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13 Tips For Staging A Successful Intervention

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It can be difficult to watch a loved one struggle with addiction. It can also be difficult to know how and when to step in and attempt to intervene, which is why doing so in the right manner is so important

When family and friends attempt to step in and express concern about someone’s addictive behaviors, it is often referred to as an intervention. Psychology Today states that interventions “use peer pressure to encourage an addict to admit to his or her problem and then seek appropriate treatment.”

Depending on the way they are approached, interventions have the potential to be disastrous or successful. The following are thirteen tips for staging a successful intervention.

1. Have a plan. 

A spontaneous intervention will not go well for the concerned person or for the addict. Instead of acting on an impulse, take the time to outline a detailed plan for the intervention.

Know what you are going to say, as well as what others wish to say. Have a plan for who will speak first and who will mediate. In interventions organization is key.

2. Contact a professional before staging the intervention.

Though you may think you have a handle on how to prepare for an intervention, it will likely be more successful if you consult with someone who is in that area of expertise.

Health professionals know how to confront situations and how to interact with addicts, so speaking to one before staging an intervention can be helpful.

3. Form an intervention team.

Often, this consists of friends and families of the addict. The people present should have been impacted by the person’s drug or alcohol use and have specific examples of when and how this happened.

They should also be committed to helping the person get treatment and be invested in their future.

If you think someone could disrupt the intervention or become too emotional, offer to let them write a letter instead of being present at the intervention.

4. Ask a professional to take part in the intervention. 

Having a medical professional or social worker present during an intervention is helpful because they can play a neutral role.

Since they likely will not be emotionally invested in the situation, they will be able to help mediate the conversation and try to keep the peace.

Having a health professional present is also ideal because if the addict agrees they need help, a professional can point them in the right direction for treatment.

5. Make a list outlining specific situations in which the addict’s use hurt you or others. 

Because of the emotion involved, it is easy to become sidetracked when discussing a loved one’s use.

Because of this, it is important to make a list of points before entering an intervention in order to remember what your concerns are and why you wanted to bring them up.

This way, emotion doesn’t have a chance to cloud your mind and make it difficult to remember why an intervention was necessary.

6. Prepare an ultimatum.

An intervention which turns into an argument is likely to go nowhere. Addicts enjoy arguments because they allow them to stay in denial.

Instead of a prolonged argument, be ready with a choice to present to the addict.

For example, tell them they are no longer welcome in the family home unless they get help, or may no longer see their children until they stop using. Sometimes, though not always, this can be the push an addict needs to realize what their behavior is doing to their life and that they need to change it.

7. Have a plan for treatment.

Since the end goal of an intervention is to get the addict to accept help, it is important to have a plan in place should they agree.

If you do not, it could seem like you were not prepared and the addict will have more time to change his or her mind before accepting help.

Having a plan could mean having a specific treatment center lined up and waiting, or having a health professional at the intervention to answer questions and provide guidance.

8. Choose a time and place to stage the intervention, and have a rehearsal. 

Try to choose a time when the addict will not be under the influence, as this could negatively affect the outcome of the intervention.

Make sure everyone involved knows the time and place and is sure to be on time.

Once this is determined, have a run through of the intervention so everyone knows what the plan is when it is time for the real thing.

9. Invite the addict to the intervention without telling them what is going on.

This may seem dishonest, but if you clue them in that an intervention is going to take place, you run the risk of them being a no show.

Invite them to spend time with family or friends. That way, it isn’t a complete lie as family and friends will likely be present.

10. Once the day and time of the intervention has arrived and the addict is present, make sure everyone has a chance to speak. 

This is important because it lets the addict know that it’s not just a single person who has been affected by their use. While being somewhat emotional may be unavoidable, it is recommended to avoid yelling or making light of the situation, as doing so could take away from the severity of the situation.

11. Once everyone speaks, discuss a treatment plan.

This is where pre-planning comes into place. Once everyone has spoken, it is important for the intervention leader to present a potential plan for treatment and the consequences if it is not agreed to. This is likely where the addict will agree to get help or resist treatment.

12. If the person agrees to treatment, continue to support them through the process.

They need to know that everyone present at the intervention is invested in their well-being in the long run, not just at the time of the intervention.

13. If they refuse help, enforce the consequences. 

This may be the hardest part for some people, as they dislike seeing someone they love struggle or be in pain.

However, enforcing the consequences is vital because it will show the addict that you are serious about their need for treatment and recovery. Otherwise, they will continue to use and think their behavior is acceptable.

Though every situation and every intervention is different, these steps will put you on the right track to successfully helping your loved one begin the road to recovery.


Staging an intervention for an alcoholic. Healthline. 10 November 2014. Accessed 19 April 2016. Young, Joel. Drug and alcohol interventions: Do they work? Psychology Today. 27 August 2014. Accessed 19 April 2016.

View Sources

Staging an intervention for an alcoholic. Healthline. 10 November 2014. Accessed 19 April 2016. Young, Joel. Drug and alcohol interventions: Do they work? Psychology Today. 27 August 2014. Accessed 19 April 2016.