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ALCOHOL INTERVENTION:
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH ALCOHOLISM

When a person’s alcohol use becomes excessive and places them in danger, it may be time to conduct an intervention. An alcohol intervention is a method of coming together as a team to address someone’s alcohol addiction and encourage them to seek treatment.

Table of Contents

What Is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol consumption and social drinking are such an accepted part of society that it may be unclear what constitutes alcohol abuse. United States health and safety agencies define moderate alcohol consumption as up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men. In addition, binge drinking is generally defined as more than four drinks in one sitting for women and more than five for men. 

Engaging in binge drinking or drinking more than a moderate amount can constitute alcohol abuse. Over time, this can lead to an alcohol use disorder — the clinical term for alcohol addiction. When someone develops an alcohol use disorder, this generally means they have lost control of their alcohol use. They will often continue to drink despite serious consequences like health problems, physical dangers associated with alcohol or problems at work or in relationships. 

Someone with an alcohol use disorder may also experience strong alcohol cravings, spend a great deal of time drinking and suffer from withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence. At this point, it may be time to stage an alcohol intervention. 

Alcohol Trends in New Jersey

Alcohol abuse can lead to addiction, and the state of New Jersey is no stranger to this risk. In fact, statistics from the New Jersey Department of Health show that in 2017, about one-third of New Jersey men aged 18 to 24 engaged in binge drinking within the past month. Nearly one-fifth of women in this age group reported binge drinking during the same time period. The rate of binge drinking among men aged 35 to 49 was 24.4%; among women in this age group, it was 13.1%. 

How To Stage an Intervention for an Alcoholic

When someone shows signs of an alcohol use disorder and continues to drink, family and friends may need to conduct an intervention to motivate them to get help. When staging an intervention, it is important to plan ahead so that you know what you will say to your loved one and how you will stay on track during the intervention.

Often, a key part of an intervention is creating a list of consequences your loved one will face if they choose not to go to treatment. For example, you may decide to make them leave your house if they forgo treatment. During the intervention, it is important to stick to any consequences you set but also remain caring and avoid shaming your loved one. 

During the intervention, you can expect to share your concerns with your loved one, including how you have seen alcohol negatively affect their life and yours. At the end of the meeting, your loved one will have an opportunity to go to treatment and to either accept or reject this offer. 

Typically, the intervention team selects a treatment center before the intervention and makes arrangements for their loved one to go straight to treatment. It’s important to note that alcohol withdrawal can cause significant and sometimes fatal side effects. If your loved one’s alcohol addiction is severe, you should select a treatment center that offers a detox program. In medical detox, medical staff can monitor withdrawal symptoms and ensure that your loved one remains as safe as possible as their body rids itself of alcohol. 

Alcohol Intervention Models

While all alcohol interventions have the goal of motivating someone to seek treatment for alcohol addiction, there are various ways to do so. Some common models for alcohol abuse interventions include:

  • Johnson model: The Johnson model involves caregivers confronting a person about alcohol addiction. With this model, you determine which individuals from your loved one’s social life are willing to be a part of the intervention. The group comes together for two planning meetings to learn about the consequences of enabling alcoholism and develop a plan for the intervention. Your group then holds the intervention meeting with the help of a professional, confronts the person about alcohol abuse and asks the person to seek treatment.
  • ARISE: The ARISE intervention method is considered an “invitational intervention.” With this method, family meetings increase in intensity over time to guide your loved one toward seeking treatment. The person with alcohol addiction is invited to meetings from the very start, so there are no surprises. Contrary to a more confrontational approach, ARISE is gentle and loving. 
  • CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training): The CRAFT intervention model teaches families how to communicate with someone who abuses alcohol, practice self-care and use positive reinforcement to encourage healthy behaviors. The model can also teach the family how to get a person with alcohol addiction to go to treatment, but it does not use surprise confrontational meetings. 
  • Family systemic model: This model looks at how addiction affects not only the person struggling with alcohol abuse, but also their family members and friends. The family systemic model guides the whole family toward going to treatment and developing healthy communication patterns. The model does not involve any secret meetings, as the person with addiction attends all meetings. There may be multiple intervention meetings, but ultimately, everyone in the family is encouraged to attend treatment to heal from the effects of addiction. 
  • Motivational interviewing: An alcohol interventionist may use motivational interviewing to help people overcome their reluctance to seek treatment. This method accepts that it is normal for people to have some resistance toward seeking treatment for alcoholism. An interventionist using motivational interviewing is empathetic and non-confrontational, and they look for ways to show your loved one how their addiction may be interfering with their goals or desires. 

Depending on your situation, some intervention models may be more helpful than others. For example, the family systemic model may be useful for a teenager with alcohol addiction, as this model encourages everyone in the family to get treatment. When a teen is struggling with addiction, it is likely that everyone in the home is deeply affected. This model can ensure that everyone gets the help they need. 

Intervention Team

The intervention team typically includes close family members, such as parents and siblings. Sometimes, older children may participate in a parent’s intervention. An intervention team may also involve other supportive people, such as mentors, friends or people from church or other groups. 

Another important person on the intervention team is the professional interventionist. This is someone who has experience in the addiction field and is trained in fostering effective communication regarding addiction. Interventionists are a neutral party who can de-escalate conflicts when meetings become turbulent, and hiring one can help you keep your intervention on track.

Interventionists are also aware of the signs of alcoholism and the ways that a loved one’s alcohol abuse can affect the family. With this knowledge, they can educate family members on how to effectively help the person with an addiction. 

Effectiveness of Alcohol Interventions

While alcohol interventions are not guaranteed to work for everyone, they can be a useful method of guiding someone with alcoholism to seek treatment. However, some alcohol abuse intervention models may be more effective than others. For example, a 2010 study shows that the CRAFT model is about twice as effective as the Johnson model for motivating people to go to treatment. In the study, about two-thirds of people who were part of a CRAFT intervention entered treatment. 

This means that alcohol interventions can be highly effective, especially if you choose a model that works well for your family. 

Finding Help for Alcohol Addiction in New Jersey

If you are seeking a professional interventionist to help with alcohol addiction in New Jersey, the IME Addictions Access Center offers addiction-related services 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Their representatives can link you to alcohol interventionists and treatment for alcohol addiction throughout the state.

If you are ready to find a treatment center where your loved one can recover after an intervention, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is here to help. We offer a range of services, including inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as detox, partial care services and intensive outpatient. Contact us today to determine how we can help your family. 

FAQs

People sometimes use the term “alcoholic” to refer to someone who has an alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for alcohol addiction.

An intervention refers to a variety of strategies that families can use to confront a loved one about addiction, express their concerns and motivate the person to go to treatment.

It is difficult to determine exactly how often alcohol interventions work. This is because there are various intervention methods, and not every method is effective for everyone. One study found that CRAFT interventions were effective about two-thirds of the time. 

Someone who abuses alcohol may drink larger amounts than intended, use alcohol even when it is dangerous and drink in favor of other activities. Other signs of alcohol abuse include problems at work or being unable to control alcohol use.

Get Help

If you or someone you love is facing an alcohol use disorder, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. We offer medical detox and comprehensive rehab programs that are tailored to suit your needs.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Levels Defined.” Accessed October 20, 2020. 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Use Disorder.” Accessed October 20, 2020. 

New Jersey Department of Health. “Health Indicator Report of Alcohol Consumption – Binge Drinking.” January 29, 2020. Accessed October 20, 2020. 

Harvard Medical School. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” April 2019. Accessed October 20, 2020. 

American Psychological Association. “Johnson Intervention.” 2011. Accessed October 1, 2020. 

ARISE Network. “An Overview Of ARISE® Comprehensive Care With Intervention.” 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020. 

Center for Motivation and Change. “What is CRAFT.” 2014. Accessed October 1, 2020. 

Association of Intervention Specialists. “What is the Family Systemic Model?” May 2, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2020. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment.”  1999. Accessed October 1, 2020. 

Roozen, Hendrik; et al. “Community Reinforcement and Family Training: An Effective Option to Engage Treatment-Resistant Substance-Abusing Individuals in Treatment.” Addiction, 2010. Accessed October 2, 2020. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.