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How to Do an Intervention Successfully [Change Begins Here]
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How to Do an Intervention Successfully [Change Begins Here]

Written by Seth Fletcher on April 24, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: April 29, 2024

Watching someone you love or care about fall into addiction can be heartbreaking and deeply troubling. You may have tried to speak to them lovingly without much success. They may refuse to listen to you, react aggressively or make empty promises to change. Situations like these can be frustrating, pushing to the point where staging an intervention becomes your only option. 

An intervention is a delicate process, and getting it right is critical to helping the individual with addiction see the need for help. CCFA’s guide to intervention answers the question, “What is an intervention?" and explains how to do an intervention successfully. 

Key Takeaways

  • An intervention is a process of helping someone struggling with addiction find help.
  • It is usually done with the support of friends and family to help the individual see the negative impact of their behaviour.
  • An intervention may also be carried out with the help of a professional.
  • Proper planning and implementation are necessary for the success of an intervention.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a structured and planned process of meeting a person struggling with addiction or mental health issues and getting them to see the need for help and support. It is often done with the support of family and friends and may include a professional interventionist or mental health expert. 

An intervention is a carefully planned process that aims to help the individual see the need for help and to provide them with the resources and support to get that help. Every stage of an intervention must be meticulously planned to offer the best chance of success. In many cases, an intervention can be difficult and emotionally challenging, but it can be a crucial step in helping a loved one overcome addiction. 

Planning an Intervention

It’s essential to put thought and effort into planning an intervention. You need sufficient knowledge about the process and the right support to increase your chances of a positive outcome. Some steps for planning a successful intervention include: 

Come from a Place of Love and Concern

To come from a place of love and concern means approaching the intervention with the individual’s best interests in mind. You should be empathetic, understanding, and non-judgmental. It’s essential to note that addiction is often the result of complex factors and not necessarily proof of moral failure. Approaching an intervention from a place of love and concern can help the person feel supported and understood rather than shamed or judged. 

Educate Yourself

One of the most important things you can do when planning an intervention is to obtain sufficient knowledge. Learn all you can about the nature of your loved one’s addiction, as well as the resources and support available to help. Getting adequate education will help you approach the intervention with knowledge and understanding. There are tons of addiction help resources online to aid your search. You could also visit your local library for helpful materials on addiction and how it affects the individual. 

Ask for Help

You don’t have to plan an intervention on your own. Speak to friends and family members who may already understand the situation to know what they think. Explain what you plan to do and invite them to be part of the process. Invite only those who share your desire to see the individual get better. Some people may be enablers, and you don’t want them to be part of the intervention. You may also need to speak to a professional at this stage for advice regarding the specific addiction and how to proceed with your intervention.  

Prepare for Different Reactions

When planning an intervention, preparing for a range of possible reactions is necessary. Your loved one may be resistant to your efforts and react with anger, denial, or even violence. They may also be open to your idea of getting help but feel scared, overwhelmed, or uncertain. It’s essential to be prepared for all of these reactions and to have a plan for how to respond to each one. 

How to Stage an Intervention

Now that you’re adequately prepared for an intervention, it’s time to look at how to stage one. Every addiction case is unique, and you may need to factor the individual’s personal needs into your plan. Here are steps on how to stage an intervention: 

Prepare the Intervention Team

The intervention team consists of those closest to the person in need of help who are willing to support them through the process. A professional interventionist may also be included to provide a factual or non-emotional angle to the proceedings.

Choose a Location

Choosing the right location is also necessary for a positive addiction intervention outcome. The venue should be a safe and comfortable space where the person will feel at ease. It is also important to consider privacy and discretion so the individual does not feel judged or scrutinized. Some suitable places for staging a drug or alcohol intervention include a private room in a home, a formal dining room, a therapist’s office, or some other neutral and private space. 

Plan Who Talks First

Decide who will begin the discussions during the intervention. If you involve a professional, they can help you choose the speaking order. It is essential to consider the dynamics of the group and the relationship each person has with the individual in need of help. The first speaker in an intervention should be a high-impact speaker. Ideally, this should be someone close to the person whom they trust and who can speak from the heart. It is crucial for the first speaker to be calm and collected and to avoid coming off as confrontational or judgmental.

Plan What to Say

Each speaker should have a plan for what to say before the intervention. They should have a clear and concise message without being too long-winded or emotional. The message should be gentle but honest and straightforward, with the focus being on the individual’s need for help and not necessarily on the individual. It is important to avoid blaming, shaming, or lecturing during the intervention. The focus should be on expressing concern and support and on offering solutions.  

Using “I” statements is great for communication during a drug intervention as they are a valuable psychological tool. That means saying, “I feel like you’re doing this,” instead of saying, “You’re doing this.”

It not only subtly encourages the person with addiction to think of your feelings, but it’s less likely to get a harsh denial in return. People don’t like to be told who they are or what they feel. 

Have Resources for Help Available 

You should have help resources on hand during the intervention process. These resources may include information about treatment options, support groups, and other forms of care. It is also important to have the contact information for these resources ready to share with the person so they can easily access the help they require. Having available help shows you’re prepared and committed to supporting the person.  

Manage Your Expectations

Make room for the possibility that your intervention may not go as planned. Your loved one may be unwilling to accept help or even react negatively to your attempts. You have to understand that change is a process that often takes time. They may not be ready to get help right away, and that’s okay. Let them know your help and support is available when they’re ready. 

Rehearse the Plan 

All team members should review and rehearse the process before the meeting. This preparation ensures everyone knows their role and how to respond to issues that may arise.

Hold the Intervention

The intervention itself should be conducted in a calm and supportive manner. Everyone should take turns speaking as planned, and the overall tone should be caring and understanding. It is vital to avoid being confrontational or accusatory, as this will only make the person defensive and less likely to accept help. Instead, focus on expressing concern and offering solutions. Listen without interrupting and try to understand their perspective when the person with addiction speaks. 

Establish Consequences and Stick to Them

In some cases, you may need to set ultimatums and consequences if the person refuses help. These propositions should be discussed beforehand and related to the person’s behaviour and how it impacts their life. For example, an ultimatum could be that if the person does not seek help, they will not be allowed to live in the family home. The consequences should be clear and agreed upon by all parties and should be followed through if the person does not respond positively. 

Ask for an Immediate Decision and Follow-Up

Ask for an immediate decision about whether they’ll accept help after the intervention. It’s important to do this in a non-hostile manner while respecting the individual’s decision, even if it’s not positive. If they agree to get help, follow up with them to ensure they get the required resources. This may mean making appointments or contacting treatment centres. Team members severely impacted by the addiction may need therapy, while others may offer to participate in group counselling sessions with the loved one with an addiction. 

When to Consult a Professional

There are certain situations where it’s best to seek expert help on how to hold an intervention. You may need professional intervention if the individual has displayed any of the following:

  • Severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
  • A history of violence and abuse, whether physical or verbal
  • Threats of self-harm, suicide, or harm to others
  • Stiff resistance to change or previous intervention efforts
  • Polysubstance abuse

A professional helps to ensure the intervention is conducted safely. You may also need to consult a professional if there is a lot of family conflict or complex legal or financial issues involved. A professional can help to navigate these complex situations and ensure the intervention is as effective as possible. 

Tips for Staging a Successful Intervention

Proper planning and implementation of an intervention can help your loved one see the need for help. You can increase your chances of a positive outcome after an intervention by noting the following tips:

  • Have a clear and specific plan for what you want to say
  • Choose the right time and place for the intervention
  • Ensure they’re sober and not under the influence of a substance when you speak with them
  • Be patient and calm, even if the individual reacts negatively
  • Avoid blaming or shaming the individual during the intervention – offer solutions instead
  • Listen to their perspective and let them know you care
  • Be realistic about your expectations – an intervention is not a magic fix
  • Follow up after the intervention to ensure they are getting the help they need
  • Don’t enable them by making or accepting their excuses
  • Seek the services of a professional if required

If you’re wondering how to help someone with addiction accept treatment, the Canadian Centre for Addictions can help. At CCFA, we offer a professional approach to alcohol or drug intervention. Our group and individual counselling sessions come from qualified interventionists who help your family soften the blow of confronting an addicted loved one. We boast a high success rate, with 85% of clients choosing to seek treatment after an intervention. We also provide addiction treatment options in our serene and luxurious treatment centers. Call us today at 1-855-499-9446, and someone will speak to you.


Do interventions work?

Yes. Interventions do work as an effective tool for helping people struggling with addiction or other mental health problems. However, it’s necessary to keep in mind that the success of the process depends on knowing how to have an intervention and other factors like the willingness of the individual to change. Also, some people may require multiple interventions before they see the need for help.

What are four intervention strategies?

The four intervention strategies often used include:
• The Johnson Model
The Johnson model is the most recognized intervention model and involves family and friends expressing their concerns and offering support in a caring and respectful way.
• The ARISE Model
The ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement) model is a structured and goal-oriented model that aims to get the person to accept treatment within a specific timeframe.
• The Systemic Family Model
This model examines the family system and uses a family-driven approach to encourage the individual to seek help.
• The Motivational Interviewing (MI) Model
This model uses motivational interviewing techniques to help the individual become more open to change.

What are the different intervention types?

The different intervention types include:
• Crisis Intervention: Used when the individual’s substance abuse has led to a crisis situation.
• Family Systems Intervention: Used to confront family members who may be enabling or contributing to the addictive behaviour.
• Classic Intervention: Occurs when loved ones and friends come together to speak to the individual about their addiction in a loving, non-judgmental manner.
• Simple Intervention: Occurs when one person, typically a friend or family member, speaks to the individual about their addiction in a private or neutral environment.

Why do interventions fail?

An intervention may fail for several reasons, including:
• Inviting the wrong people to be part of the team
• Failing to stick to the plan
• Allowing emotions to get in the way
• Letting the subject of the intervention control the narrative
• Not seeking professional help when necessary

When is it too late for an intervention?

It is almost never too late for an intervention. An intervention is possible as long as the individual is alive. In cases where the individual is in serious legal trouble or has become a danger to themselves and others, an intervention may be more challenging to carry out but not impossible.

How do you know if an intervention is working?

You know an intervention is working if the person begins to acknowledge their problem and expresses a desire to change. Another sign is if they commence treatment or self-help activities. Additionally, they may start to rebuild broken relationships and pay more attention to their overall health and well-being.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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