What’s An Intervention?

In this piece you will learn What’s an intervention, how to stage an intervention, as well as the fundamental steps of what make one successful. Individuals suffering from addiction often have trouble coming to terms with the reality of their affliction. Many do not accept that they are affected by a mental disease and fail to conduct the proper research for staging an intervention. Even more, refuse to acknowledge the severity of the problems that their dependence on substances creates. If you or a loved one are displaying signs of addiction, you may wonder, What’s an intervention? Will it help resolve this addiction?  An intervention is a tried and true method for friends and families of addicts to encourage a loved one to seek treatment.


Intervention Definition: The act of interfering with the outcome or course especially of a condition or process (as to prevent harm or improve functioning).


In the world of recovery, an intervention is a carefully planned process by which friends and family of an addict may confront that person about their addiction. It involves meeting at a pre-arranged date and time and most often is done without letting the addict know until the moment it begins. Friends and family are then encouraged to express their feelings and concerns towards the afflicted person’s condition in a positive and structured manner. The most successful forms of intervention usually involve a large amount of forethought and careful planning towards structure, what people plan to say, and the next steps following the intervention.


Staging an Intervention

  • Who do you think should be there?
  • Where do you think it should be done?


A family member or friend is often the first person to propose an intervention. Anytime an individual displays signs of addiction, it is worth considering whether or not to propose an intervention. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, as many as 6 in 10 individuals may be suffering from a combination of substance abuse and mental illness. Known as dual diagnoses, many individuals are unaware or unwilling to accept that they may be self-medicating to treat a diagnosed condition.


A five part chart describing What's An Intervention


Identify the problem

If you suspect a loved one may be self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and is harming themselves, don’t hesitate. If it is an option, research what’s an intervention, then discuss the possibility of an intervention with friends and family close to the addict. Signs that someone may need an intervention include:


1. They have an unusually high tolerance

This could be anything from drinking a lot more alcohol than others to increase their prescription medication dosage. If you suspect a person of uncontrolled addiction, they are likely in the midst of developing an increasing tolerance.


2. They display deceptive behavior on a regular basis

Addicts are often subconsciously ashamed of their reliance on self-medication. They will try to hide the physical evidence of their addiction, from empty bottles of alcohol to medication receipts, to hidden paraphernalia and so on. It can also involve disguising their true feelings about their addiction, and adopt an attitude that suggests they are strongly in control, when in fact they may not be.


3. They are often under the influence while at work, or in social settings

Eventually, if an addict’s disease progresses far enough, they will begin to self-medicate on a more regular basis to cope with the stress of reality. This can bleed over into the workplace and into social settings where the addict does not feel capable of handling without being intoxicated.


4. They have unexplained or directly correlated financial troubles

Addicts may be suffering from mild to extreme financial distress caused by the funding of their addiction. If an addict is wealthy, it is more difficult to ascertain, but eventually, the cost of substance abuse catches up with everyone.


Consult with individuals close to the addict and form a planning group. If possible, seek assistance from addiction professionals. It is helpful to discuss the extent of the addict’s problem with those closest to them, as this helps you come to a consensus as to whether the addict is in need of an intervention or not. Members involved should be those closest to the addict, and those who truly want to see the person get better. It’s also important to include people from the addicts expanded the social circle, so that the person can recognize are far the problem extends.

Next, figure out the best time and location for the intervention to take place. It’s important that the intervention takes place in an environment where the addict will feel comfortable. Do not choose a location where the person will feel put on public display. The best venues to hold an intervention are places where it is convenient for all participants, comfortable for the addict, and that have privacy. Examples include a private home, a counselor’s office, conference room, or church.

From there, discuss the order that participants would like to speak in. It may be helpful to start with persons that have the most special relationship to the addict. However, the addict may already be used to hearing from those closest. One study from the academic journal of Substance Use and Misuse found that 56% of people who had addictions were confronted by their spouses about the issue, and 60% were confronted by family members. It could be effective for the addict to hear from members outside of their immediate family.


How to plan a successful intervention:

“Successful interventions allow friends and family members of an addict to voice their concerns in a safe, structured and controlled environment.”



Finding an intervention specialist is the first step in staging an intervention for your loved one. Ask medical provider’s for a recommendation and perform online searches on your own. Ask about training, success rates and experience and costs involved.



There will likely be people close to the addict who wants to help convince him or her to go into rehab. This includes: Friends, siblings, parents, life-long friends, spouses and life-long friends. A dedicated and resourceful professional will help you develop a plan about “what’s an intervention, what are we going to say, who’s saying it and when it should be said”.



You wouldn’t climb a mountain without the right gear to keep you safe. Similarly, you shouldn’t confront an addicted loved one without the proper tools. Tools that keep the conversation progressing in meaningful and impactful ways. Don’t enter an intervention without knowing what made your loved one to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. When you do this, you’re climbing an uphill battle without out any support to guide you in the right direction. An intervention will help you and your group understand addiction as a disease, because you can truly empathize and better understand your loved one. By rehearsing the words you intend to say, you will feel more confident and better equipped to reach your loved one. You can articulately express a powerful and persuasive plea for him or her to get help.



This space should be familiar, comfortable and free from distractions. Ideally, interventions should take place at a time when your loved one is sober because the chance for a moment of clarity into the seriousness of addiction is more likely to occur. There’s no guideline for the amount of time that an intervention should take. Some take thirty minutes and others several hours.



You probably think you know how your loved one will react when confronted about addiction, but it’s essential to prepare for anything on the day of the intervention. Sometimes addicts surprise loved ones and agree to go into treatment immediately. Other times, family members are met with hostility, resentment and adamant refusal to accept any form of therapy or support. Additionally, be prepared for a “middle of the road” acceptance in which your loved one acknowledges a problem exists but wants to bargain the type of resources or help that he needs or is willing to accept. Your enlisted interventionist will help you select individuals to attend the intervention and arrange the proper time and location.


Things to Keep in Mind:


Stay Supportive

Participants need to remember that this is ultimately coming from a place of love and concern. There will be an exchange of intense feelings and views that may have been kept suppressed. Reduce the chances of the addict walking our or getting involved in an altercation. Keep tempers under control.


Stick to the Structure

Stick to the agreed upon structure of the intervention. No participant should feel left out. By sticking to the planned out script, participants will also be able to cover the range of concerns they have. Possible topics could include:

  • Expressing love and concern for the addict’s well being
  • Tangible examples of destructive behavior the addict has displayed
  • Concrete examples of how the addict’s behavior has negatively affected those around them
  • Specific statements of how friends and family are willing to support the addict to recover
  • Outlining boundaries that friends and family are unwilling to cross to continue enabling
  • Information about treatment options available


Have an After-plan

One of the most important aspects of the intervention is the follow-up. Many recovering addicts can attest to, the most important part of recovery is changing patterns and avoiding destructive behaviors. It’s important to have a plan in place for the addict’s next steps. For example, this could be anything from planning to enter into a residential treatment center, detox, intensive outpatient program, or therapy. It’s important to hold a person accountable for an intervention and make sure they are not making false promises.


Prepare for Failure

Addiction is not a rational disease. Addicts warp their brain with prolonged chemical use. What others see is different from what the addict sees of their selves. They may not realize or want to comprehend the extent of their addiction.


Substance abuse intervention strategies

  • Rehearse beforehand
  • Stick to the specific order agreed upon
  • Be positive and forthcoming
  • Have a follow-up plan
  • Have a backup plan


What not to do with an intervention

  • Don’t harass the addict
  • Avoid confronting the addict if they under the influence
  • Do not carry out the intervention without proper planning


Intervention Help

If you’re seeking help organizing or understanding more about What’s an  intervention, don’t hesitate to seek out assistance. If you’re looking for certified interventionists, Landmark Recovery provides drug & and alcohol recovery centers that help addicts take the first steps towards achieving and maintaining sobriety. Our caring staff offers residential treatment, therapy, intensive outpatient, and detox treatment.


Get Help Today

If you have more questions about what’s an intervention, or want to talk to one of our dedicated admissions consultants, call 1 (888) 448-0302 today.