Over 50 percent of adults in the United States admit to alcohol consumption, while one in eight meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder (also known as alcoholism). Of those individuals, about a quarter of them report consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, known as binge or heavy drinking.
When alcohol becomes a problem, some people will not have a problem cutting back or stopping on their own. However, others may need help because they are unable to stop without some type of assistance.
Encouragement from a supportive loved one to enroll in a treatment program for alcohol abuse or addiction can be a helpful first step. An intervention may be necessary if your loved one doesn’t seem to be able to stop drinking or see their drinking as an issue.
What Is An Intervention?
Interventions are meetings where loved ones can gather to have a conversation with the alcoholic about their alcohol use disorder, and how it is affecting those close to them.
Friends and family members can read letters and tell stories about how difficult it has been to watch them spiral out of control.
The purpose of an intervention is to explain to the person who is addicted to alcohol that they are loved and supported, but also that they need to get help because alcoholism is negatively impacting them and those around them.
Interventions allow the space for family members and loved ones to clearly explain what will happen to the addicted person if they choose not to go to treatment. An important part of an intervention is to tell the person with addiction that loved ones will no longer enable them if they refuse to go to treatment.
An important element of an intervention is that it is organized and structured. While it seems that attention is on the loved ones of the addicted person, the reality is that the entire focus of this meeting is the person who is addicted. Getting them to accept and attend a substance abuse treatment program is the goal of an intervention.
How To Organize An Intervention
An intervention takes careful planning. There are many phone calls that need to be made, information that needs to be discovered, people who need to be contacted. All of these things can be completed with the help of an addiction intervention specialist.
In addition, a professional interventionist has experience with these situations and they can guide participants before, during, and after the actual intervention. These individuals are usually an addiction treatment counselor, therapist, or psychologist.
Overall areas to consider when planning an intervention include:
- creating an intervention team
- having treatment options immediately available
- preparing to participate in the recovery process with your loved one
- engaging in self-care to make sure you are taken care of
- ensuring support of family members, friends, or intervention professionals is available
- designing a loose outline or guide for the intervention meeting
- holding the intervention
Creating The Intervention Team
The people on the intervention team are typically about six people that are close to and cared for by the person in need of addiction treatment. These could be loved ones, close friends, people of faith, and other adults that are important to them.
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It is equally important to make sure to not include individuals that would not be helpful to the intervention process.
In accordance with the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations on interventions, people that should not be included might be:
- anyone disliked by the person in need of treatment
- people with untreated substance abuse issues
- individuals with unregulated mental health issues
- people who cannot follow the guidelines established during planning
- those that would possibly want the intervention to fail
Immediate Treatment Options
Having treatment options, such as an inpatient or residential treatment center, available as soon as the person agrees to treatment is an important part of the intervention process.
This happens by reaching out to different addiction treatment clinics that are certified and using research-based recovery treatment methods. Having a treatment program already available for the person can encourage them to accept treatment.
A delay in locating a rehab facility can lead to a person backing out of treatment.
Participate In Treatment And Recovery
Those that were active in the intervention may also be expected to participate in treatment, once their loved one arrives and is assessed.
Recovery is a daily intention. Abstaining from alcohol and drug abuse is part of a treatment plan that has no end. The support and involvement of loved ones can make a big difference.
Take Care Of Yourself
Be clear with your loved one about what will happen if they refuse to go to treatment and hold yourself accountable. If you tell your loved one that you will no longer pay their rent, utilities or buy groceries, then don’t do it.
Consider writing down your intentions, thoughts, ideas, and ways you can help before the intervention. These meetings can be emotional and provoking. It can be helpful to have them in front of you at this first intervention.
If you find yourself struggling during this time, finding a therapist or a support group, like Al-Anon, can help you learn to manage those feelings.
Have An Available Support System
Despite the potential an alcohol intervention has for being emotionally elevated, it is very important that the intervention team remain calm and encouraging throughout the process. An aggressive, confrontational approach almost never works.
Having team members that understand the purpose and goal of an intervention, which is to provide a pathway to professional help to overcome addiction, can be incredibly supportive.
Overall, including individuals who are supportive of the goal and all the people involved will encourage a positive outcome.
A thorough outline to prepare everyone involved will serve as a helpful tool in the professional intervention process.
This outline can include components such as:
- examples of letters to loved ones
- what to say and what not to say
- how to talk about alcohol and drug addiction
- how to present treatment options
- what will happen after the intervention
There have been many different structured intervention models developed over time.
These models include:
The Johnson Model
Considered one of the first organized intervention models, this model is somewhat confrontational, and not as thoroughly planned as other models.
There are additional confrontational models, but it is important to know that confrontational methods attempt to use coercion and other forceful methods. These methods are not as successful as they are depicted on television.
Systemic Family Approach Model
In this model, it is essentially a family intervention approach. The group of individuals making up the intervention group is mainly family members, or individuals who are like family to the person addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Love First Model
This professional intervention model includes planning, rehearsal, and preparation in addition to the intervention itself. An intervention specialist will help with all the before/during/after needs of the alcoholic and family members/loved ones.
The Love First intervention model boasts a high success rate.
A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement (ARISE)
This intervention model is a little different than the other models. This specific intervention style will include the addicted person in all stages of the addiction intervention.
ARISE also uses step by step progression through the process, instead of just one intervention meeting. There is evidence that supports this model as a successful intervention approach.
Holding The Intervention
When all the details have been ironed out, the intervention will usually take place at a neutral location. In many circumstances, the intervention is not disclosed to the person struggling with alcohol abuse. Instead, they are taken to the meeting place without the knowledge that the intervention is about to happen.
As the intervention begins, members of the intervention team each take a turn to explain the ways they have been affected by their loved one’s drinking. Loved ones and family members also explain what will happen if the person does not agree to go to treatment.
Each person should specifically outline what will change in their relationship if they do not follow through with substance abuse treatment.
Delivery is important during an intervention. It is crucial to remain calm, no matter what happens. There is likely to be some frustration or anger coming from your loved one, but remaining focused on the task at hand is more productive.
What If The Intervention Doesn’t Work?
There is always a possibility that your loved one will refuse to go to a substance abuse treatment program. The first intervention is not always the last.
Trying to emotionally prepare for a potential rejection can help if it actually happens. This can be discussed during the planning phase.
Be sure that everyone sticks to the consequences explained during the intervention. While it is not possible to control your addicted loved one, you can certainly control yourself and how much you are willing to participate in their addiction.
Reaching out to others who may be enabling your loved one and asking them to stop enabling them can be helpful in dismantling the cycle that addiction creates.
Addiction Treatment After An Intervention
Treatment facilities for alcohol addiction typically include a detox program. Treatment providers work with clients to determine if there are any co-occurring mental illnesses as well as to address their substance use disorder during the recovery process.
Reach out to our helpline today. We can work with you to help find treatment and intervention options for your loved one. No one needs to go through recovery alone.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Connors, DiClemente & Velasquez — Substance abuse treatment and the stages of change: Selecting and planning interventions
- Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research — A prospective study of the factors influencing entry to alcohol and drug treatment
- Mayo Clinic — Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment in Behavioral Healthcare