Posted - July 17, 2018

Are you familiar with the concept of an intervention?

If so, there’s a good chance it’s because of the wildly popular A&E reality television show. Intervention gave viewers around the country a sneak peek into the lives of substance-addicted individuals, their families, and their journey towards sobriety.

Of course, not every intervention program takes place while a film crew is documenting the proceedings, nor is neatly edited into a 50-minute television show. In reality, interventions are emotionally difficult for everyone involved. Yet they are often exactly what’s needed to motivate an addicted person to get help.


It’s a truism that someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol won’t take steps to get clean unless and until they are ready to do so themselves. In the parlance of addiction, she must “hit bottom” before choosing to get help. Yet in the meantime, the drug or alcohol abuse takes a great toll on her friends and family.

An intervention is intended to force the issue. The addict is confronted by closest family members and friends, who describe to their loved one exactly how they are being affected by the substance abuse.

Usually, an intervention also involves an ultimatum: the addict must either go into treatment, or lose the love and support — emotional and, often, financial — that her friends and family have been providing.

It’s important to understand that an intervention is usually a last-ditch effort, and should be used only when other methods haven’t worked. In other words, the family members and friends who stage an intervention must be prepared to follow through on the ultimatum, should the addict choose not to enter rehab.


The answer to this question is difficult because it depends on what you consider “success.” Is an intervention successful if the individual enters rehab as a result, but relapses down the road?

People who go through an intervention are more likely than others to begin a rehab treatment program. It’s difficult to say whether the intervention program has an effect on overall rehab success rates — or on relapse prevention.

However, there is evidence to support the idea that addicts with a strong support network do have a higher chance of getting and staying clean. So if an individual has family and friends that are concerned enough to stage an intervention, it follows that they will continue to support the addicted person during and after rehab.


Because it is usually a last resort, the intervention needs to be carefully orchestrated. It’s about more than just settling on a date, time, and location when all participants can be in attendance.

One person should take charge of organizing the intervention and should have an appropriate rehab treatment center lined up beforehand. In addition, anticipating the addict’s response — and potential excuses for not going into rehab — can be incredibly helpful. For example, make arrangements for child care, a leave of absence from the addict’s job, and payment for the treatment center.

Each participant should prepare a list of talking points, or even write a short letter that they will read aloud during the intervention. It’s a good idea to address the addicted individual directly, but this is not the time to attack, accuse, or get angry. Instead, explain what affects the substance abuse has had, and your fears for the future.

Remain compassionate, and make sure that the subject of the intervention understands that you love and support them.


While not necessary to have a counselor, therapist, or social worker who’s experienced in treating addiction attend the intervention, it can help. As you might imagine, interventions can get heated. Emotions run high, and it’s fairly easy to get sidetracked. A professional can ensure that the intervention runs as smoothly as possible, and gently guide participants back to the matter at hand.

It can be hard to predict how an addicted person will react to the intervention. They may capitulate immediately, or become hostile and defensive. There will almost certainly be feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, and denial.

If someone in the circle of family and friends has a cool head and can be relied upon to de-escalate emotional outbursts, great! Otherwise, consider bringing in a professional interventionist. This is especially important if the addicted individual has violent tendencies, is mentally ill, or has expressed suicidal thoughts.

Either way, do plenty of research, in order to set the intervention up for success.


Experts advise that you enter the intervention with the intention of an immediate outcome. Don’t give the addicted individual “time to think about it” but instead, ask them to enter into rehab right away. Be prepared with transportation to the rehab facility. If possible, you may even want to pack a bag for the individual beforehand.

As mentioned above, you must also be prepared to act on the ultimatum, if the individual resists going into rehab. That may mean kicking them out of the house, refusing to help them financially, and cutting off ties. Of course, these are going to be difficult actions — which is why an intervention is usually a last resort — but in order to effect change, they are also necessary.

The spouse, other family members, and close friends of the addict should also consider getting help for themselves. There may be support groups for family members offered by the rehab center. Just as drug or alcohol abuse affects family members of an addicted person, so does recovery from those substances.


A successful intervention takes planning, cooperation, and foresight. Perhaps most of all, it requires compassion and honesty. An intervention program can bring about wonderful results, as long as it is undertaken with love and respect.

Seven Ponds Treatment is a state-of-the-art, nature-based treatment program that has helped many people free themselves from addiction. If you would like more information about our approach to addiction treatment, fill out the contact form here — there’s no obligation, and it’s entirely confidential.