Understanding the Stages of an Intervention

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Watching someone you love struggle with an addiction can be devastating. Over time, people lose more and more of their life to addiction. Their physical and mental health can deteriorate, they may lose relationships, and they might suffer extreme legal, social, and financial consequences related to their substance use. Most people want to find a way to help their loved one, but few people know exactly where to start or what to offer.

Addiction is often a highly emotional topic. People may feel scared for their loved one’s health and safety, frustrated by their choices, or sad about the way their relationship with them has changed. It can be almost impossible to approach the subject of addiction without some emotions. However, it is crucial to avoid shame, blame, or anger when offering help to someone who is struggling.

Staging an intervention can help you approach a loved one about their addiction and offer real, concrete help. An intervention is a planned meeting where people tell their loved ones about how their addiction has affected the family and offer immediate access to addiction treatment. Understanding the structure and different stages of an intervention can help avoid having the conversation turn into an emotional outpouring and keep it moving in the right direction.

Understanding the Stages of an Intervention

Like grief, there are stages of an intervention. These stages include the time before, during, and after the intervention.

1. Crisis

In the crisis stage, there is usually an event or emergency that makes it clear that the addiction is jeopardizing the person’s health and safety. It might be a medical emergency or legal issue, or any other serious sign that the person is not in control of their substance use.

2. Anger or Denial

You and/or other family members may experience extreme, difficult emotions about your loved one’s addiction, including anger, depression, or anxiety. Or, you or others may refuse to admit that there is a serious issue.

3. Acceptance

You are able to recognize that your loved one does have an addiction and accept it as a fact.

4. Seeking Help

You feel motivated to look for support and help for your loved one, and may look for information to educate yourself about addiction and treatment options.

5. Intervention

You speak with your loved one about your concerns and offer to help them get into addiction treatment.

6. Post-intervention

Your loved one accepts help and begins treatment. Your family focuses on their own enabling behaviors.

7. Family Program

Your family gets education, help, and support–usually in the form of therapy or a support group–to help set healthy boundaries and identify strengths and challenges.

8. Reintegration

Your loved one completes treatment and is welcomed back into the family unit with clear, healthy boundaries and increased support.

It can take several attempts to move through all of the steps, but the goal of having a healthy, whole family is worth the effort.

How to Plan an Intervention

Steps of an Intervention

It is important to plan your intervention carefully so that it can be as effective and meaningful as possible. The subject of addiction is emotional–for the person struggling with addiction and their loved ones. An intervention will work well if it is calm and free of shame. While planning an intervention, follow these steps:

Decide who will be present: Choose the participants of the intervention carefully. Invite people who are affected by your loved one’s addiction, and exclude anyone who is actively struggling with addiction themself. These members may be present during all of the stages of an intervention.

Choose and time and place: Allow for plenty of time and make sure you have privacy. Choose a time when it is unlikely for your loved one to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Decide who will speak: Have one person be the spokesperson for the family. This person will keep the intervention on track and remind everyone of when it is their turn to speak. Encourage others to have prepared, written statements to read. These statements should only talk about how your loved one’s addiction directly impacts the reader.

Decide what you will offer: Do research ahead of time to find appropriate treatment options that your loved one could start right away. Look into the programs they offer and payment plans. Make a plan for what you will do if your loved one refuses to go to treatment.

Plan and practice: If possible, get everyone together to practice the intervention ahead of time. This will allow you to keep focused during the actual even when emotions may be high.

Hold the intervention: On the day of the intervention, stick to your schedule and prepared statements as much as possible.

After the intervention: If your loved one accepts your offer of treatment, help them get started right away. If they do not, follow through on the consequences you agreed on as a family. Talk about what went well and what did not. Practice good self-care and encourage others to do the same.

If you are not feeling confident about your ability to have an effective intervention, consider hiring a professional interventionist to help guide your family through the process.

Get Help With All Stages of an Intervention at New Jersey Addiction Interventions

If you or someone you love require addiction treatment or support at any stage of addiction recovery, reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Interventions. We offer programs designed to empower people so they can overcome addiction and live the fulfilling lives they deserve.

Do not put off the treatment you need for another day. Call today for help for a loved one or yourself.

Medically Reviewed: July 22, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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