Helping Someone with Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a serious illness that can severely disrupt the lives of individuals and families. It can strain relationships, damage trust and finances, and potentially place all those involved in danger. You may be concerned that a family member, friend or other loved one has AUD, and you want to encourage them to seek help but don’t know how to do it. Broaching the subject can feel intimidating. You want to support without enabling, be firm without attacking. Here are some tips to help you prepare for and frame that conversation.

Intervention Strategies for AUD

The first step in helping your loved one get treatment for AUD is research. While you’re not a doctor and can’t prescribe therapy for your loved one, it’s helpful to know how to obtain a diagnosis and what treatment options are available. Effective treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Underlying physical and mental health issues 
  • Current alcohol use
  • Experiences with previous attempts to quit

Some behavioral therapies used to treat AUD include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational enhancement therapy

The three FDA-approved medications for treating AUD are:

  • Disulfiram 
  • Naltrexone (administered as either a tablet or injection)
  • Acamprosate 

People receiving treatment for AUD also often find it helpful to attend a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). If AUD is concurrent with a mental illness, it is important to get treatment for both conditions.

How to Approach the Topic of Treatment

Preparing to speak with your loved one about getting treatment for their AUD will likely occur in several stages:

  • Getting educated about the disease
  • Choosing an appropriate time and place to talk
  • Practicing self-awareness for clear and compassionate communication

Education: It’s essential to understand that alcoholism is a disorder that your loved one did not choose. Learning about how alcohol affects one’s body, brain and behaviors can give you more perspective and help you approach your loved ones without directing anger and blame at them. You can find reliable information on government, medical and university websites or contact a healthcare professional specializing in addiction.

An appropriate time and place: Choose a time when your loved one is sober, and try to avoid jumping into the conversation when they are less likely to be receptive, such as:

  • When they’re agitated
  • When they first wake up
  • When they’re rushing out the door to go to work
  • When they’ve just returned home from work, school or a stressful event

A space that feels familiar and comforting to your loved one (and, ideally, to you) can help create an atmosphere that suggests the topic of conversation is safe. 

Self-awareness: A conversation about getting treatment for alcohol use disorder has the potential to become emotionally charged. Awareness of your thoughts and emotions leading up to and during the conversation can help you remain calm, focused, compassionate and prevent any tensions from turning into arguments:

  • Reinforce that AUD is an illness and explain how that illness affects you.
  • Offer to participate in their plan of treatment so you can support them.
  • Assure them that seeking treatment is a courageous and admirable thing to do and not a show of weakness.

Sometimes, if your loved one is not receptive to the conversation at the chosen time, it might be better to back off and try again later. If their behavior actively becomes violent or threatening to you, themselves, or others in the household, you may need to call 911 for the sake of everyone’s safety.

Persuading a Loved One to Seek Help

It’s important to understand that it’s not always possible to persuade someone to get help for alcohol use disorder. People will go when and if they are ready; treatment is unlikely to succeed if they are not receptive. If your loved one is not yet ready to seek treatment, know that you are not to blame, and neither are they. You both are doing your best at the moment. 

Persuasion is a process, and it may take several conversations before there is movement. If repeated conversations don’t work and your loved one’s drinking continues, then intervention might be in order. 

An intervention would involve a doctor or intervention specialist approaching your loved one collaboratively with you and a group of other family and friends. Like the conversation, the intervention should be staged at an appropriate time and place because the primary goal is to help your loved one start treatment.


AUD is a serious illness, but it is treatable when the person is receptive to seeking and sustaining treatment. Intimate partners, family members, and friends can play an integral role in encouraging people with AUD to take action. If you have a loved one who has AUD and are wondering how you can support them in getting help, contact Casa Palmera today. Located in Los Angeles, California, we offer an interdisciplinary therapeutic drug and alcohol rehab with the highest possible care. We will tailor your loved one’s treatment to their needs and maintain the utmost confidentiality. Casa Palmera offers the advanced clinical techniques necessary for treating both substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions, emphasizing evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment methods. Even after your loved one leaves Casa Palmera, rest assured that they will still receive the support and aftercare they need to continue their healing journey. Contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.