Staging an Intervention for an Addict
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Staging an Intervention for an Addict



According to a report from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 95 percent of those who are struggling with a substance abuse issue are unaware that it’s a problem. In many cases, a person needs to hear from a close friend, family member, or other loved one before they realize the seriousness of their addiction to drugs or alcohol.


An intervention can be a useful tool for opening one’s eyes to their addiction. It needs to be handled properly, though, to be effective.


Listed below are some of the most common questions people have about interventions for addiction, with answers.



What Is an Addictions Intervention?


An intervention is a carefully planned meeting that takes place between a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, their close family or friends, and a qualified doctor, drug counselor, or professional interventionist.


During an intervention, the loved ones of the addict come together to address that person’s addiction and its effects, from damaged physical and mental health to suffering relationships.


An intervention is not designed to berate or shame the person dealing with addiction. Instead, it’s meant to provide examples of that person’s destructive behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors, as well as a pre-planned treatment protocol that can help the addict regain control of their life.



How Does an Addictions Intervention Work?


For an addictions intervention to be effective, it’s important to follow some specific steps. It’s not enough to just drag an addict into a room and start telling them they need help.


Here are some steps that one ought to follow when planning to hold an intervention to address a loved one’s alcohol or drug addiction:


Decide to Do It

First, someone must decide that they want to hold an intervention. This decision can be harder than it seems. After all, many people don’t want to acknowledge how bad their loved one’s addiction has gotten.


If a person is showing signs of substance abuse disorder, they need an intervention sooner rather than later.


According to the American Psychiatric Association, these signs include impaired control, social issues at school or work, using substances in risky settings, changes in one’s tolerance level, and the development of withdrawal symptoms (sweating, shaking, nausea, mood swings, etc.).


Gather Your Intervention Team


Next, an intervention team should be made up of family members and close friends. Family and friends who have the person struggling with addiction’s best interests in mind will likely have an easier time getting through to them about the seriousness of their problem and encouraging them to seek help.


Choose a Professional Interventionist


It’s important to work with intervention specialists, such as a medical doctor, mental health therapist, or professional interventionist when holding an addiction intervention.



When a family member or friend takes the time to plan a professional intervention, the chances of the intervention being successful increase significantly.


Gather Information About the Addict


After creating your team, gather information about the addict before holding the meeting. This includes gathering evidence of the effects of their addiction.


Presenting detailed examples that illustrate the seriousness of their addiction can go a long way when it comes to getting through to the addict. Similarly, it’s a good idea to gather information on treatment programs or protocols, too.


Reviewing past information from chemical health assessments may also help.


Write an Impact Statement


An impact statement is a written letter that is read to the addict when they arrive for the intervention.


This statement includes specific examples of how the person’s addiction is affecting them, their family, and their other loved ones. It also encourages them to seek treatment and outlines the consequences they will face if they choose not to.


An impact statement needs to be heartfelt and written in a nonjudgmental tone. If the addict feels that they’re being attacked, they’ll be less inclined to stick around.


Decide What Happens if the Addict Won’t Get Help


Those planning the intervention need to get clear on the consequences the addict will face if they don’t get help.


If they choose not to attend any treatment centers or programs, will the addict be cut off financially? Will they be asked to move out?


Whatever consequences the family and friends choose, they need to be prepared to follow through.


Schedule and Hold the Intervention


Interventions should be scheduled. To be successful, this meeting needs to be well-planned. It can’t be thrown together at the last minute.


During the intervention, each attendee will take a turn speaking to the addict, expressing their concerns, and encouraging them to get help. The intervention specialist will guide the meeting and keep things moving.


Follow Up


If the addict agrees to get help for their substance abuse issues, it’s important to follow up with them and hold them accountable. This may include going to therapy with them, driving them to a treatment center, or helping them to change their living environment to get rid of triggers.


How to do a drug intervention


Who Should Not Be at the Intervention?


The only people in attendance at an intervention should be those who truly care about the addict’s health and well-being. If certain individuals attend, they may make the experience worse for everyone and could hold the person struggling with addiction back from seeking help.


The following are some examples of people who should not be present at the intervention:

  • People with a history of attacking the subject of the intervention
  • Those who are known for being overly critical
  • Folks who have a hard time staying calm or who are prone to interruptions

Basically, if the people planning the intervention suspect that someone’s presence will do more harm than good, it’s best to avoid inviting them.



Relationship issues are often counterproductive in an intervention.




How Can You Ensure the Intervention Goes Well?


Some people may be wary of staging an addictions intervention for a loved one. For those who are on the fence about whether or not an intervention will be effective, here are some steps they can take to increase the likelihood of it going well.


Schedule and Plan It


A formal intervention should be well-planned and scheduled in advance. It’s important to choose a date and time that works for everyone who wants to attend.


When planning the intervention, it’s best to avoid inviting too many people. Certainly, the addict’s close family and friends should be present, along with a qualified intervention specialist.  But, if there are too many people there, it could become overwhelming or feel too much like a gang-up.


Learn About Your Loved One’s Addiction


The more those attending the intervention know about the person’s addiction, the easier it will be to come from a place of empathy. Learning about the effects of addiction on a person’s brain, as well as their physical and mental health, can help family and friends to be compassionate and understanding. In addition, this prevents people from being  critical or judgmental.




It’s a good idea to practice one’s impact statement ahead of time. This is because the more people review the points they want to make, the easier it is for family and friends to be clear and concise. This also helps them to avoid letting their emotions take over.


Keep It Brief and Focused


Interventions should not drag on for hours and hours. Instead, they need to be as brief and focused as possible.


An addict (or anyone, for that matter) can only take so much when they’re being told how their behaviors and choices affect others. If an intervention is too long, it may be ineffective.


Anticipate Objections


Most addicts will not automatically agree when they’re told they have a problem and need to get help. Instead, they’ll likely object at first, claiming that they’re fine and have everything under control.  As such. family and friends need to anticipate these objections and have specific responses planned.


Avoid a Yelling Match


When parents, siblings, or friends see a loved one struggling with addiction and refusing to get help, it can be easy for their emotions to get the better of them. In some cases, this can result in a yelling match.


This is why it’s important to have an intervention specialist present. They can keep everyone calm and help to avoid escalations.


Set Realistic Expectations


Those planning the intervention should set realistic expectations.


There’s a chance the intervention won’t work the first time around. There’s also the possibility that the addict will agree to the terms and then backtrack later.


Hoping for the best but planning for the worst is a good intervention approach for a lot of people.


Be Clear


Finally, participants need to be clear about what they want from the addict. Do they want them to visit certain treatment facilities? Do they need to go to therapy or support groups a certain number of times per week?


Being clear about consequences is important, too. A lack of clarity leaves room for the addict to manipulate the situation and avoid giving up their drug of choice.



Do Addictions Interventions Work?


It is unclear if addictions interventions work. That is because success is hard to define, and most interventions are not tracked to see their effectiveness. However, interventions pose very little risk, and can be an effective last-ditch effort to create change.

The key to increasing the chances of an intervention working is proper planning and partnering with a professional. Thus, a haphazardly thrown together intervention will be unlikely to yield good results, and it could make the relationship between the addict and their family or friends even more strained.




What If My Loved One Does Not Participate?


There’s always a possibility that an addicted loved one will refuse to participate in the intervention.


This is their right, and if the subject of the intervention does not want to engage, they can’t (nor should they) be forced to do so. However, this is also where consequences come into play.


If a parent says their adult child can’t continue living with them if they don’t seek help for their addiction, they need to hold that boundary. Failure to do so only enables and hurts the addict.



Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Also, we publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Additionally, It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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