Updated on February 20, 2024
8 min read

How to Stage an Intervention

An intervention is where the loved ones of an addicted person confront them to encourage treatment. It usually occurs in consultation with a doctor or addiction counselor.

It might also include a member of the person’s faith or an interventionist to direct the conversation. An interventionist is an expert on mental health and addiction.

A professional interventionist may hold an advanced degree in psychology or social work. Certifications are required. They can specialize in various areas, such as: 

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug addiction
  • Mental illness.

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How to Stage an Intervention
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Steps to Plan an Intervention

There must be careful planning and execution for an intervention to work. If not, it can result in the subject feeling attacked and refusing help from others.

The better planned and executed an intervention is, the more likely it is to succeed. Though no two interventions are alike, the guidelines are often the same.

Interventions include the following steps:

1. Create a Plan

You’ll need to prepare for proper intervention. Creating a plan involves: 

  • Figuring out when to confront your loved one
  • How to confront them
  • Knowing who is involved in the intervention
  • Researching interventions and addiction

2. Gather Information

Research should be the next step of your planning phase. You’ll need to research the intervention process and the nature of addiction.

It’s also essential to research different treatment and rehab programs. The research will help your loved one trust you and feel comfortable seeking help.

3. Form a Team

You should reach out to other invitees to discuss what comes next. A rehearsal intervention might be helpful. Everyone should agree to keep the intervention details secret from the addicted person.

4. Determine the Consequences

You should also prepare for what happens if your loved one refuses help. Ensuring your loved one doesn’t face any consequences isn’t helpful. 

You are enabling their behavior by protecting them from the consequences of their actions. It can make their addiction worse in the long run.

5. Use Notes

Each attendee should speak out about how the person’s behavior has affected them. Notes can help keep the conversation focused, making it easier to talk about emotional topics without getting sidetracked.

6. Stage the Intervention

Invite the person to the intervention without discussing the reason. During the intervention, each person expresses their concerns and feelings. Then, the participants ask the addicted person to accept the treatment offer. 

7. Follow Up

A follow-up involves how to move forward after the intervention. This step includes helping your loved one find treatment and preparing for what happens during and after treatment.

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Types of Interventions

Interventions can be effective in dealing with various issues. Types of interventions include confronting a person about:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Prescription drug misuse
  • Illicit drug use
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive gambling

Interventions are more likely to succeed if done correctly. You can achieve this through preparation and guidance from a trained specialist.


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What Happens During an Intervention?

The most common type of intervention is the direct method. In the direct approach:

  • Loved ones gather to confront the person and ask that they accept treatment
  • They provide specific examples of the person’s destructive behavior and its impact on them
  • The person receives an offer of a prearranged treatment plan with clear directions about the next steps 
  • Loved ones describe what will happen if they refuse treatment

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Who Should Be a Part of the Intervention?

People attending an intervention include those significant to the person with the disorder. It's usually four or more loved ones that the person loves, respects, or depends on.  

Part of planning an intervention includes deciding who should come. The group usually includes:

  • Close family
  • Friends
  • Spouses or significant others
  • A doctor or addiction specialist
  • An interventionist
  • A member of their faith

If someone important in the person’s life cannot attend, they should write a letter. Review it in advance and read it to the person with substance use disorder during the intervention.

Who Shouldn’t Come to the Intervention?

Inviting certain people can be counterproductive to the intervention. Though the list of attendees may vary, those who should not attend an intervention include:

  • Anyone who the person with the disorder dislikes
  • Those with substance abuse or mental health issues of their own
  • Those who used drugs or alcohol with the person
  • Anyone who might not be able to stay on track and only discuss pre-arranged topics
  • Anyone who  might sabotage the intervention

Should You Invite an Interventionist?

Having an interventionist attend the intervention is unnecessary, but it may help. If you lack the vocabulary or experience to convince your loved one to change, an interventionist can be helpful.

The addiction may also be causing tension between the addicted person and the wider family. In these situations, the interventionist can act as a mediator. 

They can ensure the discussion remains productive and does not become an argument. Other reasons to hire an interventionist include:

The Addicted Person Has a Mental Illness

Alcohol or drug addiction often coincides with mental illness, which can include:3,6 

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

An interventionist can help the family understand the issues the addicted person faces. They can also help the addicted person get admitted to a dual-diagnosis treatment facility. These facilities specialize in treating both addiction and mental illness.

Unsuccessful Rehab Attempts

If the person has been to rehab before and relapsed, it may be time for a new approach. An interventionist can help the family strategize to ensure a positive outcome.

Violent or Suicidal Behavior

Alcohol or drug addiction can make a person’s state of mind fragile. They may be more anxious and impulsive than usual. If confronted with their actions, they respond with anger. 

If they turn their anger outward, they could be violent. If they direct it inward, they could be suicidal.

An interventionist can help participants frame statements to avoid triggering negative emotions. Contact a professional if there is any chance the addicted person will react violently.

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Tips for Holding an Intervention

Plan to allow quick action if the person accepts treatment. For example:

  • Discuss the best treatment options with a professional and have a specific program in mind
  • Find out if the person's insurance provider covers treatment
  • Make travel arrangements and consider packing a suitcase for them
  • Gather information about the admission process for the chosen program

A successful intervention does not involve vague promises to get help. It's about immediate action based on discussions in the intervention.

Things to Avoid During an Intervention

As emotionally charged as an intervention might be, it's essential to have a plan in place. Know what to avoid when confronting a person with substance use disorder.

For instance, interventions should not:

  • Occur in the spur of the moment
  • Be too elaborate that people can’t participate or understand what they need to do
  • Have more than one point person to lead the intervention
  • Include a bitter attack on the person take action from a place of love

No matter the response, you should remain calm and keep the conversation on track. Stick to the agreed-upon plan and encourage your loved one to seek treatment for the best outcome.

What if the Intervention Doesn’t Work?

Unfortunately, not all interventions have the outcome loved ones hope for. Even with intervention and discussion of severe consequences, a person might refuse help.

Sometimes it’s necessary to try an indirect intervention. It involves family members interacting with the person more gently. An indirect intervention allows loved ones to deal with the person in a manner conducive to healing.

One benefit of interventions is bringing the person's loved ones together. It allows them to agree to no longer enable destructive behavior. 

Treatment Options for Addiction

Various treatment options are available to help your loved one recover from their addiction. They offer different methods and techniques to meet your loved one’s needs.

However, if they still refuse, another option is a forcible intervention. In this case, the addicted person has no choice but to go into treatment.

Available treatment options for addiction include:


An intervention involves coming together to encourage your loved one to get help for their addiction. It usually occurs with a doctor, a counselor, an interventionist, or even a member of your loved one’s faith.

Interventions take a lot of planning and preparation to be successful. You should consider who’s going, how to confront them, and what to do after intervention and treatment.

Do not be discouraged if an intervention doesn’t work. There are other methods to give your loved one the help they need; you can do this through indirect or forcible intervention.

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Updated on February 20, 2024

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