What Happens During an Intervention: Step by Step

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Addiction and alcoholism are both serious and unfortunately common diseases. As a result, many people have had to witness their loved ones battle addiction, requiring the family to stage an intervention. Addiction causes loved ones to lose sleep from constant stress and worry, so confronting a loved one who is suffering can help ease everyone’s worries. Additionally, those who care about addicts and alcoholics often wonder what they can do to help them – and what happens during an intervention. 

Many friends and families of addicts have found that coming together and holding an intervention is an invaluable tool in showing their loved one that its time to get help. If you are currently struggling to help your addicted friend or family member, it’s time to consider holding an intervention. However, before doing so, it is important to understand exactly what will happen during a drug or alcohol intervention. 

What is an Intervention?

By textbook definition, an intervention is a guided conversation with an end goal. In the addiction and alcoholism treatment community, an intervention is a guided conversation meant to urge an individual to receive professional help for their substance abuse. To explain further, interventions are face-to-face, direct, and heartfelt talks guided by the family and friends of an individual who is abusing substances. 

Typically, people closest to the addict (e.g. partners, children, siblings, parents) will come together and try to compel their loved one to get help. This is done through emotional appeal and factual examples of how the person’s addiction has been detrimental to everyone. Interventions are not meant to shame the addict or alcoholic, but to provide them with a different perspective on their addiction. Overall, the end goal of an intervention is to encourage the afflicted person to understand the full impact of their addiction and to agree to go to treatment.

What Exactly Happens During an Intervention?

Although the specifics of the intervention vary on a case-by-case circumstance, every intervention will share basic commonalities. Here’s what happens during an intervention – step by step.

First, each loved one in attendance will directly speak to the addict and relate to that person through examples of the negative impacts their addiction has caused. This is done in a loving, but firm tone. Most important, each loved one will lay down boundaries and consequences for the addict if they refuse treatment. These consequences are crucial as they let your loved one know that you mean business.

Examples of consequences to use include cutting them off financially, filing for divorce, or ending contact with the person until they get sober. In regards to setting boundaries and consequences for the addict, you must be fully prepared to follow through if it comes to it. While this is difficult at times, it allows your addicted loved one to feel the full force of the effects of their addiction and subsequent behaviors. 

After the loved ones have all spoken, the addict or alcoholic is given the option to either accept treatment or face the consequences. However, it is vital that you make sure that a specific treatment plan is already set into place. Leaving the planning for afterward allows the addict more time to use substances or manipulate their way out of going. Additionally, if they accept treatment, it needs to begin immediately. 

Once the intervention is over, everyone involved needs to continue to follow-up with their loved one. This may mean changing personal routines, learning about ending enabling behavior, seeking out professional support for themselves, and finding out how to plan for a potential relapse.

The Benefit of a Professional Intervention

Due to the serious and personal nature of talking about someone’s addiction, it is likely for interventions to become heated or out of control. In order to prevent the intervention from failing, it is important for those holding an intervention to consult with a professional interventionist. In doing so, the intervention will be planned to be conducted in the most effective manner, ensuring that everything that happens during the intervention is productive. This makes the intervention have a higher chance of actually convincing the person to go to treatment. 

Before the intervention, family members and friends will be interviewed by the professional interventionist. This will allow them to help the loved ones decide what they need to include in their talking points. While the planning is mostly left up to the loved ones, a professional interventionist will be there to handle the logistics of the intervention. Most importantly, professional interventionists can handle the planning and arrangements for an appropriate treatment program. Professional interventionists are experienced and knowledgable on addiction and the treatment of, making them very vital in this crucial step. 

During an intervention, the professional will be there to guide the process and keep everyone focused on the end goal. They’re experienced and know what happens during interventions, so you can trust them to handle the unexpected. Additionally, they can help calm everyone down when emotions become heated. Since they are there as an informed outsider, they will remain neutral during the intervention, no matter what happens. This helps the addict or alcoholic understand that they are not being attacked or shamed, rather being offered help. 

Are Interventions Actually Successful?

When interventions are held professionally and performed properly, yes. Interventions have proved to be extremely helpful in getting addicts and alcoholics to agree to treatment. In fact, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reported an over 90 percent success rate of interventions when a trained professional is utilized. However, every addict and alcoholic is an individual who has had individual experiences. For example, each addict comes from a different background, gone through different traumas, and uses substances in a different manner. That being said, interventions are not going to work for everyone and what happens during an intervention will vary from person to person. On the bright side, sometimes even the addicts who refuse treatment after the intervention tend to realize they need help soon after. 

Whatever the end result may be, interventions are great tools in fighting the disease of addiction. Interventions allow the loved ones to voice their concerns and offer help to their addicted family member or friend. If you are concerned about your loved one and think an intervention may be necessary, contact us today. We can help you and your loved one to begin on the road to recovery.

Medically Reviewed: April 17, 2020

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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