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How Do Interventions Work?

How Do Interventions Work?

Feeling helpless while your loved one struggles with addiction can be frightening and heartbreaking. When your attempts to sway your addicted loved one to seek help have failed, an intervention may be the answer.

A carefully planned intervention can motivate your loved one to agree to treatment for substance abuse, compulsive eating, compulsive gambling, prescription drug abuse, or other addictive behaviors.

When family members and friends of an addicted person work together to plan and conduct an intervention, they may start a process that saves the life of their loved one.

What is an intervention?

An intervention is a meeting carefully pre-planned by the family and friends of an addicted person, designed to confront them about the consequences of their addiction and to ask them to agree to a treatment plan.

Other individuals, such as doctors, licensed alcohol, drug, or mental health professionals, a clergy member, or a professional interventionist may help plan and conduct the meeting.

During the intervention, concerned loved ones offer specific examples of how the addictive behavior has endangered not only the addicted person’s well-being but also how it has impacted those closest to them.

The intervention team explains the treatment plan to the addicted person, letting them know the family will support them throughout recovery. Loved ones also clearly outline what the addicted person should expect if they refuse treatment.

Careful planning is essential for the intervention to succeed. If poorly planned or conducted on the spur of the moment, the intervention may cause the addicted person to feel betrayed and to react defensively. This can make them more resistant to treatment.

Carefully Plan the Intervention

Planning Phase

  • Consulting with an addiction or mental health specialist or professional interventionist is a valuable starting point. They have conducted interventions and can make the process less overwhelming to plan, and ultimately more successful. With the help of a specialist, the intervention is less likely to erupt into anger, resentment, or other negative emotions.

Meet with the specialist for help to plan the intervention and then have them attend to help keep things on track.

Experts stress it is important to work with a professional to plan and attend the intervention if the addicted person has a history of mental illness, may become violent during the intervention, takes mood-altering substances, or has talked about or attempted suicide in the past.

  • Decide who will be present at the intervention. The intervention team should be only five or six people, including those the addicted person cares for, trusts, and respects. Members may include parents, spouses, siblings, close friends, trusted relatives, and intervention or addiction specialists. Do not include anyone the addicted person does not like or trust or who may disrupt the meeting.
  • Plan what each person will say. It is important for the team to meet prior to the intervention to plan how the meeting will proceed. Each person should make notes on what they will say, describing specific instances when the addicted behavior caused emotional, physical, or financial harm.

Be consistent in your message that you still love them and believe they can change and that you will continue to support them throughout recovery.

  • Choose a location and time. Select a private, non-threatening location and plan a time when everyone can be there. Do not let your loved one know about the intervention beforehand.
  • Treatment options. Finding the right treatment plan and getting the addicted person to agree to the plan is the goal of the intervention. See our blog, ‘How do you get the treatment you need?’ for tips on how to find the treatment center that will best meet your loved one’s needs.

Seek the guidance of an addiction specialist to determine if an inpatient or outpatient program is the best option or if a hospital visit is necessary. If your loved one agrees to treatment, have a plan in place to get them to the facility immediately.

  • Agree on consequences if the addicted person refuses treatment. This means you will no longer enable addictive behavior, which may include:
    • Asking your addicted loved one to move out
    • Refusing financial support, including no more “bailouts”
    • Ending the relationship
    • Refusing to make excuses to work or school officials for irresponsible behavior
  • Rehearse the intervention. This keeps things on track and helps loved ones avoid casting blame, accusations, or comments that may lead their loved one to refuse to seek help.

Conducting the intervention

Do not let the addicted person know about the intervention ahead of time. Simply invite them to the pre-selected location where the intervention team has already gathered. When the addicted person arrives, explain this is an intervention conducted by those who care about them.

  • Conduct the meeting as you rehearsed, with each person expressing their concerns. Do not deviate from the statements you prepared during the planning stage. Read from your notes if it helps.
  • If a professional interventionist or addiction specialist is a member of the intervention team, they may lead the meeting, giving each person the chance to speak.
  • Explain the treatment plan to your loved one, letting them know you have thoroughly researched the plan and are confident it is the best option for their recovery. Ask them to agree to the plan. If they refuse, explain the consequences.
  • If your loved one agrees to treatment or detox, transport them immediately.

Intervention experts find the success rate of a well-planned intervention is about 80-90 percent. According to the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), “more than eight in ten individuals choose treatment when family and friends present this life saving gift.” And, of those who refuse to seek treatment initially, about half change their mind in the one to two weeks following the intervention.

To learn more about how interventions work, tune in to the Turning Point of Tampa podcast with internationally known interventionist Ken Seeley.

Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003800-397-3006 or

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