Skip to content


Drug And Alcohol Intervention

A drug and alcohol intervention is a way to help someone get the help they need at any stage of their addiction. Interventions aim to help addicted individuals realize that they have a problem, that it is negatively impacting their lives, and that they need to seek treatment.

What Is A Drug Or Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is a carefully structured conversation facilitated by an interventionist. Family and friends learn how to communicate with their loved one with an alcohol or substance use disorder (SUD) during the intervention.

The goal of an intervention is to get their loved one to commit to treatment by sharing how their addiction has negatively impacted their own and others’ lives. Family and friends involved in the intervention also commit to implementing consequences if they refuse to enter treatment.

Interventions should serve as a safe space for everyone affected by substance abuse to discuss the impact and reasons contributing to the problem. However, it is inappropriate for participants to argue verbally or physically. Instead, it should be an opportunity for friends and family to empathize with their loved ones about their addiction and set healthy boundaries.

Challenges may arise during an intervention. Someone with an addiction may deny having a problem. They may get angry and accuse family and friends of betrayal. They may also refuse to participate in the intervention. If they cannot see their SUD has a profound impact on the lives of others, they are more likely to be resistant to change.

Denial can cause frustration in friends and family who want to see the sufferer achieve a positive transformation. However, a skilled interventionist and well-prepared family and friends can create a plan of action that ultimately benefits everyone involved.

Types Of Interventions

Interventions can take many shapes and forms. An intervention can be simple, where one person confronts a person with an addiction in a private setting. An alcohol and drug intervention may also happen during crises or when a person is in danger. Family interventions may be necessary when more than one person in a family has an addiction.

Common models of interventions have developed over time, including:

  • ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement)
  • The Family Systems Model
  • The Johnson Model

The most popular is the Johnson Model of Intervention. Rather than waiting for a life-changing event to occur to motivate someone into treatment, the Johnson Model creates an event for the person with an addiction through careful planning. There are seven components to the Johnson Model.

1. Creating A Team

An interventionist will choose friends and family closest to a person with an addiction.

2. Planning

The interventionist meets with the team members to discuss each person’s role and how they will confront their loved one with an addiction.

3. Focusing On Love And Care

An intervention’s focus should be on making the person with an addiction feel love, support, and care from the team.

4. Reading Letters

At the interventionist’s direction, team members will read letters they have written to their loved ones with addiction. These letters often include expressions of encouragement and support while highlighting a time when the person’s addiction negatively and personally impacted the writer. They should also include a consequence or boundary that the writer will uphold if the individual refuses treatment.

5. Focusing On The Addiction

The intervention is not the time to bring up problems and issues that do not relate to the addiction. Everyone must focus the conversation on the person’s addiction.

6. Offering Treatment

The person with an addiction is given the offer of treatment, which may look different for each person.

7. Providing Treatment Options

An interventionist will gather information, contact treatment facilities, and list three treatment options from which a person can choose. These options should take into account factors like the severity of the substance misuse, the type of substance used, and any specific needs of the individual, such as age-focused or mental health treatment.

Who Needs An Intervention?

Ideally, interventions should take place as soon as a person starts showing signs of drug or alcohol misuse.

Signs of substance abuse can include:

  • Changes in friend group
  • Disruption in sleep patterns
  • Changes in interactions with family and friends.
  • Putting themselves in risky situations
  • Changes in their physical appearance

They may also show specific symptoms and effects of the substance, like:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Fidgeting
  • Scratching
  • Talking too much or too little
  • Paranoia
  • Losing consciousness

There are eleven criteria for someone to be diagnosed with an SUD. However, addressing the problem before they meet the following criteria is best:

  • Using more than intended or for more extended periods
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit
  • Spending most of their time in activities related to substance misuse
  • Having cravings for the substances
  • Being unable to fulfill duties at work, home, school, or socially
  • Continuing to use despite problems at work, home, school, or socially
  • Avoiding activities to misuse substances
  • Putting themselves in high-risk situations to use or obtain substances
  • Continuing to use even though they know it is worsening their physical or psychological health
  • Developing a tolerance to the substance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after a time of not using

Who Should Be On The Intervention Team?

A trained interventionist will choose who is on the drug and alcohol intervention team. They will choose people who are directly affected by the person’s addiction. Having influential people, even indirectly affected by a person’s addiction, can help; for example, former coaches, employers, mentors, teachers, or pastors.

Avoid choosing the following to be on the team:

  • A significant other with an active addiction
  • An abusive partner
  • Someone who has personal conflicts with the person
  • Drug dealers or drug-using influences
  • Anyone who refuses to implement consequences upon refusal of treatment

How Does An Intervention Work?

An intervention begins when family and friends decide to act. They commit to doing whatever it takes to connect their loved one to drug and alcohol treatment. The following must happen to ensure the drug and alcohol intervention is beneficial.

Select An Interventionist

Interventionists specialize in planning and executing interventions and increase the odds of success. Interventionists bring expertise in moderating difficult conversations and are considered neutral third parties. Interventionists are trained in crisis intervention and management, giving them knowledge of what to do if the intervention doesn’t go as expected.

Plan The Intervention

Because every situation is different, each intervention needs to be carefully tailored to meet the unique needs of the person with an addiction. Interventionists customize drug and alcohol intervention plans, including:

  • Who should attend
  • Which team members will speak and read letters
  • What to write in personal letters
  • Where to hold the intervention
  • When to have the intervention

These factors can greatly affect the success of an intervention, so purposeful care and consideration should be taken when making these decisions.

Prepare And Rehearse

Anyone speaking or reading letters must write, plan, and rehearse what they will say. It is also essential to rehearse various ways the addicted individual may respond so that participants’ reactions are meaningful. The interventionist will provide everyone with education on addiction and recovery so that they can better empathize with their loved ones.

Letters are written before the intervention and state how the person’s addiction has affected their life. Letters should not be accusatory, mean, or judgmental. Letters must also state a team member’s bottom line or what will happen if they refuse the offer of treatment.

Conduct The Intervention

Interventions are notoriously unpredictable, and in extreme cases, anything from emotional outbursts to violence may occur. An interventionist will help the team prepare for unexpected responses. They will facilitate the drug and alcohol intervention process, keeping everyone on track and focused.

The offer of treatment is created with the help of the interventionist and based on the personal needs of the one with an addiction. The offer must be honest and reveal every stipulation. For example, an offer may include entering inpatient rehab and staying for at least 90 days.

If the offer is accepted, team members should fully support their loved one’s decision. If they reject the offer, team members must begin enforcing the consequences or bottom lines expressed in their letters.

Many interventionists offer treatment options to team members who need help with issues such as enabling, codependency, or how to help someone in recovery. Family therapy is an essential part of the recovery process.

How To Find A Treatment Program To Offer At The Intervention

If a person has insurance coverage, it’s important to call the insurance provider to see which drug and alcohol treatment options are covered. Local government drug and alcohol resources can provide information on grants, scholarships, or other funding sources for those without insurance.

Flexibility may be vital in getting someone into treatment. If an inpatient hospital doesn’t have an opening, offer a temporary solution, like intensive outpatient, until they can enter inpatient services.

What To Do If They Refuse Help

If someone refuses treatment, team members must be ready to implement the consequences immediately, as noted in their letters. This is a crucial part of a drug and alcohol intervention that can often make someone with an addiction follow through with treatment even after they initially refused. Team members should continue with their plan to engage in therapy for themselves.

Ready To Take The Next Step?

If you are concerned about a loved one’s alcohol or substance misuse and want to learn more about staging an intervention, help is available.

Contact a treatment provider today to explore treatment options and get your loved one the help they need to get their life back on track towards an addiction-free future.

Start Your Recovery Today

Help is available. Explore your recovery options and break free from addiction.