[Temporary] Intervention Parent Page

When a loved one struggles with an addiction, sometimes the most loving thing you can do for her is plan an intervention. Interventions allow family members and other loved ones to communicate to the addicted person how the drug abuse has impacted them.

Interventions can come in many different forms. Some include family and loved ones and others invite co-workers, members of the clergy and anyone who has influence over the addicted person. Interventions can be used to help those struggling with addiction, undiagnosed mental illness or a combination of issues that are negatively impacting their life and the lives of those around them.

People who are struggling with addictive behaviors are usually in denial about their problem, how it is affecting others and the fact that they need treatment. Intervention is an opportunity for loved ones to address each issue in a non-threatening way, show the person that they are loved and spell out the consequences should the person continue in her downward spiral.


Helping a Loved One Through an Intervention

Women holding intervention for friendHolding an intervention for a loved one struggling with abuse or addiction can be a vital first step in helping that person to reduce or discontinue drug or alcohol use.1 Interventions are primarily for encouraging an individual to stop substance use and to be open to seeking treatment.

Many times people are in denial of the substance abuse problem or unaware of how their actions affect those around them. When planned carefully, an intervention can be very successful and, in the past, they have shown promise in helping to reduce or stop substance abuse, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.2

However, interventions, as popularized by the TV show of the same name, have earned a bad reputation due at least in part to a misunderstanding of just what an intervention is (and isn’t). The emotional scenes you see on reality TV bear little resemblance to an average intervention. The real goal of intervening is simply to help a close friend or loved one understand that while you love and care for them, you’re concerned and can’t allow them to continue their harmful behavior. An intervention is a meeting in which friends, family, colleagues and/or other loved ones share with the addicted individual specific examples of destructive behavior, talk about their emotions and recommend to the person possible options for treatment.3

Intervention isn’t just for the addicted individual. In fact, intervention is usually only 10 percent for the individual and 90 percent for the family because professionals know that everyone has work to do during the treatment process for true success.

Codependent and enabling behaviors also need to be addressed, so that the loved one in treatment returns home to a family system that can help support rather than sabotage their long-term sobriety.

When and How to Use an Interventionist

It’s important to remember that the primary goal of this process is breaking down barriers to treatment and getting the addicted individual the help they need. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be exhausting, leaving family and friends feeling defeated, angry or frustrated. They want to help but aren’t sure how to go about it, and their emotions can get in the way. That’s why it’s helpful to have an unbiased third party come in who can communicate clearly and factually, providing a professional opinion and helping present treatment options in a clear, focused way without distractions.

William shares how his parents planning an intervention for him led him to treatment. He says, “Those four months were extremely needed for me,” even though he was initially resistant to the idea. Don’t be discouraged if your loved one is not keen on the idea of treatment at first. Stay strong and caring to help them choose health for themselves and your relationships. An intervention specialist will be a great guide for these complicated times.

What is an Interventionist?

licensed professional interventionist
It is also a time for the addicted person to go straight into treatment. Interventions are professionally directed by an interventionist who assists the family in planning the meeting, writing out what they wish to say, rehearsing and finding the right treatment program.4

Enlisting the services of a professional interventionist means finding a someone who is experienced in the field. The right interventionist will also be licensed and have references from other professionals and former clients.

An interventionist is a person who helps you and your loved ones identify the people who should part of the intervention team, when it should happen and where your loved one should go for treatment. An interventionist is experienced in substance abuse treatment and other mental health and behavioral problems and is specifically trained in organizing and carrying out interventions.

Interventionists who are certified by the Association of Intervention Specialists meet a set of rigorous standards and are highly connected in the addictive medicine community. This allows the interventionist to connect families to a network of additional professionals that can help them as they support their loved one on her recovery journey.5


Using a trained and certified interventionist is the best way to plan an effective intervention that will help your loved one get the treatment she needs.


Intervention Methods and Models

Often, a professional interventionist is called in as an objective participant, helping everyone to focus on facts instead of the emotions felt by the loved ones of someone in trouble. It can also help everyone keep in mind the desired outcome of treatment.6

There is more than just one type of intervention, and professionals rely on a variety of proven models and methods. From invitational to systemic to a family approach, they should be willing to use what will work best for your loved one. Some models engage the entire family for a longer period, others focus on letting the individual have more control, and some interventions may even go forward without the addicted individual being present. Be sure to ask questions beforehand to make sure you’re choosing a method you believe will be most effective.

Choosing the Right Intervention for Your Situation

Each individual is unique, and what may help one person may not be successful with another. To determine the best option for your situation, there are three main areas to consider including the following:

  • Clinical Approach – To determine the interventionist who will have the best possibility of success, consider factors like gender, age and style or approach. Many interventionists also offer products in addition to intervention, so it’s important to determine early on if your loved one needs additional care and then make sure to hire someone who provides these services.
  • Resources – Unfortunately, intervention services aren’t covered by insurance like treatment may be. Unchecked addiction is usually far more costly than getting help, though, taking its toll financially, personally, professionally and emotionally. A reputable interventionist or referral agency will work with you to determine the level of financial support your family can provide and match you with an interventionist that fits your budget.
  • Geography – Often, by the time you reach out for help, the situation is dire and help is needed immediately. In this case, you may want to seek out an interventionist in your region who can get to you quickly. Of course, most interventionists do travel and are willing to do so frequently, but using someone local can also help cut costs or allow for the fastest possible response, which is why geography is a factor.


Intervention Steps

According to the Mayo Clinic, a with the help of a trained interventionist, an intervention usually includes the following:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Gather information
  3. Form the intervention team
  4. Decide on specific consequences
  5. Make notes on what to say
  6. Hold the intervention meeting
  7. Post-intervention

Interventions require careful planning in order to be successful. Not all interventions are successful, but attempting to help your loved one in this way makes a powerful statement about her need for treatment.


Need Advice?

Interventions have been essential in helping to reduce alcohol abuse and illicit drug use. On average, alcohol rates are reduced between 13 to 34 percent after interventions.7 They have also been shown to be helpful in reducing cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine use, according to HHS. Additionally, it’s estimated that around 90 percent of interventions are successful in helping a person to seek substance abuse treatment. Those are great odds.

Our admissions coordinators can help you evaluate your intervention needs, recommend an interventionist or help you know what level of treatment your loved one may need. Contact us and help him/her take their first steps to a life without addiction.


1Introduction to Brief Interventions and Therapies.” NCBI. 28 March 2011. Web. Accessed 2 July 2017.

2 Utley, Caitlin. “Family Intervention Tips.” How Stuff Works. Web. 5 July 2011. Web. Accessed 2 July 2017.

3Intervention: An Education Guide.” A&E. 2017

4 Wilcox, Stephen. “Intervention – Tips and Guidelines.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 25 July 2018.

5Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 July 2017.

6Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction.” Mayo Clinic. 2017

7 Utley, Caitlin. “Family Intervention Tips.” How Stuff Works. Web. 5 July 2011. Web. Accessed 2 July 2017.

Other Helpful Resources:

Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” NIDA. 2016

Volkow, N. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.” NIDA. 2012

What Is an Intervention? Learn About Intervention.” American Intervention Specialists, Aug. 2018.