Drug & Alcohol Addiction Intervention

Last Edited: April 16, 2024
Patricia Howard, LMFT, CADC
Clinically Reviewed
Andrew Lancaster, LPC, MAC
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.


Interventions can be those heart-wrenching yet crucial moments when families and friends come together, driven by love and concern, to help a loved one struggling with substance abuse recognize the need for treatment. It’s a delicate dance of compassion and honesty, often led by a deep desire to see someone you care about reclaim their life from the grips of addiction.

What You’ll find in this article:

What is an Intervention?

There are different ways to go about trying to intervene with a loved one’s substance abuse problems. A simple one-on-one intervention might do the trick. Speaking to your loved on in a secluded meeting instead in front of a group of people might be better depending on his or her personality. If that does not work, maybe a classic intervention will.

At its core, an intervention is a planned process where loved ones, sometimes accompanied by a professional interventionist, gather to confront someone about their substance abuse and its impact. It’s not about pointing fingers or assigning blame but rather opening up a channel of communication that’s been likely barricaded by the walls of addiction.

Heroin Overdose Deaths

Getting a loved one to agree on getting professional help for a drug or alcohol problem can be hard. Your loved one might reject the first confrontation. But if your loved one sees that he or she has support and people still care m, then your loved one will be more likely to get help.

What is NOT an Intervention
  • An intervention is not a 12-step call.
  • It is not a motivational speech.
  • It is not an ultimatum.
  • It is not about bringing someone in who will just identify your enabling and talk your loved one into treatment. If that is your goal, that is a free service that most Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous members would be happy to help you with. 
  • No shortcuts or continuous conversations with the alcoholic or addict, begging and pleading with them to stop using the substance.
  • Interventions are not just getting them to go to treatment while the family sits home anxiously awaiting successful completion.
  • Not about getting your loved one back home to feed your enabling, codependency, and unhealthy family role. 
  • Not about how to control the substance user; it is about how to let go of believing you can. 
What IS an Intervention
  • Teaching the family how to communicate with the alcoholic or addict and each other effectively.
  • Addressing the family roles that have prevented the alcoholic or addict from seeking help.
  • Addressing the family roles that have prevented the family from seeking help for themselves and the alcoholic or addict.
  • Identifying behaviors that comfort and worsen the addiction.
  • Helping the family understand that their frustration is not solely with the substance user but with other family members too.
  • Guiding families in their own recovery whether or not the alcoholic or addict enters rehab for themselves.
  • Providing families closure that regardless of the outcome, they feel they have done all they can to prevent further destruction and have offered their loved one help. 

Types of Interventions

Johnson Model

The Johnson Model attempts to confront the individual abusing substances in a way that shows their love and care. Instead of blaming or attacking the addict, the Johnson method aims to educate and motivate the individual to want change (Recovery). This is a tried and true method of intervention. Read More.

Field Model

The Field Model incorporates aspects of the Johnson and Invitational Models. This model is specifically used to help when a person has the possibility of becoming violent or reacting in a negative matter. Given that possibility, a therapist will have to know how to act accordingly. Read More.

Systemic Model

A healthy family systemic model includes support and encouragement. Letting your loved one know that people support him or her getting help is huge. Healing from addiction is not just for the addict, but the family and friends too. Everyone needs to cope with what happened during a loved one’s drinking or drug intake. Read More.

Workplace Intervention

If you suspect a coworker is developing a substance abuse problem, then it might be on you to save his or her life. Maybe your coworkers friends and family do not see the signs like you do. Maybe they have held an intervention for him or her and it didn’t work. Step in and hold an intervention for them. Read More.

Who Needs an Intervention?

Identifying if your loved one needs an intervention involves observing changes in behavior, health, and daily functioning due to substance abuse. Key signs include neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home; withdrawing from social activities they once enjoyed; engaging in risky behaviors; experiencing legal problems; and showing physical signs of addiction or withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, if they’ve attempted to quit but failed, or if their substance use is causing significant distress within the family, it might be time to consider an intervention. It’s about recognizing the cumulative impact of these signs, indicating that they need help beyond what friends and family can provide alone.

How Do You Start an Intervention?

Starting an intervention begins with preparation. It involves gathering a small, supportive group who genuinely cares about the individual. Often, it’s beneficial to consult with a professional who can guide the process, ensuring that the conversation remains focused and productive. Everyone involved needs to express their feelings and concerns without judgment, ideally sharing specific instances where the addiction has caused pain or harm.

Importance of Writing a Letter

Writing an intervention letter from the heart is a powerful tool in persuading an addict to seek help. It allows you to express your deep concerns, love, and the emotional toll of their addiction in a structured, thoughtful manner. Such letters personalize the intervention, making it clear that the plea for change is rooted in genuine care and desire for the addict’s well-being. By sharing specific examples of how their addiction has affected your relationship and your life, you can help them see the reality of their situation. A heartfelt letter can break through denial, touching the addict emotionally and motivating them to consider treatment.

When is the Best Time to Do an Intervention?

Timing is everything. Choose a moment when your loved one is sober, and there’s enough time to have a thorough discussion without rushing. Avoid times of high stress or significant life events that might make the individual more defensive or less open to listening.

What is Considered a Successful Intervention?

Success isn’t just about getting your loved one to agree to treatment on the spot—though that’s a hopeful outcome. A successful intervention opens up lines of communication, helps your loved one feel seen and cared for, and lays the groundwork for change, whether immediate or gradual. It’s about planting a seed of awareness and making it clear that support is available when they’re ready to take that step.

Intervention for Alcohol Abuse Stat

What Happens After the Intervention?

Post-intervention paths can vary. If your loved one agrees to seek treatment, the next steps involve supporting them through the process—helping with logistics, offering emotional support, and maintaining a positive, hopeful outlook. If they choose a treatment program, understanding what it entails and how you can be involved is crucial.

What About Treatment?

What Happens if Our Loved One Says No to Treatment?

A refusal to seek treatment can be heartbreaking, but it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Continue offering your support and love, and keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes, it takes multiple conversations and interventions for someone to be ready to accept help. Maintain healthy boundaries and seek support for yourself too; dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be an emotionally taxing experience.

What Happens if Our Loved One Says Yes to Treatment?

If your loved one agrees to treatment, it’s a moment of hopeful breakthrough. Act swiftly to capitalize on their willingness to seek help. Work together to explore treatment options, making decisions about inpatient or outpatient programs, and start the necessary arrangements. Your support will be crucial in this phase, offering encouragement and reinforcing their decision to pursue a healthier path.

An intervention is a powerful gesture of love, showing someone who’s struggling that they’re not alone, and there is a way out of the darkness of addiction. It’s a step toward healing, not just for the individual but for everyone affected by their substance abuse. Remember, recovery is a journey, one that often involves setbacks and challenges, but with continued support, compassion, and professional guidance, it’s a journey that can lead to a renewed life.

Importance of Family Roles

The importance of family roles in conducting an intervention cannot be overstated. Each family member brings a unique perspective and emotional connection to the process, contributing to a comprehensive support system that encapsulates the full impact of addiction. By delineating specific roles—such as the primary communicator, the emotional supporter, or the logistic coordinator—families can approach the intervention with a unified, organized front. This structured involvement ensures that the message is delivered cohesively and with maximum impact, highlighting the collective desire for the loved one’s recovery. Engaging family roles effectively fosters an environment of love, support, and a clear path toward healing. Learn more about family roles and their place in an intervention.

Finding an Interventionist

Intervention services provide people with several different interventionists through a company that employs them. Some interventionists work for themselves. Picking a type of intervention service is up to you. When you select an intervention service, you will get to pick an interventionist who best fits the needs of your family.

Every interventionist has his or her own strength. Finding the right interventionist for your family is crucial. You want to pick somebody you are comfortable with and who you feel like communicates the needs of your family most effectively. Don’t rush into making a decision about an interventionist. This is a major decision.

When you hire an interventionist, it’s important to not hold anything back from them. You want to disclose all you can about family history and about the person who has a substance abuse issue. If you don’t disclose everything you can, it can make the intervention process go smoother. Before the actual intervention, the interventionist will hold an interview with the family and have a planning session to figure out how to go about the event. When you hire an interventionist, you make an investment in your love one’s life. Interventionists greatly increase the chances of the intervention going smoothly. Learn More

Intervention is for the Family

An intervention serves as a pivotal moment for families to help a loved one struggling with substance abuse, but it’s also a critical time for establishing boundaries and creating a supportive environment conducive to lasting recovery. Through the intervention process, families learn to communicate effectively, expressing their concerns and expectations without enabling the addiction. It’s about setting clear, healthy boundaries that protect both the individual and the family’s well-being. This collective effort fosters a strong support system, emphasizing accountability, love, and mutual respect, laying a solid foundation for the journey towards recovery and healing, reinforcing that no one has to navigate this path alone.

Coping with an Addicted Loved One

Do not feel that any of this is your fault. Addiction is a disease that requires professional help to overcome. If your friend or family member is missing out on life because of drugs and alcohol, know that it might not be their fault. You should also know that a comeback for them is possible. If you do not want to see attend an early funeral or visit your loved one in prison, then you have to hold an intervention. Give your loved on the wakeup call they needs. Your loved one might not realize that their problem is so out of hand.

Nobody chooses to live in hell, they get dragged there by their addiction. Help your loved see that there is a way to recover from their current situation. Be there for your friends and family no matter how much pain they may have caused you. Because if they keep feeding their addiction, they will not be there ever again.

You also might have to make an effort to not enable your friend. Do not encourage their drinking or drug abuse. Most people abuse drugs and alcohol to numb feelings of isolation. If you can help take away that feeling of isolation, then you might be able to reach them. It is never too late to help a loved one or close friend. Learn More


Q: What exactly is an intervention?

A: An intervention is a structured and planned process where family and friends, sometimes facilitated by a professional, confront a loved one about their substance abuse or destructive behavior. The goal is to encourage them to seek treatment and support their journey towards recovery.

Q: Who should be involved in an intervention?

A: Interventions typically involve close family members, friends, and sometimes colleagues who are directly affected by the individual’s behavior. Involving a professional interventionist can also provide guidance and help manage the process effectively.

Q: How do I know if an intervention is necessary?

A: An intervention may be necessary if a loved one is in denial about their substance abuse or harmful behavior, and it’s negatively impacting their life and relationships. Signs include deteriorating health, financial problems, relationship issues, and legal troubles related to their behavior.

Q: What happens during an intervention?

A: During an intervention, participants take turns expressing their concerns and the impact of the individual’s behavior on their lives, in a compassionate and structured manner. The group offers a prearranged treatment plan and outlines the consequences if the individual refuses help.

Q: What if the individual refuses help during the intervention?

A: Refusal is a possibility. If the individual refuses help, it’s important to follow through with any outlined consequences to maintain boundaries. Continue to offer support and be ready to help when they are willing to accept it. Persistence and continued love and support can eventually encourage them to seek treatment.