How to give an intervention

An intervention occurs when a group of family, friends or co-workers assembles together to confront a loved one about his or her self-destructive behavior and encourages the behavior to stop. There are two types of interventions:

•    Informal. An informal intervention can be as simple as having a one-on-one conversation with the addict in which you ask questions or make observations about how their behavior has negatively affected their life and yours.

•    Formal. A formal intervention is a structured conversation with the addict that involves a group of people who are important to the addict. Formal interventions are usually used when the addict repeatedly refuses to get help. This confrontation is done is a respectful, yet firm, manner. Clear instructions for getting help are provided along with clear consequences if the help is refused.

Interventions can be done alone or with the help of an interventionist, but interventions without professional guidance should be navigated very carefully.  Interventionists are specially trained counselors who can help you conduct an intervention in a safe and more productive manner.

The goal of an intervention is to get the person to agree to get help by immediately attending a treatment program. Just promising to stop the behavior is not acceptable.

What types of behavior are interventions used for?

Interventions can be used to stop any self-destructive behavior. The most commonly thought of interventions are for drug or alcohol abuse, but they can also be used for eating disorders, sex addiction, gambling, internet/computer addiction, etc.

How do I choose a good interventionist?

A good interventionist is usually a licensed or certified professional and will have specialized training in interventions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about his or her experience, qualifications and skills. The most important thing to consider when choosing as interventionist is if you trust the person. If you feel uneasy or don’t agree with their methods, move on.

What can I expect during an intervention?

The first step of an intervention is gathering everyone who is significant to the addicted person’s life (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.) to discuss the details with the interventionist. No children should be present.

The next step is to meet with a professional who can educate them about what to expect. Everyone decides together how the intervention will take place, identify who will be involved in the intervention, and develop a plan for treatment.

Finally, the group will meet with their loved one to express their care and concern, present facts about the impact the addiction has had on their life, show they are unwilling to ignore the behavior any longer, and help the abuser to admit they need help.

Those who participate in the intervention will often feel apprehensive, frustrated, angry, guilty or defensive. This is normal, and the ability to express these feelings will help family members and friends to begin the process of healing.

Be prepared for the abuser to deny his or her addiction and to become very defensive, hostile or angry. Don’t let this deter you from your mission.

Intervention tips

•    Enlist the help of a professional to help plan the intervention
•    Approach the abuser when he or she is not high or drunk
•    Stay calm
•    Give specific examples of how the person’s addiction has negatively affected their life
•    Be prepared for denial and resentment
•    Be supportive and hopeful about change
•    Have all arrangements for treatment ready so that it can begin immediately following the intervention
•    Be prepared to follow through on your consequences


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.