Drug and alcohol interventions can be an effective way to help a person into treatment. Group interventions surround the person with people they care about, which may help the person realize they have a problem. Typically run by an interventionist to help guide the process, interventions can be eye-opening for the person and therapeutic for family and friends.

What Is An Intervention?

An intervention occurs when a group of family and friends get together to confront a person about their continual abuse of alcohol or drugs. The gathering is usually a surprise for the person struggling with substance abuse, and each member details how they’ve been affected by the person’s addiction. This can be powerful because a person suffering from addiction may be in denial about their behavior, especially how it affects themselves and others.  

Family and friends give specific examples of how they’ve been affected, listing out real consequences of the person’s addiction. The more specific family and friends are about the person’s substance abuse, the more effective the intervention will be.

the goal of an intervention, reasons for an intervention

The goal of an intervention is not to force a person into receiving treatment, but to help them understand there is a solution to their problem with drugs and alcohol. There is usually a specialist involved in running the intervention to help organize and direct the process.

Who Conducts Drug Or Alcohol Interventions?

Certified mental health professionals (psychologists, social workers), addiction counselors, and interventionists can help structure and facilitate the intervention. The interventionist will likely consider the person’s level of addiction and their circumstances relating to drug or alcohol use, and suggest the best approach for intervention. By initially providing guidance and support, the interventionist can help direct the conversation during intervention, mediate if the person responds in a negative way, and weigh in on the best course of treatment.

It may be important to enlist the help of an interventionist if the person suffering from addiction has a history of the following:


  • mental illness
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • using multiple mood-altering substances

If there is any doubt as to whether a person will react violently to an intervention, it’s best to have the support of a mental health professional on hand. Many interventionists are in recovery, which may help the person realize their own problem, but it’s impossible to know how they will react.

The Risks Of Intervention

Although interventions don’t pose any serious health risks, they can damage relationships. The person could react violently, storm out of the room, or refuse to go into treatment and further the cycle of addiction.

In some cases, people are unintentionally enabled by family members or friends. An enabler wants to help a person with their addiction, but often gives money or makes excuses that reinforce the habit. A negative reaction to an intervention can be particularly hard for an enabler because the person may feel betrayed, which may have lasting effects on the relationship. But, if it gets the person into treatment, it’s likely worth the risks.

When Is The Right Time For An Intervention?

Knowing when is the right time to stage an intervention can be difficult. Perhaps the best time to intervene is when they begin to routinely show signs of addiction and other drug-seeking behaviors. Some observable signs of addiction may include:


  • asking for money
  • compulsively using drugs or alcohol
  • disregard for personal hygiene or appearance
  • giving up favorite activities to use drugs
  • harming themselves or others when they use drugs or alcohol
  • lack of control when using drugs or alcohol
  • neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • repeated use in dangerous situations

If a person shows any signs of addiction, an intervention can help them get into treatment before they experience any further dangers of addiction, like overdose or death. To help with the process, there are different types of interventions.

Types Of Interventions

Most interventions involve a group setting where the addicted person is persuaded to receive treatment. But, there are several models or types of interventions people can use as guidelines, including:


  • ARISE Intervention Model — ARISE stands for A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement, and includes 3 levels: The First Call, Strength in Numbers, and The Formal ARISE Intervention. If the first level is successful for getting the person into treatment, the other levels need not occur.


  • The Johnson Model Of Intervention — In 1973, Vernon Johnson studied hundreds of cases of recovering alcoholics and wrote his findings in a book called, “I’ll Quit Tomorrow.” His model features 7 components, including planning, addiction only, and treatment options as guidelines for the intervention process.


  • The Love First Model — This model uses the power of love to break through the denial many people suffering from addiction face. Concerned family members show support in hopes love will win and guide the person into recovery.


  • Family Intervention — The Family Intervention process brings the family together to work on not only the addiction of the individual, but also on the dynamics of the family as a whole. By acknowledging unhealthy patterns of behavior within a family, and setting new goals, the whole family can help with recovery in the future.


  • Adolescent Intervention — Teens require different treatment for addiction than adults, and this model aims to make sure their developing brains receive the proper care.


  • Executive Intervention — Co-workers and colleagues confront an associate’s drug or alcohol problems at the workplace. Due to the environment, an executive intervention needs to be professional and confidential.

How To Stage A Drug Or Alcohol Intervention

The following gives some practical steps for how to effectively stage a drug or alcohol intervention:


  • contact an interventionist
  • reach out to family and friends
  • get together and practice
  • choose when and where to meet
  • understand anything can happen

Emotions can run high during an intervention, and it’s important to be prepared for the person to react in any way. The interventionist can help prepare the group for possible outcomes, while also providing support and expertise during the intervention.

Tips For An Effective Intervention

There is no way of knowing how a person will react during an intervention. To ensure you’re aptly prepared, consider the following the tips:


  • Avoid scheduling a time for the intervention when the person is likely to feel stressed out. Also, avoid a time where they might be high or drunk.


  • Avoid yelling at the person, or making them feel shame for their actions. The purpose of an intervention is not to make the person feel guilty, but to help them understand they need help; you want them to seek treatment, not to feel bad about themselves when it’s over.


  • Be as specific as possible when detailing your experiences related to their drug or alcohol use. Use examples and memories to drive the point home.


  • Come up with a treatment plan before the intervention so you’re prepared to help the person when they agree to enter treatment. An interventionist or mental health professional can help you with this, and be sure it fits the needs and preferences of the individual.


  • Enlist the help of a specialist so they can guide the conversation during the intervention in a positive direction.


  • Use words that are quick and to the point. Prepare what you’ll say beforehand and write things down so you can effectively detail your perspective of their addiction.

What Happens Next?

If the intervention is successful, the person will likely enter rehab to begin treatment. The first step may be a medically supervised detox to program to help a person stop using drugs or alcohol and prepare for treatment. Further treatment should immediately follow a detox program, preferably at the same location.

Inpatient rehab can be a good choice because it may offer all the essentials of addiction treatment under one roof: withdrawal support during detox, peer support, treatment for other mental health conditions, medication, and behavioral therapy.


Call now for further guidance on drug and alcohol interventions and addiction treatment.


Association of Intervention Specialists—Intervention – A Starting Point For Change, What Is an ARISE Intervention?, What is the Johnson Model of Intervention?

Love First—Love First Intervention

National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence—Intervention – Tips and Guidelines

Psychology Today—Drug and Alcohol Interventions: Do They Work?