When loved ones have issues with addiction, friends and family members may consider holding an intervention as a way to express concerns and eliminate use.

Those seeking ways to help others address and overcome issues with addiction may want to consider interventions. Interventions offer a unique form of addiction help that can create positive change for the addicted person and their loved ones. Interventions do come with risks, though, so people interested should make informed choices about the meeting.

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What is an Intervention?

A drug intervention is a structured and planned process that culminates in a meeting. During this meeting, the friends, family, coworkers, and other important people speak honestly and directly to the addicted person.

By communicating the unwanted effects of the person’s addiction and substance use, the loved ones hope to encourage formal treatment. If the person refuses, the loved ones outline their planned responses, which will include limiting their interactions and assistance.

Why is Early Intervention Important?

When it comes to any type of substance use treatment, early interventions are best. By taking action at the first sign of drug addiction, fewer damaging results will present, and the person’s path to recovery will be shorter.

People who wait to start treatment may suffer irreversible consequences to their mental and physical health. Also, long-term addiction poses more barriers and obstacles to overcome including financial, legal, employment, and housing issues.

Types of Interventions

Just like therapy, there are different interventions and types of interventions people use to create the wanted results. Some available interventions include:

  • Crisis Intervention: Crisis interventions are born out of necessity soon after a dangerous situation occurs. These interventions may lack the planning and structure of others
  • Brief Intervention: Brief interventions focus on asking, advising, assessing, assisting and arranging treatment for the individual. Medical professionals may conduct brief interventions with or without loved ones present
  • Johnson Model of Intervention: This model focuses on empowering a loved one to take the lead of the confrontational intervention while stressing the importance of treatment
  • ARISE Intervention: The ARISE intervention model takes a family approach to resolve symptoms of addiction, rather than only blaming the person with addiction. This model stresses the importance of everyone making changes to spark recovery
  • Family Systemic Model: The family system model hopes to illustrate how the damaging effects of addiction spread throughout the entire family unit and how the family must heal together

Some interventions will stick to only one model while others will combine desirable aspects of several varieties. Each model offers its own benefits and drawbacks.

Role of a Professional Interventionist

People may be tempted to conduct the meeting without a drug intervention specialist or a professional interventionist, but this decision could be risky. People wouldn’t attempt to drill a cavity without a dentist, and people should not attempt an intervention without a professional.

Interventionists, with their experience and training, will be familiar with the issues that commonly arise during an intervention and the best ways to manage them. The inclusion of an intervention specialist could be the difference between a successful and a chaotic intervention.

People interested in finding an interventionist should use caution, though. Since there are few regulations governing interventions and interventionists, there could be tremendous variability from one professional to another. People should always check for references and interview a candidate before agreeing to any plan.

How to Stage an Intervention

Interventions are complex productions, and because of this, they require a multistep approach.

  • Step 1: Find a Professional. Without the guidance of a trained and experienced intervention specialist, the intervention can quickly morph into an unproductive and unpredictable experience
  • Step 2: Form an Intervention Team. No one can complete an intervention single-handedly; they need a team. The best teams are comprised of a professional and a group of people dedicated to the well-being of their loved one. Some may prefer only a family intervention and omit the professional
  • Step 3: Make an Intervention Plan. Plans guide every step of the intervention. Developing an intervention plan will focus the meeting and control the flow, direction, and result. At this step, many will contact a substance abuse treatment facility to arrange services
  • Step 4: Set Boundaries and Consequences. The addicted person needs to know the risks, benefits, and consequences of their decision at the end of the meeting. Loved ones must communicate their plans clearly and then follow through, no matter the outcome
  • Step 5: Prepare and Rehearse. A good intervention is a bit like a stage production with many moving pieces and transitions. Rehearsed preparation can make the result more coordinated and better communicate the effects of addiction on family and friends.
  • Step 6: Hold Intervention. All of the previous steps have led to this – holding an intervention that includes the person addicted and their loved ones
  • Step 7: Follow Up. An intervention follow-up is needed to either praise the loved one for their healthy decision making or to complete the negative consequences that were discussed.

Things to Say and Not Say During an Intervention

As the planning develops, people will be wondering what to say during the intervention, and what not say to an addicted person. Of course, there are no universal words that make for a successful intervention, but people should focus on:

  • Speaking plainly, clearly, and honestly
  • Showing emotions like anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness caused by substance use and addiction
  • Communicating the negative influence that addiction has had on all parties
  • Offering words of love, support, and encouragement
  • Stressing hope and optimism that situations can improve through sobriety

At the same time, people should avoid:

  • Losing their message due to becoming overly emotional
  • Physically lashing out against the addicted person
  • Provoking the addicted person to become violent or aggressive
  • Lying or deceiving the addicted person
  • Overly focusing on certain aspects of the past that have little to do with addiction and substance use

In interventions, navigating what to say and what not to say is a balancing act. This struggle justifies the need for a professional to offer direction and preparation to refine the needed level of communication.

How Successful Are Interventions?

Some claim a 90% success rate with interventions, but measuring intervention success rates is challenging because there are no independent groups that accurately measure intervention outcomes. Interventions are likely more beneficial than attempting nothing to help a loved one.

Another issue with measuring intervention success is deciding what constitutes success. People may have a variety of goals linked to interventions like:

  • Having their loved one end all substance use forever
  • Having their loved one engage in addiction treatment
  • Ending their unhealthy relationship with the addicted person
  • Expressing the pain and hurt the addiction has caused

One person’s intervention success could be seen as a failure to others. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process that is challenging to measure in short-term ways.

What If Your Loved One Refuses Help?

It is possible that after all of the hard work, planning, and emotions put into the meeting, the loved one will refuse help after the intervention. Though this decision will be puzzling and frustrating, it can happen.

In these situations, it is essential that each member of the team sticks to the plan of consequences they outlined in step 4 of the intervention plan. Just like a person cannot expect a child to change their behavior without rewards and punishments, a person cannot expect a person addicted to substances to change without repercussions.

If they refuse help, the loved ones will have to follow through with the described punishments. Some may include:

  • Cutting back or eliminating communication
  • Ending financial or emotional assistance
  • Forcing them to move out of a shared space
  • Losing their job
  • No longer taking responsibility or covering up their mistakes

Hopefully, they do decide to accept the offer for addiction treatment and take advantage of the many helpful treatment options available. Someone interested in quality care should consider programs at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper. With an array of treatment options, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper could be a beneficial step towards lasting recovery. Contact us to get your loved one started on the road to recovery today.

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The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper provides evidence-based treatment programs to help you on the path to recovery. Whether you're calling for yourself or a loved one, our Intake Coordinators are ready to answer your questions today.

Association of Intervention Specialists. “Learn About Intervention.” Accessed February 19, 2020.

Mayo Clinic. “Intervention: How to Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” July 17, 2017. Accessed February 19, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Screening for Drug Use in a General Medical Setting.” March 2012. Accessed February 19, 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.