What Are Effective Intervention Techniques for Addicted Loved Ones?

group intervention

Updated on August 10th, 2020

Your loved one has been acting strangely for months. She avoids family gatherings like the plague, she is overly defensive when confronted about her behavior, and family valuables are disappearing left and right.

A few weeks ago you caught her with a stash of drugs in her bedroom. You know that she needs help and you even suggested a drug detox program, but she insisted she was fine and was quitting on her own. “If you would just give me some space I could quit anytime I wanted,” she said.

Not knowing what to do, you backed off and let her figure things out on her own. But her behavior continued to worsen and last week she lost her job. You know it’s time to do something but what do you do? How do you talk to her about her drug use without pushing her further away?

Many family members find themselves in this exact situation and struggle to find a way to motivate their loved one to seek treatment. In instances like these, a planned intervention may be the most effective way to motivate a loved one to enroll in a drug and alcohol detox program and begin their journey to recovery.

What Is an Intervention for Addiction?

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, an intervention is simply an opportunity to interrupt a person’s destructive life patterns.1 The primary goals of an addiction intervention are:

  • To get a loved one to admit that they need help
  • To convince them to enroll in a treatment program right away

An intervention is not designed to be a tool that attacks, condemns, or criticizes an individual for his or her behaviors. Instead, loved ones are encouraged to share specific examples of how the person’s addiction has harmed them or those around them. All accusatory statements should be left out of the conversation and the environment should continually be one of understanding and compassion.

If an intervention is held positively and effectively, more often than not, the addicted loved one will be responsive to the concerns shared by his or her friends and family. While an intervention is never guaranteed to get your loved one to enroll in treatment, it is a healthy and effective approach to addressing drug and alcohol addiction and may even serve as motivation to enroll in a drug detox program later down the road.

Should I Host An Addiction Intervention for My Loved One?

If you believe your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he or she may need to complete a program at a detox center before he or she can enroll in an inpatient residential drug and alcohol rehab center. In some cases, an individual may not ask for help or seek treatment on their own. An intervention can serve as a starting point to get the ball rolling.
You may need to start planning for an intervention if you have experienced one or more of the following scenarios listed below.Previous conversations with your loved one have done nothing to help.
If you’ve already had brief conversations with your loved one about his or her drug and alcohol usage, this is the first sign that there is a serious problem. But if your loved one is unresponsive to these conversations, it may be time to plan a full intervention.

Your loved one is experiencing health problems related to their addiction.
Drug and alcohol addiction is extremely harmful to the body and can cause serious medical conditions. It is not unlikely that a person may begin to experience health problems just weeks or months after engaging in risky drug and alcohol usage.

Your loved one’s behaviors are putting others in your household in danger.
If your loved one’s actions are threatening the safety of you or others in your household, it’s time to take action. Violent behavior, in particular, should never be tolerated.

Your loved one’s habit is compulsive.
If your loved one’s habit has become completely uncontrollable and compulsive, this is a strong sign that they are addicted. Examples of compulsive drug or alcohol abuse may include:3

  • Spending a great deal of time using or trying to acquire the substance
  • Starting each day off with substance use
  • Using a substance at school or work as a means to function normally
  • Giving up other hobbies or activities to use a substance instead
  • Failing to meet important obligations at school, home, or work because of substance use

Your loved one is displaying suicidal tendencies.
If your loved one begins talking about suicide, cutting or harming himself or herself intentionally, or seems extremely depressed, an intervention is certainly necessary.

Your loved one is draining bank accounts to support his or her habit.

Drug and alcohol abuse often leads to financial distress because addicted individuals will do just about anything to obtain their drug of choice. If your loved one is putting your family in financial distress due to irresponsible spending, an intervention may be the best way to take control of your finances and convince your loved one to enroll in a drug detox program. Your loved one got into trouble with the law. If your loved one had a run-in with the police or is facing jail time or serious fines, the time for an intervention is now.

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    How to Host An Intervention

    No two interventions are the same and the process of hosting an intervention may look different depending on the situation. During the intervention, each individual describes how the person’s drug abuse has hurt them. Then the loved ones present the addicted individual with a clear treatment plan, which usually requires that the person enroll at a detox center, and clearly define certain boundaries they will draw if the person refuses to seek treatment.2 Examples of boundaries could be:

    • Not providing financial support
    • Not “rescuing them” from the consequences of their drug use
    • Not cleaning up their messes after a drunken episode
    • Not giving them rides to meet friends who also use drugs
    • Not letting them borrow the car

    Many families are unfamiliar with the idea of hosting an intervention and therefore seek intervention assistance from a skilled professional.

    Who Should Be Involved In An Intervention?

    An addiction intervention most often involves a small group of people, including:

    • The addicted person’s spouse or partner
    • Other family members
    • Close friends
    • A counselor or therapist
    • A sponsor (if the addicted person already has one)
    • An addiction professional

    When Should I Host an Intervention?

    Timing is one of the most difficult aspects of holding an intervention. Although it is ideal to stage an intervention as soon as you realize your loved one has an addiction problem, that may not always be possible. Just make sure to consider the following factors when choosing a time to hold an intervention:

    • State of mind – Wait until your loved one is sober to hold the intervention. If he or she is high or drunk while you’re trying to discuss the issue, he or she is much less likely to take you seriously, let alone be able to focus on the issue at hand.
    • Availability of participants – You’ll want to consider the availability of all those involved in the intervention before you decide on a day and a time.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) actively promotes early intervention strategies to reduce the impact of substance use disorders in communities around the country. Despite the popular notion that family and friends should wait until a loved one hits rock bottom  before they intervene, data actually shows that early intervention following the first major episode of a disorder can make an impact.4

    SAMHSA promotes the SBIRT approach, which stands for:

    • Screening – a process that identifies and assesses the presence and severity of substance use and provides recommendations for appropriate treatment
    • Brief Intervention – provides insight and awareness of the substance abuse problem and motivates the individual to seek treatment
    • Referral to Treatment – provides access to the appropriate level of treatment needed based on the results of the initial screening

    The SBIRT approach provides opportunities for early intervention with at-risk substance users before they experience the more severe consequences of their substance abuse.5

    In short, there is no perfect time to hold an intervention but sooner is always better than later. Although you may have heard that it’s best to let a loved one hit “rock bottom” before taking action, the earlier addiction treatment is started, the better chance your loved one has of finding long-term success in recovery.

    What Are the Qualities of an Effective Intervention?

    Real-life interventions are very different from the A&E reality TV show “Intervention.” Although every person and situation is unique, most effective interventions possess the following qualities:

    Loving Environment

    A successful intervention does not leave a family divided or make the addicted person feel hurt, attacked, or condemned. Rather, a successful intervention is conducted with care, love, and concern and encourages the addicted person to enroll in treatment and begin their journey to recovery.

    Well-Planned Process

    Interventions should be planned, if possible. Spur-of-the-moment interventions are much more likely to spiral out of control and become an overly-emotional argument. Friends and family should prepare for the intervention by writing down and rehearsing what each person would like to say. This can help prevent any overly-emotional speeches that do more harm than good or cause conflict that could prevent the addict from accepting any help. Choosing an appropriate time to host the intervention is also an important part of the planning process. Try to pick a time early in the day when your loved one is most likely to be clear-headed and sober (or as sober as possible). Hosting an intervention immediately following a drug-related arrest may also be effective timing.

    Conflict-Free Dialogue

    When you confront your loved one, try your best to avoid blaming or verbally attacking the person, and instead, focus on solutions, like settling on a treatment plan. For example, instead of saying, “You made me so mad and hurt when you missed my graduation because you got drunk,” say, “I felt very hurt and angry when you got drunk and missed my graduation.” If the addicted individual tries to pick a fight with you or verbally attacks you, do not respond. Doing so will only fuel the fire. Try to focus on the overall goal: getting your loved one into treatment.

    Clear Ultimatums and Follow-Through

    At the conclusion of the intervention, you should ask the addict to immediately commit to treatment. At this time, you should share any consequences or ultimatums you will commit to if he or she continues to abuse drugs. If your loved one refuses to get help, be prepared to follow through on those ultimatums no matter how difficult it may be for you. This may seem harsh, but remember that shielding your addicted loved one from the natural consequences of his or her addiction will only make the problem worse. Your addicted loved one will need to decide to get help when they are ready.

    Treatment Recommendations

    Since the primary goal of an intervention is to motivate an individual to seek treatment, the loved ones involved should always provide detailed suggestions for a treatment plan.6 In most cases, this should start with a medically assisted drug detox program, which will help the addicted person achieve a stable, sober state and prepare them for entry into a drug and alcohol rehab program. Ideally, these treatment recommendations will also accept the person’s health insurance and have immediate openings for new clients. Remember, the goal is to get your loved one into a treatment program right away.

    Talk to a Treatment Expert - (512) 605-2955

      Should I Hire An Addiction Interventionist?

      Successful interventions are often facilitated by professional interventionists, also referred to as intervention specialists or interventionists. Interventionists are individuals who are highly trained in family systems and successful intervention techniques. If this is your first time hosting an addiction intervention for a loved one, you may want to consider working with a professional interventionist.

      An interventionist will be able to help you identify the appropriate individuals who should be involved in the intervention and will also provide support, education, and guidance before, during, and after they facilitate the intervention. An interventionist will also have the knowledge and education to provide recommendations for treatment options that are best suited to your loved one’s needs and circumstances.7

      Many carefully planned interventions are successful. In fact, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, when an intervention is performed under the guidance of a professional interventionist, more than 90 percent of people commit to getting help.8 If you fear your addicted love one may become violent or hurt themselves during the intervention, working with an interventionist may be especially important.

      Even when an intervention appears to have failed, many loved ones will come back later, ask for help, and decide to enroll in a drug detox or rehab program as a result of the intervention.

      At Briarwood Detox Center, we have helped countless families connect with professional interventionists to successfully get their loved ones into treatment and onto a path of recovery. If you have a loved one who needs help to overcome a drug or alcohol addiction, please call us today. We are happy to provide intervention assistance and pair you with a qualified and vetted professional who will best address your needs and circumstances.

      What Are Intervention Techniques?

      There are many different intervention techniques used by professionals, but these are just a few of the most common.

      • Johnson Intervention Model – The Johnson Model is what most people think of when they hear the word intervention. It involves calling an addict to a meeting where friends and family members confront him or her about the addiction. Family members also lay out clear consequences that will occur if the addict refuses to enroll in treatment.9
      • Family Systemic Model – This intervention technique is less confrontational and more encouraging, which may be beneficial for addicts who are extremely defensive. During the discussion, family members and friends all talk about how everyone plays a role in the addict’s substance abuse and encourages the user to stop abusing drugs and/or alcohol and enroll in a drug detox or rehab program immediately.10
      • ARISE Intervention – Unlike many other intervention techniques, with this one, the addict is aware that loved ones are planning an intervention and he or she is invited to attend. The addicted individual is told exactly what he or she can expect at the intervention and that the meeting will provide information about why the loved ones believe seeking treatment is the best option and which treatment options would be best. Even if the addict chooses not to attend, the intervention still takes place under the guidance of a professional interventionist.11
      • Motivational Interviewing – This type of intervention includes open-ended questions, reflective listening, affirmations, a summarization, and questions that elicit self-motivational statements. This type of intervention motivates the addict to seek treatment through the use of open-ended conversation and is a less confrontational intervention technique.12
      • The “crisis intervention” approach – This intervention technique is usually implemented immediately after a drug-related crisis or incident, such as an arrest or an overdose. Unfortunately, there isn’t much a family can do to prepare for this type of intervention. However, in most cases, families use the crisis as an opportunity to confront the addicted person and discuss how the addiction caused the incident and then ask the person to go to treatment as soon as they are physically able.

      Regardless of the intervention technique you choose to use, it is best to have the help of an experienced and trained intervention specialist. Having the guidance of a professional will increase the likelihood that your loved one will be responsive to the intervention and enroll in a drug detox program to begin treatment.

      What to Do When a Loved One Is Not Responsive to an Addiction Intervention

      If your loved one still refuses to go to treatment after conducting an intervention, don’t give up on them. Continue to love and care for them, but make sure to follow through on any boundaries you outlined during the intervention.

      If you’d like intervention assistance but aren’t sure where to start, Briarwood Detox Center can help. In some instances, members of our staff may get personally involved, but most often, we will refer you to a professional interventionist who can help. If you’re ready to get started, call Briarwood Detox Center today.


      1. https://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/learn-about-intervention/
      2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-2004745
      3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics
      4. https://www.samhsa.gov/prevention
      5. https://www.samhsa.gov/sbirt/about
      6. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-intervention
      7. http://www.interventionsupport.com/intervention-specialist/what-is/
      8. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines
      9. http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/practice-settings/intervention/johnson-intervention.aspx
      10. https://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/what-is-the-family-systemic-model-of-intervention/
      11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9650142
      12. http://methoide.fcm.arizona.edu/infocenter/index.cfm?stid=243

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