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How To Stage An Intervention For An Alcoholic

An intervention can be the wake-up call your loved one needs to finally get sober. We know how difficult it is to watch your loved one ruin their life with drugs and alcohol. We also know that addiction brings upheaval to everyone it touches, and you’re struggling too. If you’re feeling helpless and hopeless after failed attempts to convince your loved one to get help, learning how to stage an intervention could be the next step.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is the act of one or more people coming together to convince a loved one to get help for harmful behavior. Some people respond to a simple conversation between a couple of their loved ones, others need more structured, intensive approaches.

An addiction intervention conversation usually includes:

  • The reasons why you’re concerned about your loved one’s drug and alcohol use.
  • How their drug and alcohol use has affected you.
  • Reinforcement of your support for them but not their addiction.
  • Strong encouragement to enter addiction treatment.
  • Reiteration of boundaries and stipulations if they don’t get treatment.

Some people conduct drug and alcohol interventions on their own. Others enlist the help of a trained interventionist to guide the conversation and make sure communication is productive. The intervention process is as much for you as it is for your loved one. Communicating the way their addiction has impacted you, expressing your support for them, and setting clear boundaries are important for your well-being and mental health. If your conversation doesn’t seem effective, it doesn’t negate the need to encourage your loved one to seek treatment.

Types of Interventions

There are different types of interventions and several ways to hold an intervention. Some families decide to obtain help from a professional interventionist to walk them through the process. An interventionist can also speak candidly with the addicted individual about the consequences of not getting treatment as well as what treatment will be like. If the individual has been arrested or is in a hospital for an overdose, some people decide to have a law enforcement officer or a hospital staffer discuss the importance of treatment with their loved one.

Some common types of interventions include:

The Johnson Model

Maybe the most well-known type of intervention, the Johnson Model is based on a 1973 book, I’ll Quit Tomorrow by Dr. Vernon Johnson. He was an episcopal priest who studied over 200 recovering alcoholics and made it his life goal to prevent people from dying because of their drug or alcohol use.

In the Johnson Model of intervention, you surround your loved one with support and caring. The goal is to get them into treatment. Your loved one is unaware that the intervention is happening beforehand. The hope is that seeing how they’ve impacted those around them as well as realizing how much the attendees care for them will motivate change.

Family Systemic Model

The family systemic intervention model is based on the family system’s theory approach to addiction treatment, which holds that a family is a unit instead of a group of individuals. In this approach, the individual with an addiction knows about the intervention ahead of time. The intervention is a two-way conversation instead of loved ones only sharing about how addiction has affected them. The addicted individual is invited to get treatment and other family members agree to get help for their role as well, whether that is through therapy or family support groups. A family systemic intervention may occur over more than one meeting.


Viewed as a less confrontational approach, the ARISE model of intervention is similar to the family systemic model of intervention. The loved one knows that the intervention is happening. There is a conversation that allows the individual with the addiction to take ownership of his substance use and the decision to enter a treatment facility. ARISE recognizes the role the family system has in addiction and invites all members to embark on recovery together.

Crisis Intervention Model

Often used with adolescents and young adults, the crisis intervention model is just what the name implies. A crisis or emergency has occurred that makes addiction treatment needed immediately. Physicians or social workers are sometimes involved in a crisis intervention after an individual has overdosed on drugs or alcohol. Other times the crisis intervention involves legal professionals when a law has been broken or a life endangered.

Signs Your Loved One Needs an Intervention

If your loved one’s mental and physical health are deteriorating and they are continuing to use drugs and alcohol despite this and other negative consequences, consider an intervention. If your concerns about their substance abuse and requests to get treatment go ignored, a trained interventionist may be necessary.

Here are some signs your loved one needs an intervention:

  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Developing a tolerance to drugs or alcohol so they need more to get the desired effect.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Putting themselves or others in harm’s way while they’re drinking or using drugs.
  • Erratic mood changes.
  • Concerns from others about their substance use.
  • Defensiveness about their drug or alcohol use.
  • Secretive behaviors around substance use.
  • Missing work or school because of drugs and alcohol.
  • Violent or unpredictable behavior.
  • Relationships issues.
  • Continuing to use drugs and alcohol despite effects on their physical and mental health, relationships, livelihood, and well-being.

What Happens During an Intervention?

The structure, process, and attendees can vary by type of intervention. The general components of an intervention include:


Once you’ve decided an intervention is needed, you’ll decide the how’s, when’s, and where’s of it. This includes:

  • Deciding when the intervention should happen. This should be when your loved one is sober ideally. It should also be at a time when all attendees can be present.
  • Determining where the intervention will take place. An intervention should be at a comfortable, non-threatening location whether that is home or elsewhere.
  • Deciding who should attend the intervention and contacting them.
  • Gathering your thoughts about what you want to communicate and having attendees do so as well.

A professional interventionist can help with these steps. They will typically have everyone write out what they want to communicate and work with them on piecing out the main messages and themes, then delivering them in a way that won’t make the loved one defensive and resistant.

Outcome Considerations

You’ll need to determine your ideal outcome. Usually, this is for the loved one to enter treatment. Research addiction treatment programs and choose one ahead of time. Speak to the treatment facility about potentially admitting your loved one so they are prepared should they agree to get help. An interventionist can also recommend appropriate outpatient or inpatient drug rehab options for your loved one’s situation and help with the transition into treatment.

Decide what will happen if your loved one refuses to get help. Oftentimes, this can serve to lay down or reinforce boundaries. Let them know that it’s their choice to continue abusing drugs or alcohol and it’s your choice to not support them while they do so. Write down your boundaries and have them sign it. Examples of boundaries with loved ones who have drug or alcohol addictions include:

  • You cannot live here, nor will I pay for your rent while you’re active in your addiction.
  • You cannot be in this home when you are under the influence, or you will need to find somewhere else to live.
  • You cannot bring drugs or alcohol into this home, or you will need to find somewhere else to live.
  • I will not bail you out of jail or pay for any legal expenses related to drug or alcohol use.
  • I will not pay for your gas, phone bill, and other expenses while you are active in your addiction.
  • If you speak or act disrespectfully to me and other family members you will find somewhere else to live.
  • I will not make excuses for you if you miss school, work, or social engagements.
  • You cannot be at family gatherings if you’re using or drinking.

Boundaries can feel harsh to some people, but they are really about detaching with love. You can let your loved one know you care about them, and you want to be the first person they call when they’re ready to get help, but you will not support their addiction.


It’s not a good idea to wing it at an intervention. If possible, preparation and rehearsal should always come first. You should decide who will speak, what they will say, and in what order. An interventionist can help in this capacity. Think of them as the director of an intervention. They can help you rehearse, make sure you’re communicating important points productively, and determine the appropriate order.


It’s impossible to predict how your loved one will react to an intervention. Some people get angry and defensive, others feel guilty and sad, some are quiet and resigned, and others are loud and combative. This is where an interventionist can be especially useful. They play many roles in an intervention; director, referee, counselor, and helper. They will guide the intervention and intervene if emotions get high or if communication has taken a wrong turn.

Many interventionists are in addiction recovery, so they can relate to your loved one, understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes and communicating with them in a way they can relate to. An interventionist can also alleviate any fears your loved one may have about drug or alcohol detox and treatment. They can answer all their questions and tell them what to expect.

Addiction Treatment

The best outcome of an intervention is that your loved one agrees to enter treatment. That’s why it’s important to have an addiction treatment center prepared ahead of time for your loved one’s potential admission to their program. It’s best to get your loved one in a recovery program as soon as possible so they move forward in recovery, and they don’t change their mind or start using again.

Levels of care at an addiction treatment center may include:

Who Should Attend an Intervention?

Interventions work best with a group of concerned people who are committed to getting the individual with an alcohol and drug abuse issue help. Your intervention team may include:

  • Family members
  • Close friends
  • Coworkers
  • Clergy
  • Counselors or medical professionals your loved one knows and trusts
  • Interventionist

Only include people who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of your loved one. They should be people your loved one trusts and respects. Don’t invite people who will argue with your loved one or make them feel uncomfortable or angry.

Tips for a Successful Intervention

There is no such thing as the perfect time, place, or attendees for an intervention. The denial and unpredictable nature of people with addictions don’t change for an intervention. Though you can’t ensure that your intervention goes off without a hitch, there are some things you can do to help your intervention be as successful as possible:

  1. Postpone the intervention if your loved one is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
  2. Don’t use unnecessary people. Having too many people can be intimidating for your loved one.
  3. Try to avoid excessive emotions. Waiting until you are feeling calm will produce a better outcome. Interventions that are highly emotional may not be as effective.
  4. Remember that your loved one is not fully accepting of their condition. Try to avoid labeling them. Calling them a “junkie” or an “addict” will seem combative and disrespectful.
  5. Use “I” statements, focusing on your concern for your loved one and how their addiction affects you. For example, “I feel scared and helpless when you don’t come home.” Refrain from “you” statements, which can feel blameful and put your loved one on the defensive. For example, “You don’t care how you’re destroying our family.”
  6. Hire an interventionist to help you through the process.

5 Tips for Hiring an Interventionist

You’re on your last resort option to save your addicted loved one from more struggling or worse. Hiring an interventionist is a crucial decision. It can make the difference between your loved one choosing to accept treatment or reject it. Here are some important things to consider during the research and hiring process.

#1 Compare Cost of Interventionists

Insurance doesn’t cover interventions and the cost of one can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars based on experience and success rates. Some interventionists may have stipulations in their contract about payment based on the success of the intervention. Some charge an initial flat fee, others will charge by the hour. If they are coming from out of town, they may charge you an extra fee for travel and hotel expenses. Vet several interventionists to compare costs and find one that’s effective, experienced and also fits your budget. Some people rally the intervention attendees to help cover the cost.

#2 Check Their Credentials

There’s no requirement for an interventionist to be certified. However, it’s a good idea to choose a certified interventionist because it means they have specific training and knowledge that can make the intervention more successful. When hiring an interventionist, always check their credentials online to validate their knowledge and training. An interventionist can be credentialed and certified through the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) as a Certified Intervention Professional (CIS). Some interventionists are licensed through their practicing state, have counseling degrees and credentials, or have been through various interventionist training programs.

#3 Meet Them

It’s important that you have a rapport with your interventionist and trust them. You need to feel comfortable with them because you will be sharing personal feelings and experiences with them. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, look for another interventionist. Usually, the family and the moderator have multiple meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. The meetings will review the process, all the details, and the specific consequences if your loved one denies treatment.

#4 Decide on an Intervention Model

Research the type of intervention model that best suits your family and your loved one before hiring a moderator. For example, some models of intervention allow some notice so they can prepare. Others do not provide your loved one notice because they would not attend if they knew what was happening. You must decide which is more likely to work with your family. Not all moderators are experienced in all models, so you may need to scout out someone who is familiar with the model you prefer.

#5 Review Their Resources

An interventionist sometimes prefers to work with specific treatment centers. They usually prefer these for good reasons, like they have had good experiences with them, know the staff, or are familiar with their treatment services and success rate. Consider doing your own research on treatment options as well, so you can feel confident in their recommendations or decide to go with a different drug and alcohol rehab. An interventionist will help your loved one enter treatment, regardless of whether it’s one of their preferred rehabs.

Looking for an Interventionist?

Vogue Recovery Center can help you find an interventionist and get your loved one into treatment. We have relationships with several trusted and certified interventionists. Call our recovery specialists for intervention resources and to discuss what type of addiction treatment your loved one needs. We offer free, confidential consultations and insurance verification.



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