Do Interventions Work?

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Interventions are often portrayed in TV and movies. Most of us perceive what interventions might be like, but do they work? It’s often debated just how effective an intervention is. The effectiveness often depends on how prepared the intervention team is and whether they sought professional help in the planning process.

What Is an Intervention?

When a person is in active addiction, they’re also probably in denial. When someone denies they have a problem, they’re not going to see any reason to get help. An intervention is a gathering of friends, family, and potentially co-workers. The group comes together to sit down with the person struggling with addiction to get them to admit they have a problem and need treatment.

A trained interventionist or mental health professional can work with friends and family on how to proceed. Interventions offer an opportunity to share concerns and coordinate an effort to get treatment for someone with a substance use disorder.

How Do Interventions Work?

Drug and alcohol treatment centers employ mental health professionals and counselors trained to help family members prepare for an intervention. Interventions are often in a controlled environment. An intervention should put the person in the position where they’re most likely to listen.

Interventions can be a complete surprise, but with newer techniques, the team members may let the person with addiction know they’re going to come together and have a conversation. In these newer approaches, someone might be given a few days’ notice. An interventionist can guide the process with training in addiction treatment.

Different types of intervention models include:

  • Simple: In a simple intervention, just one loved one works to confront someone with an addiction, with or without the help of an interventionist.
  • Classical: This is an intervention in a group setting. The classical approach to interventions is also known as the Johnson Model. In the Johnson Model, members of the intervention team gather to plan the meeting, and then they confront their loved one with the help of a therapist and encourage them to seek treatment.
  • Family system: The family system approach to interventions isn’t a surprise, and everyone attends sessions to work through the impacts of addiction on the entire family unit.
  • Crisis: crisis intervention is unique. It’s something that’s not planned, and it occurs when a person is a danger to themselves or others. The goal of crisis intervention is to stabilize whatever’s going on.

When Should You Consider an Intervention?

If someone’s life is in jeopardy because of addiction, it may be time to consider an intervention. Friends and family have often tried to talk to the person with an addiction, and they’ve been unsuccessful individually. If someone has refused to admit an issue or get help, an intervention can become the last effort that everyone makes.

Particular signs that it could be time to consider an intervention include:

  • The person with an addiction is becoming more secretive and deceptive.
  • Their physical appearance is rapidly changing; for example, they’re quickly losing weight or not taking care of personal hygiene.
  • Someone who’s engaging in increasingly risky behavior, like drinking and driving, might need an intervention.
  • You should consider an intervention if someone’s mental health appears to be declining in a noticeable way.

Do Interventions Work?

According to data from the Association of Intervention Specialists, the success rate for interventions is in the range of 80–90%. More than eight in ten individuals choose treatment following an intervention. Of the 15–20% who choose not to go to treatment right after the intervention, around half go within the next couple of weeks.

Risks of Holding an Intervention

While interventions can have a high success rate, they are not without risks. Interventions can be emotionally charged and come off as very threatening and scary to the person facing their addictions. Their reaction may or may not always be favorable:

  • There is always a chance that this feels like the family and friends are ganging up on them, which runs the risk of pushing the person with the addiction further away, causing them to flee the meeting or leading them to refuse help. They may also react with extreme anger.
  • Your relationship can become damaged.
  • If your loved one refuses treatment, you will have to exercise consequences, such as cutting them off, refusing to offer financial support, and not assisting them with their habits.

Tips for a Successful Intervention

These tips can help increase the likelihood of a successful intervention, particularly if your measure for success is your loved one agreeing to go to treatment.

  • Make sure the intervention is held at a time when the person won’t be under the influence or facing major stressors.
  • Be specific when detailing your feelings and the consequences you’re willing to enact if your loved one doesn’t agree to treatment.
  • Don’t yell, shame, or try to guilt the person who’s the subject of the intervention.
  • Have a treatment plan, because if the person agrees to get help, it must be available immediately.
  • Be prepared to follow through with the consequences. The person with an addiction needs to know your relationship and its dynamics will change if they refuse treatment.
  • Work on having body language that’s open and non-confrontational. Don’t cross your arms or legs or clench your fists. Ensure you’re leaning in and facing the person while talking to them.
  • Stay cool and calm. If your emotions get out of control, everyone’s tempers will rise.
  • Follow your script and prepared messages. Don’t try and wing it and speak from the heart, because it can create confusing mixed messages.
  • Prepare yourself for the potential you’ll have to do it again. The person might walk out, so you can’t try and physically stop them. If your intervention doesn’t go as you hoped it would, you can start to figure out what went wrong and what you can do differently next time.
  • Having a professional interventionist help can make a big difference in the willingness of the person to accept help and treatment.

Finding Help for Your Loved One

Are you ready to make a change in your own life or maybe help a loved one live a fulfilling life free of addiction? If so, we encourage you to contact our team at The Recovery Village Ridgefield today. We respect the individuality of everyone and the uniqueness of their story and goals. The treatment team builds that into every plan.

We also think that addiction treatment programs need to be comfortable and safe for the best recovery outcomes. The Recovery Village Ridgefield features amenities like mountain views, housekeeping, and culinary staff. When a caring and serene environment surrounds someone, they can work to get where they need to be, free of distractions.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield is an in-network care provider for various insurance companies, including Aetna, First Choice, and America’s Choice. Learn more about insurance options and everything else our programs offer by visiting our insurance page or contacting us directly.


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    Association of Intervention Specialists. “Learn About Intervention.” Accessed July 15, 2022. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.. “Early Intervention, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders.” National Library of Medicine, November 2016. Accessed July 15, 2022. American Psychological Association. “Johnson Intervention.” 2011. Accessed July 18, 2022.  Varghese, Mathew et al. “Family Interventions: Basic Principles and Techniques.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2022.  Wang, David and Gupta, Vikas. “Crisis Intervention.” National Library of Medicine, April 28, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022.  Association of Intervention Specialists. “Intervention-What is the Success Rate?” April 18, 2017. Accessed July 15, 2022.