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When most people think of an intervention, they picture the classic scene that’s often shown in TV shows and movies: a group of family and friends gathering for a meeting in the living room. And while this is one way to do it, there are actually many ways to stage an intervention. Everything from the setting to the addiction treatment professionals who help you can be quite different from what the media portrays.
To begin with, staging an intervention requires more behind-the-scenes planning than you may realize. The more prepared you are, the more you’ll increase your chances of convincing your loved one to get the help they need. What you do to prepare will depend on how you want to stage your intervention and what kind of intervention you want to do.
So whether you’re ready but simply need encouragement, or you know you want to stage an intervention but don’t know where to begin, keep reading for more facts and professional tips on this challenging but important step.
Interventions often become necessary because many people aren’t aware how harmful their behavior actually is to themselves or others. This happens frequently with people who struggle with substance or alcohol use disorders, as denial is an inherent part of addiction.1
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), an intervention is a “short-term counseling strategy2 based on motivational enhancement therapy.” In other words, an intervention happens when concerned family and friends gather to try to motivate or convince a loved one to get professional help for their substance use or mental health disorder.
When successful, an intervention can help your loved one do the following:
The ultimate goal of an intervention is to get someone to change their behavior, preferably by willingly seeking professional help.
An intervention can be done for any loved one who has a problem with using substances or alcohol, or has mental health problems preventing them from living their fullest life. Your partner, friend, or family member doesn’t have to “hit rock bottom” for you to feel like you want to help them.
If someone you know is showing signs of addiction, like engaging in risky behaviors or neglecting normal daily activities, it’s appropriate to host an intervention. This can be for both substance and behavioral addictions:
If you suspect someone could benefit from an intervention, but aren’t confident moving forward, it’s a good idea to talk to their close friends and family (if you’re comfortable doing so) to have a better understanding of their condition and life situation. Another option is to consult with an intervention professional, which we discuss further below.
When a group of people, like family members and significant others, gather to show and voice their genuine concern for the welfare of a mutual loved one, this alone can be a powerful tool to show someone the severity of their addiction and to motivate them to change their behavior. Results from several studies also support this idea.
An intervention is considered a success when a person commits to treatment, according to the US National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Based on this criteria, the NCADD claims that when performed correctly, intervention success rates are above 90%.3
Another U.S. organization, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) reviewed results from numerous studies on the effects of interventions and reported that these studies “suggested that brief intervention can reduce alcohol consumption4 in a substantial number of at-risk or problem drinkers and can facilitate the referral of dependent drinkers into specialized alcoholism treatment.”
In general, an intervention involves family and friends meeting with a loved one to motivate that person to seek treatment. Ideally this is done in a nonthreatening manner and environment. The exact details may be somewhat different depending on which approach you decide to use (see the intervention options discussed below).
The main difference is that interventions can be done with or without the help of professionals. Below we’ll discuss the 2 main ways to stage an intervention:
When you do an intervention yourself it simply means you’re planning, preparing and executing the event without a professional interventionist’s help. This is a realistic option for many people if they feel confident and are committed to thoroughly organizing the intervention.
The key to staging an intervention on your own is choosing someone, whether yourself or another person, to lead the intervention. The best person to lead an intervention is someone who can stay strong throughout the conversations and can quickly and calmly handle any conflicts that arise. It’s important that the leader of the intervention educates themselves on common arguments that people struggling with addictions use so they know how to address these comments if they come up. Lastly, the intervention leader will be in charge of giving the loved one the choice of going to rehab or not.
Even if you don’t hire a professional interventionist, you can still invite a doctor, a therapist, a spiritual or faith leader, or even a licensed alcohol and drug counselor to the intervention. Just be aware that some of these professionals still require fees for their services.
Some mental health specialists are experts at diagnosing disorders and building strategies to solve them. These professionals are interventionists, and if you hire them they can help you through every step of your intervention.
Working with a professional interventionist is a good idea if the family and friends involved in the intervention (a.k.a. your “intervention group”) have strained relationships, don’t have adequate time to invest in prepping for the intervention, or may be holding on to grudges that prevent them from contributing constructively. In these situations, a professional can act as a “referee,” helping the group process their emotions before the intervention to avoid it becoming a hostile and counterproductive situation.
As the Mayo Clinic, a U.S. nonprofit medical center, explains, it may also be critical to get help from a professional interventionist5 if your loved one meets the following criteria:
A professional will know how to safely de-escalate any potentially violent situations and address self-destructive behaviors during the intervention.
If you choose a DIY intervention, conflicting emotions and family tensions may come up as you’re preparing. It’s okay to pivot and seek professional help if doing an intervention yourself becomes too difficult.
To find an interventionist in the U.S., you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national 24/7 helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) also provides a network of professional interventionists across North America and Britain.6
As previously mentioned, interventions don’t always just look like a group gathering in the living room. There are several different types of interventions. These may be based on how many and what kinds of people are present, on how the intervention is organized and handled, or on the approach used.
The number of people involved in an intervention can range from one person to a mixed group of loved ones and professionals.
Another way to think about interventions is based on what type of format you’d like it to follow. In general, the following approaches can be used in classic or family systems interventions:
Deciding which type of intervention will work best for you, your group and your loved one can be difficult. One of the benefits of working with an interventionist is that they can help you decide the best intervention approach.
If you’ve decided that an intervention is the right next step to getting help for your loved one, you’ll need to know how much money you should plan on spending and what your ultimate goals are before you begin.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., interventions alone are not covered by insurance (though the costs of rehab treatment may be). Which means you will be responsible for any professional fees and costs.
Interventions can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $18,000. This varies greatly depending on what kind of professional you hire and what’s included in their fees. Some professionals charge up front for all associated costs, while others charge per service offered. In general, you can fund a professional intervention for less than $6,000.
Besides any costs involved with hiring an interventionist and hosting the intervention, your group may also want to plan for the costs of addiction treatment, such as transportation and facility check-in fees. This way, if the intervention is successful, your loved one can immediately get the help they need.
According to Laura Herrman, the Marketing and Outreach Director at Gallus Detox Centers:
“Generally the people who thrive here are those who are willing to start their recovery journey. However, we do work with a lot of interventionists that have people come in who aren’t necessarily completely willing yet. And what we do when they’re with us is find that motivation for change.”
If you decide to pay for some or all of your loved one’s treatment, be sure to give yourself enough time to research and choose the best treatment center for your loved one’s circumstances.
It’s important that both you and anyone joining you go into the intervention with a clearly defined intervention goal so you can plan your intervention around achieving that goal. A U.S. Surgeon General’s Report published by SAMHSA, explains:
“The goals of early intervention7 are to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, to reduce risk behaviors before they lead to injury, to improve health and social function, and to prevent progression to a disorder and subsequent need for specialty substances use disorder services.”
Examples of intervention goals might include your loved one completing certain actions:
No matter how you decide to stage an intervention, use the list below to help you prepare.
It’s important to keep in mind that, often, one intervention alone is not enough to motivate someone to take action. And even when someone does take steps to get help, follow-up interventions may be needed to encourage continuing care.
Staging an intervention requires courage and preparation. Many people see an intervention as their one chance to convince a loved one to get the help they need, which is frequently the truth. That’s why it’s key to make sure you navigate this important moment correctly and with the right intentions.
We hope the knowledge and information above will help you to confidently move forward with planning your intervention.
For more on available addiction treatment options, explore our collection of luxury rehabs here.
Interventions are short-term counseling strategies based on motivational enhancement therapy. They involve concerned family and friends gathering to motivate or convince a loved one to seek professional help for their substance use or mental health disorder. The ultimate goal is to get someone to change their behavior and willingly seek treatment.
An intervention can be done for any loved one who has a problem with drugs or alcohol, or has mental health problems preventing them from living a functional and fulfilling life. It’s appropriate to host an intervention if someone is showing signs of addiction, such as engaging in risky behaviors or neglecting normal daily activities.
Interventions work because they gather a group of people, like family members and significant others, to show and voice their genuine concern for the well-being of a loved one. This alone can be a powerful tool to demonstrate the severity of their addiction and motivate them to change their behavior. Studies have shown that when performed correctly, intervention success rates are above 90%.
“How Denial Can Harm the Treatment of Addiction.” Verywell Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/definition-of-denial-22200. Accessed 25 Aug. 2021.
Enoch, M.-A., & Goldman, D. (2002). Problem drinking and alcoholism: Diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician, 65(3), 441.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Brief interventions and brief therapies for substance abuse. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64947/
Fleming, M., & Manwell, L. B. (1999). Brief intervention in primary care settings. Alcohol Research & Health, 23(2), 128–137.
Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
Association of intervention specialists—Ais—Certified interventionist. (n.d.). AIS. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/
Administration (US), S. A. and M. H. S., & General (US), O. of the S. (2016a). Early intervention, treatment, and management of substance use disorders. US Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/
Administration (US), S. A. and M. H. S., & General (US), O. of the S. (2016b). Early intervention, treatment, and management of substance use disorders. US Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/
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