How to Plan & Hold an Intervention

Plan and hold interventions for substance abuse treatment Drug and alcohol abuse is far from uncommon in the United States. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that about 24 million Americans 12 and older were monthly illicit drug users, and about 30 percent of men and 16 percent of women 12 and older were monthly binge drinkers. These stats show, quite clearly, that issues of abuse and addiction are not unique. They happen here quite often.

Similarly, it is common for people who have an addiction to deny that there is a problem. They may admit that they take in a little too much from time to time, but they may believe that they could turn things around with a little hard work and determination. This is denial, and there is a powerful way for families to break through it. With an intervention, a family can help the person with the addiction to see the problem clearly. That could lead to treatments that could make the addiction stop for good.


Here are instructions you can use to plan your own intervention for someone you love.

Step 1: Know the signs.

Substances of abuse are all around us, every day of the week. Since they are so pervasive, it can be hard to understand when their use is problematic, and when it is simply part and parcel of living in a substance-using culture. Watching for signs of addiction could help you know when the person you love truly has an addiction. These are the signs, according to Medical News Today, that could indicate that there is an addiction and that an intervention might be in order:

  • The abuse is compulsive. The person you love may promise to stop, and might even try to stop, but a return to use always happens in time.
  • Despite consequences, abuse continues. The person you love might have been arrested, suffered a job loss, or ended up in the hospital due to an addiction issue. Still, the person keeps on using.
  • There is a tight focus on the addiction. The person may no longer spend time with you or your family unless there is some opportunity to use and abuse drugs.
  • Substances are overused. When the person you love starts taking in the substance, they cannot stop. They might take huge doses of substances in each sitting.
  • More risk-taking behaviors occur. While under the influence, the person you love might do things that they would never do while sober. Driving fast, having sex with strangers, or accepting money for sex might all happen due to drugs.
  • They hoard drugs. With addiction comes a fear that substances of abuse will run out. The person you love might counter that fear by keeping massive doses of substances around the house.

Step 2: Try a quick conversation.

It is not easy to live with an addiction, and some people are quite responsive to the idea that there are solutions that could help. Before you start work on a formal intervention, see if the person you love is responsive to a less intense kind of talk. Sit the person down and mention the changes you have seen and the concerns you have. Ask if the person will enter treatment. If the person agrees to enter, you do not need to hold an intervention. But, if the person will not enter, it is time to take the addiction even more seriously.

Step 3: Hire an expert.

An interventionist, according to the Association of Intervention Specialists, is a professional who can help with the planning, preparation, and execution of an intervention for addiction. These people have been through training courses about addiction, and some have a personal connection with addiction and recovery. This person can help the family to understand the addiction consequences. The interventionist could help you to understand what you should say during your talk, and the interventionist will be right there with you during the talk. With an interventionist, things can be a whole lot easier.

Interventionists might advertise online, so running a search could help you to find a person who will work with your family. Or, if you are in contact with an addiction treatment facility, the professionals there can connect you with a trained professional who can help.

Step 4: Choose your team.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that choosing the right people to participate in the intervention is key to the success of that talk. That means you should take time to really think about who has pull with the person who has the addiction. You should ensure that everyone you want to include in the talk is committed to the hard work that is required to prepare for that talk. Common people who participate in an intervention include:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Spouses
  • Siblings
  • Close friends
  • Coworkers

Anyone who has seen the addiction firsthand could, in theory, participate in the intervention, but it is best to look for people with a close and personal connection with the person who has an addiction. These are the people who can speak words that matter, and they could be key to turning an addiction issue around.

Step 5: Plan your approach.

There are all sorts of different ways to conduct an intervention. You could choose a method that is combative and attempt to bully your way through denial and to the healing that comes with treatment. Or you could use an education model in which the addicted person is never bullied or confronted at all.

Your interventionist can help you to understand which method might be right for you. When the method is chosen, it is time to practice what you will say. Think about your words carefully and rehearse them a few times in front of the others who will be in the intervention.

Step 6: Choose a provider and arrange transport.

If you do not already have a treatment facility chosen, now is the time to make a selection. Look for a facility that will accept your insurance, and seek out a team that has experience in dealing with the sort of addiction your loved one is living with right now. Your interventionist can help you to narrow the field to one or two options, and then you can call and make intake arrangements. That way, at the end of the intervention, the person can simply enroll in treatment. You have done all the hard work upfront.

Once you have a provider selected, determine which person on the intervention team will drive the person to treatment when the talk is complete. Pack a bag for the person, so there will be no need to head home for clothes.

The Recovery Process

Step 7: Find a time to talk.

Dependence is the physical need for a substance of abuse, and the website Drinkaware suggests that it is common. In fact, the site says, some 9 percent of men and 3 percent of women in the UK are dependent on alcohol. For people like this, substances of abuse are not mental health triggers. They are physical triggers. These people need substances in order to feel healthy and connected.

Someone who is dependent on a substance will keep using in order to avoid withdrawal side effects, such as nausea or tremors. That can mean an addicted person might be under the influence nearly all the time.

In a perfect world, you will hold an intervention when the person is sober. But if the person is dependent and almost never sober, just look for a time in which the person is not likely to be incredibly inebriated.

Step 8: Stay calm.

When the intervention begins, remember to stick with the words you have practiced, and do your part to avoid the psychological triggers the addicted person might throw your way. As an article in Psych Central points out, many people with addictions are adept at playing on the mental health insecurities of the people they live with. That means someone in an intervention might try to make you stop talking by yelling, cursing, or otherwise behaving badly. You are not required to engage with that behavior. Just stick with the script and lean on your interventionist to keep the conversation on track.

Step 9: Let the process move forward.

When an intervention is planned carefully and executed properly, people with addictions often enroll in the treatment they need, and they agree to do so during the intervention conversation. As soon as the person agrees to enter treatment, the intervention is over. Respect that rule, even if it means you do not get to say everything you wanted to say.

If the person does not agree to enroll in care, talk with your interventionist about next steps. Perhaps holding another meeting is a good idea, or perhaps your family should look at ways to make maintaining the addiction less pleasant for the person. Your interventionist can tell you what is likely to work.

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