How to Conduct an Addiction Intervention: The Dos and Don’ts

Many people with substance use disorders don’t like to admit they have a problem. On top of that, many of them are reluctant to seek help. There are several reasons for this, including the stigma of addiction, shame, and especially denial. When substance misuse gets out of hand, loved ones begin to wonder how to do an intervention.

Reality TV shows like A&E’s “Intervention” have made this practice popular, but they don’t always portray it accurately. Learn more about what a drug addiction intervention entails, as well as the dos and don’ts of holding one.

What’s a Drug Addiction Intervention?

how to do an intervention

An intervention is an event at which people help a loved one struggling with substance misuse realize that they need treatment. Those participating also offer said person their support and love. A drug addiction intervention is a process that’s carefully planned, and it can even involve a professional interventionist.

Before holding an intervention, you must plan what everyone is going to say. This will help you avoid spontaneity and keep those participating on topic. With sensitive issues like addiction, it can be easy to let your emotions take hold and say things you don’t mean. However, this can lead the person in question to refuse help. 

Whether your loved one is suffering from addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or gambling, an intervention can be successful in helping them realize they have a problem.

An intervention does the following:

  • Gives specific examples of destructive habits that have impacted you, the person with the substance abuse, and their loved ones
  • Offers a customized plan for treatment with clear guidelines, goals, and steps
  • Defines what each person will do if the loved one refuses treatment

How to Do an Intervention

When thinking about how to do an intervention, there are a few key steps you should follow.

Reach Out for Help

You can’t do this intervention alone. The first thing you need to do is get help. Family and friends are necessary for this meeting to work. If your loved one has a severe addiction or mental health disorder, having a professional interventionist involved would also be in your best interest. You can also talk to a therapist, doctor, or social worker.

Create Your Team

Make sure you keep your team number small. Ideally, you want to limit it to close friends, family, and possibly coworkers. Anyone struggling with substance misuse shouldn’t be included on the intervention team. 

Make a Plan

Plan who is attending, where you want the intervention to be, and when it will happen. You should also outline how the meeting will go and what everyone will say.

Compile Information

Learn about what substance has been abused as well as the recovery process. Also research information on different treatment programs, including detox and aftercare, that would best help the person in question.

Write An Impact Statement

This is the time for you to tell your loved one exactly how you feel about their substance misuse. Write down how their habits have impacted your life and relationship. Focus on love and be honest, and don’t attack the person. By doing this, you’ll help your loved one understand how they’ve affected you. They’ll hopefully realize that their misuse hasn’t only impacted themselves.

Rehearse the Intervention

Rehearsing the intervention will help you and the rest of your team feel more comfortable before the actual event. This will ensure that your emotions don’t take over when it happens, you don’t blame your loved one, or take pity on yourself.

Offer Support and Help

Let your loved one know that you’ll be there when they go through treatment. If they agree to attend detox and rehabilitation, offer to drive them to therapy sessions and attend support group meetings with them as well. 

Set Boundaries/Consequences

You each need to decide what you’re going to do if the subject of the intervention doesn’t accept help. Relationships have to change so that you stop enabling and end codependent behavior. Convey to the person that there will be consequences for refusing treatment.

Manage Your Expectations

Consider the fact that your intervention might be unsuccessful, even if it’s planned well and options are clearly laid out. At this point, you need to follow through on the consequences and boundaries you set for yourself and your loved one.

Follow Up with Your Struggling Loved One

After the intervention, whether it went well or badly, follow up with the person. If they accept treatment, make sure they’re doing OK. If they don’t, uphold your statement made during the intervention. Not staying involved could make your loved one more stressed, deepen their substance abuse, or relapse. 

If you follow these steps and plan your intervention carefully, chances are that it will be positive and successful. The point of an intervention is to show your loved one that you care about their well being. A good meeting will convey these feelings. 

Types of Interventions

There is no one way on how to do an intervention. Some professional interventionists have a specific type they like to practice. Here are a few examples.

Johnson Model

The Johnson Model is the most popular intervention style in the U.S. A caregiver will plan an intervention with the intent of getting the struggling loved one into a treatment program. He or she will see that they have support when close friends and family are present.

Crisis Intervention

This is a more forceful form of drug addiction intervention. Police officers provide substance abusers with medical and social resources. When they receive guidance from law enforcement, those with an addiction are more likely to accept help.


The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific) system aims to set measurable and clear goals for an intervention. It can be a form of community intervention or be more of a Johnson-type model. 

Brief Intervention

A brief intervention is a one-on-one between the person struggling and a counselor or medical professional. These usually happen in hospitals, doctor’s offices, community-based programs, or schools. Professionals hold brief interventions if a student is suspected of using substances or someone has been admitted to a facility for an overdose.


A newer style of intervention, ARISE is less confrontational than the Johnson Model and involves the whole family. However, it still uses many Johnson techniques. It aims to enroll the subject in question to a treatment program.

Should I Enlist a Professional Interventionist?

how to do an intervention

You might find it helpful to involve a professional interventionist or therapist in your planning. They have experience dealing with people with substance use disorders. They can also help diffuse any tension or emotional turmoil exhibited by friends and family members.

A professional interventionist can offer an outside, third-party perspective that keeps everyone on the same page. You should involve a professional if your loved one experiences any of the following:

  • Misuses multiple substances
  • Has attempted suicide or harmed themselves several times
  • Severe mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
  • Shows a history of violence (i.e. verbal and/or domestic abuse)

Tips for a Successful Intervention

Studies show that interventions can be up to 90% successful when they’re structured and have professional help. Here are a few suggestions for how to do an intervention the right way.

  • The intervention should be about the person struggling, not about you. Don’t use this time to vent about wrongs from the past.
  • Involve a professional interventionist who has experience holding these gatherings. 
  • Show love and educate yourself. Don’t shame, lash out at, or abuse the person.

If you carry out these objectives, you’re much more likely to have an intervention that leads to your loved one getting treatment.

What Shouldn’t I Do in an Intervention?

  • Include too many people: Having too many people will defeat the purpose of the meeting. Keep the number limited to certain friends and family members.
  • Showcase strong emotions: Try to keep your feelings aside when you’re talking to your loved one. You don’t want the intervention to become too emotional since this could overwhelm the individual.
  • Place negative labels on your loved one: Calling the person names like “addict,” “junkie,” or “alcoholic” can seem like you’re accusing them. Aim to not judge the person for their substance use disorder. 
  • Have your loved one show up inebriated: If your loved one shows up to the intervention drunk or high, the probability of success is pretty low. He or she should be sober when showing up.

When you hold a drug addiction intervention, you want to come from a place of love and support. If anything is done wrong, the subject of the meeting could feel like you’re ganging up on them. This can make them defensive and end up rejecting your help.

The bottom line is that interventions aren’t based in hate and anger, and it isn’t an ambush. On the contrary, they’re based in honesty, support, and love.

Addiction Treatment at Harmony Ridge

Our staff at Harmony Ridge knows how hard it is to admit having a substance use disorder. Once you enter our treatment program, you’ve taken the first step toward a more positive future. We’re here to answer any questions you have about the treatment process.

We offer several different types of treatment at our West Virginia facility, depending on the severity of your substance abuse. These include:

For people suffering from addiction and mental health disorders, dual diagnosis treatment is an ideal option. We also provide a stellar aftercare program, part of which includes sober living homes. 

Find Help in West Virginia

All of us have dealt with addiction in some way. Some of us have been through it personally, and others have loved ones who have struggled with it. At Harmony Ridge, you won’t feel alone. You’ll be surrounded by a supportive community of licensed professionals and others who have been right where you are now. If you’re ready to take the next step toward recovery, contact us today. 

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