Published November 29, 2019 by:
interventions - intervention - how to stage an intervention

The Steps of a Successful Intervention

By now, most Americans have seen the long running show “Intervention” on the A&E network. It sets the bar pretty high for our expectations of what an intervention is and how they are done. These are professional, well paid interventionists, who glorify a typically painful process for national exposure. What the television series does show us is the nuts and bolts of an intervention. What it doesn’t show is more of the pre-intervention steps to take.

For those who haven’t seen the show, it may help to understand exactly what an intervention is. In our world of treatment and recovery, an intervention is a carefully planned process set up by the loved ones of a person struggling with self-destructive behaviors, typically addiction. In this process, families and friends come together to meet up with the addicted individual and express their concerns, their feelings, and show their love and support. The goal is to bring a sense of realization that it is time to get help. To be successful during this time, a thorough plan, as well as understanding of what steps to take is critical. Let’s discuss what you should be thinking about if you or your loved ones find yourself in this situation.

Step One: Do your Research

You need to have a well thought out plan. There is no point in staging a life changing event, such as an intervention, if you do not have options available for the person you are trying to help. You also need to make sure that everyone involved is on the same page – and can maintain their cool during a heavy emotional experience. Remember, the goal is to help your loved one to take on a happier and healthier life – not to make them feel berated.

Try to find out the insurance information of the person you are trying to help, as well as their financial status. Who will be paying for treatment, if there are any out of pocket costs? If the person cannot do it themselves, will your intervention team be willing to help? Self-pay rates for the exact same amount and type of treatment vary widely across the US. Call around, inform yourself. Expense is not necessarily an indication of quality!

Make sure that you have contacted and researched treatment centers or rehab facilities near you. Understand the different levels of care, and figure out what will be needed. Many admissions counselors can give you invaluable information that you will be able to share with your family during the intervention process. Many facilities may have a wait list, or may not have beds readily available. Learn what that time period looks like. Find a treatment center that will work best for your loved one.

Step Two: Form an Intervention Team

Have a team. Who’s going to be at the intervention? What can each person contribute? An intervention needs to be a positive, compassionate experience. This is not the place to shout, yell criticisms or resentments, or to point blame. Everyone who is part of this team needs to all have the same goal in mind: support the friend or loved one who is suffering from an addiction. This should never turn into a blame-storming session. This is also not the forum in which you should be trying to mend broken relationships. Bringing in a person who is currently not on good terms with your afflicted loved one does them neither of them any good.

Have a captain of the team: a central point of contact for all who will participate. Keep the whole group to 3-8 people at the maximum. Usually, a large group can be too intimidating and your loved one may feel ganged up on. You need to use the group dynamic to your benefit, not to your detriment. Use your understanding of your loved one to build a group that will work for them. Use the knowledge of your family and friends to figure out who will provide the most support in a difficult situation.

Once you have your research done from Step One, make sure all of that information is communicated with the team. Every member must be on board with this plan! If you have found the location that you feel will work, and a care plan that you think makes the most sense, every person on your intervention team needs to agree. Make sure no one is blindsided. You do not want any surprises the day of the intervention.

Step Three of an Intervention

It is important that understand that everyone should have a set of boundaries and consequences in place, should the addicted individual choose to decline treatment or recovery. Everyone needs to strong and follow through with these consequences. They shouldn’t be designed to harm the individual, or make them feel bad – but for example, if their parents pay all of their bills, then maybe they need to enforce that they will not support the user financially until they get clean. Men and women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol can sense will do whatever they can for their addictions, so if they sense any form of weakness, they will immediately take advantage.

Have a pre-intervention meeting. The purpose here is to rehearse what you will talk about, how you will bring it up and make sure that there are no hiccups. Discuss the team goals and the rules of conduct for the team members. Make sure that all family and friends in attendance are able to handle what is about to happen. Have everyone openly discuss their rules, their boundaries, the consequences, and make a backup plan.

Prepare yourself to hear “NO” a lot. Most people with a substance use disorder will refuse help unless they came to the decision to get help themselves. Just remember, you only need one “YES”. You cannot force someone into treatment against their will, but if they give you a yes at any point, now you have that leverage. Your loved one will have dozens of objections. They will try to avoid responsibility for their actions. Have a prepared response ready for any argument. Keep it short and positive. Make sure everyone has considered all of the possibilities and know how to handle them without getting negative, aggressive or accusatory. Having love and giving support will help this person to end their self destructive behaviors.


Before the intervention, your team captain should try to have a one on one discussion with the person. Depending on their relationship, this can be highly successful! If the person has noticed the negative impact of their drinking or drug use and is just a tad bit willing to listen and engage then the formal intervention may be avoided. Just be honest, show you care, show them you know what to do and how to help. Some users will go for it, many won’t. In our industry, we see that some will want to use right up until they get to the medical detox parking lot. Some times, even when the person calls in on their own and are given a bed, excuses will be made to take one more hit. This is, sadly, normal. Do not be discouraged by this. Your loved one has a serious mental illness: addiction.

Important Tips

Here are some more important tips that you should keep in mind during the intervention:

  1. Avoid confrontation!: Confrontation can take you on wild tangents which will accomplish nothing and possibly even set you further back. You are a concerned and supportive loved one, not a verbal and emotional terrorist.
  2. Stay strong and stick with the plan: Remain calm when the person shows hurt, anger, resentment, pain or just relives a false history of the past. It’s not about being right, it’s about achieving the goal of getting them into treatment.
  3. Ask for an immediate YES or NO decision.: If your loved one gives you answers such as: “let me sleep on it”, “give me an hour to think”, “let me talk to ____ first” … then their answer is a NO. They are denying the problem and stalling you to get out of a jam. Your job is to get a YES and get them into treatment right away.

What if They Still Say NO?

Many, if not most, will say NO. Now it’s time to play poker. Everyone now needs to engage the consequences they presented at the intervention. These consequences can be loss of contact, loss of a job, loss of housing, loss of funds or loss of support that enables bad behaviors. Once the user has realized that the consequences are serious and that the party is over, many will submit and accept that they must now go to treatment. Stay STRONG!

Sadly, some people would rather keep using. Keep in contact with them and offering them treatment and the rewards of staying sober. Do not let up on your stated consequences, but offer support and comforts to prevent overdosing or physical detriment. After they deal with their life not supported by their loved ones and have seen how difficult the life of addiction really is, try another intervention. It may not have worked the first time, but the second time likely might.

When you get a YES

Once you hear that YES, that means the time is now. Present all of the information that you have received by researching medical detox and treatment facilities, make sure you can get them into a bed and then go. Do not give the opportunity for them to try and change their mind. As soon as they can begin their path to sobriety and recovery, the sooner they can heal physically, spiritually and mentally.

Reach Out

If you are planning an intervention, and would like advice from one of our knowledgeable addiction specialists, please call us at 877-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Our team of addiction specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Linkedin