot blame yourself for it.

Emotionally prepare yourself for an unsuccessful intervention, but stay hopeful for positive outcomes. Alcohol and drug problems are overwhelming for anyone. Just know that help is available for those who are willing to receive it. Look for a rehab center near you today and find out more about your intervention options.

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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