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Intervention 2018-07-26T08:23:41+00:00

Tips for Hosting a Successful Intervention

An intervention is often a last, desperate move by family members and other loved ones of someone who cannot stop using drugs or alcohol. Because it is turned to in desperation does not mean, however, that an intervention should be done without planning or care. The success of this type of confrontation depends on organization, professional guidance and careful planning. Consider these important factors, and relying on a specialist, before hosting an intervention for someone you care about.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention, in simplest terms, is a confrontation with someone who needs assistance for a substance use disorder in an attempt to get him or her to agree to accept that help in the form of professional treatment. It may be done informally and without much planning, but a true intervention is guided by an addiction expert, therapist or counselor. It is planned well in advance to maximize the chance of a successful response and is designed to help a loved one overcome denial and accept that he or she needs help.1

Facts about Interventions

For family and friends who feel as if they have already done everything they can to convince a loved one to accept help and get professional treatment for a substance use disorder, it may seem as if an intervention is a longshot. But there is evidence that when organized correctly and guided by a professional, interventions have high success rates as measured by getting people into treatment.


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  • According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, intervention professionals record a success rate of 80 to 90 percent, where success means that the target of the intervention agrees to go into a treatment plan.
  • Of those who do not agree to treatment initially, nearly half will change their minds and accept help and treatment within a week or two of the intervention.2
  • An intervention can be used for all types of addictions and behavioral issues, including drug and alcohol use disorders, compulsive gambling, gaming addiction and binge eating.3
  • The success rate of the popular television show “Intervention,” which follows along as families confront addicts in their lives, is very high.4
  • On the TV show, 270 out of 276 people confronted agreed to go into treatment. Of those who went into treatment, about 55 percent got and remained sober for an extended period of time.
  • One reason for the high success rate on ‘Intervention’ may be the intense nature of making the show. The people being confronted are interviewed extensively and forced to answer questions about their addictions long before the actual intervention.

How to Succeed at an Intervention

While success rates are optimistically high for interventions, not all will work out the way the family hopes. There are some important guidelines and tips that can be followed to maximize the chance that a loved one will agree to treatment and go on to get care and get sober.

  • Work with a professional. While it’s possible to host a successful intervention without an expert, the odds of success are higher when a professional is involved. Intervention and addiction professionals are experienced with confronting people who are in denial. They know how to plan an intervention, how to talk to someone struggling to accept help and what to do when something goes wrong.
  • Plan well ahead. A good intervention requires planning. Get started well in advance to ensure those people important to the target of the intervention will be there, that everyone knows what is expected of them and that the treatment plan is set and ready to go. It is important that the person who needs treatment can access it immediately after agreeing to enter a program.
  • Include family and friends. An intervention does not need to be only a family affair. Friends can help balance the group and prevent it from becoming too emotional. Only include people, though, who can be counted on to be supportive, who do not have substance use disorders and who will be positive influences.
  • Determine consequences and make notes. A crucial part of an intervention is the setting of consequences. The person struggling with addiction needs to know what each person will or will not do if they refuse the treatment plan. This could mean cutting off financial support, refusing to provide a place to live, not allowing the individual to see his or her children, or other factors that are significant. Everyone should be prepared with notes, as it can be easy to forget what to say in this emotionally-charged setting.
  • Have one leader in addition to the intervention specialist. A well-organized intervention should have one person who acts as the liaison between the group and the intervention specialist. This person will help guide the group and will inform participants about what they need to do in advance and during the process.
  • Consider rehearsing. An intervention is not an easy thing to do. It involves confronting a loved one who is very sick and hurting, and offering up consequences. It is emotionally challenging, which is why it is a good idea to get everyone together before the real intervention to practice speaking and to get and give feedback. This should be done with the professional if possible.
  • Anticipate excuses. Success is more likely if the individual’s excuses for refusing treatment can be anticipated and handled. For instance, if he or she is going to be worried about leaving a pet, be ready with an option for who will care for it during treatment.
  • Stay calm but focused during the process. It is hard not to lose one’s cool during an intervention, but it is important for participants to remain as calm as possible. Stick with facts about how the individual’s actions have affected others, how it makes loved ones feel and what the consequences of not accepting treatment will be. Some emotion is fine, but avoid blowing up, yelling, sobbing or reacting to intense and hurtful responses.
  • Require an immediate answer. It is essential that the target of an intervention is required to say yes or no to treatment immediately. They cannot be allowed to have a day or two to consider it. This only gives them a chance to stay in denial even longer, and it can even result in a dangerous binge.

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When an Intervention Fails

Unfortunately, even with the best planning and intentions, not every intervention ends in the beginning of treatment. When a loved one refuses to accept help it can get very emotional. There may be anger, frustration, disappointment and a sense of betrayal on all sides. It is important that everyone involved is prepared in advance for this possible outcome to avoid letting it break down into yelling, crying or fighting.

If the intervention doesn’t result in the desired outcome, follow through with the consequences so the person struggling with addiction will have more motivation to decide to seek treatment. Ask other people involved to follow through as well and to stop engaging in any enabling behaviors. At some point, there may be nothing more a loved one can do other than to extend the offer of help and to cut off all kinds of actions that enable the addiction.

1National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Intervention – Tips and Guidelines.

2Association of Intervention Specialists. Intervention – What is the Success Rate?

3Mayo Clinic. Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.

4Busienss Insider. Here’s why Reality Show ‘Intervention’ Has a Higher Success Rate than Most Rehab Programs.

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