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Aug 23

Many of those who have had to deal with people they love who are suffering from addiction have experienced the frustration of not being able to get through to the addicted person the fact that they have a problem. The person with an addiction may be unable to see clearly their situation or may be in such denial that they refuse to admit that anything is wrong. One of the tools that are sometimes used to help bring the addict to the awareness that they need to seek help is to stage an intervention.

Intervention Defined

An intervention may be defined as an organized attempt by the people close to an addict to try to compel the addict to admit they have a problem and to seek help. The types of problems for which an intervention may be held include alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, and basically any kind of addictive behavior that is having a negative impact on the addict and those around them. Done properly and with professional guidance, an intervention can successfully motivate addicts who seemed indifferent or in denial about their problem to seek help.

An intervention is seldom the first choice in confronting addictive behavior. Normally, less dramatic attempts are made such as one to one, heart to heart talks that encourage the addict to become more aware of their problem. Normally it is only when multiple such attempts have failed that the option of intervention may be considered.


InterventionTo have a chance of succeeding, who will participate in an intervention must be carefully planned. Those participating in the intervention are usually the family and friends of the addict, with perhaps significant others such as co-workers and clergy members also participating. The participants provide the addict with specific examples of how their addiction is having negative effects on themselves and those they care about. Participants may also state what they will do if the addict continues to refuse help for their addiction. Often, there are plans already in place to begin treatment immediately if the intervention is successful.

The reason interventions work is because addicts often don’t see the negative ways their behavior has an impact on others. Yet, it is important to present an attitude of caring, not condemnation. The ultimate goal is to get an addicted person who doesn’t want help to take action before the situation becomes really bad. An intervention in which the attitude is too accusatory and critical may actually backfire, causing the addict to become angry and even more resistant.

Planning an Intervention

Although the family and friends of an addict are the people who know them best, they are not always the best people to plan an intervention. That is because they are too emotionally involved and may have difficulty setting the proper tone for the intervention. It is only too easy for an intervention to devolve into unhelpful guilt tripping and accusations that may produce only anger, shame, and even feelings of betrayal. That is why the planning for an intervention should always be guided by a qualified professional who is trained in how to keep the intervention positive and on the right track.

The professional counselor can also help to set up a treatment program which the addict can enter immediately after the intervention is over. Any delay will cause the effects of the intervention to fade, thereby resulting in the opportunity to enter treatment being squandered. The addicted person should not know in advance that the intervention is going to occur. Everyone participating should write down in advance what they intend to say so that the intervention can be loosely rehearsed among the participants before it happens. This will also give the professional counselor a chance to screen or suggest modifications to any statements that would be unhelpful.

The Meeting

Once the planning stage is complete, the addicted person should be invited to the intervention site. The addict will be surprised and even alarmed to see everyone gathered on their behalf and should be reassured that it is being done out of love and concern. This is done by everyone expressing in turn their feelings and concerns for the addict and the reasons why they feel the addict should accept the treatment plan they have arranged. They should also state in a non-threatening way what will happen if treatment is not accepted, such as losing their job or cutting off the friendship. Don’t let the intervention end with the addict promising simply to think about seeking treatment.

It is easy to see how an intervention can be an emotional minefield that can cause more harm than good if handled poorly. The last thing you want is for the intervention to conclude with the addict believing that they have been attacked or feeling isolated. Such feelings can result in anger that leaves them even more resistant to seeking help. That is why it is so essential to consult a substance abuse and addiction specialist to help in the planning process. This is especially important if the addict has a history of mental illness, violence issues, suicidal thoughts or seems in particularly deep denial.


Some of the people who should participate in an intervention will be obvious, such as friends and family members who are close to the addict or have been in the past. Ideally, the participants should include those whom the addict loves, admires, or at least likes. No one whom the addict actively dislikes or who will show open hostility toward the addict should be included. The purpose of an intervention is not to settle scores or to assign guilt. The goal is purely to get the addict to accept treatment, so nothing should be said by any participant that doesn’t advance that goal. If you think that someone important to the intervention would cause a problem if they were there in person, the answer may be to have that person write a short statement that can be read aloud by someone else.

The dynamics of addiction are complex and unique to each individual. No one size fits all solution exists for confronting and then recovering from addiction. What may work well with one person may be inappropriate for another. That is why it is so important to have the help of an addiction specialist who has had experience in setting up treatment plans. This is especially true when it comes to staging an intervention, which requires careful planning and execution. When done correctly with professional guidance, an intervention can literally save someone’s life.

One comment

  1. Mel
    September 9th, 2016 15:37

    When you have to do an intervention it’s because the addict denies that they have a problem. After they realize they do have a problem with addiction they will go and detox their body and get all of the bad stuff out. Then off to rehab so you live a life free from addiction.


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