How to Do an Intervention and Do One the Right Way

Do you have a loved one who has completely spiraled out of control with their addiction? Are you worried about them constantly, and feeling like they’re never going to realize their problem on their own?

If the answer is yes, then it may be time to stage an intervention.

Oftentimes, an intervention is the best way to get an addict to realize their problem.

In fact, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, over 90 percent of people get help after experiencing an intervention.

But, this doesn’t mean that an intervention is easy. Interventions are very delicate situations. If you approach it the wrong way and upset the addict, the addict may decide to sever ties with you and you’ll have lost your shot at helping them completely.

With the stakes being so high, how do you make sure you do an intervention the right way?

Read on to learn how to do an intervention and do one the right way.

What Is an Intervention?

Before we dive into how to do an intervention, let’s first get an understanding of what exactly an intervention is.

An intervention involves planning a gathering with family, friends, and an intervention specialist to (lovingly) confront a loved on about their addiction.

During the intervention, you will typically present your loved one with examples of their destructive behavior, and let them know how these destructive behaviors have negatively impacted you.

You will also offer a solution to their behavior. Usually, this means presenting them with a pre-arranged treatment plan, whether that means inpatient rehab or counseling.

The treatment plan should not be vague. Rather, it should have very clear steps and guidelines. And you should explain the goals of this treatment plan.

Once you have announced the treatment plan, you should let the addict know what each loved one in the room will do if the loved one fails to agree to this plan.

This is the gist of what an intervention will consist of. However, each intervention is different and will vary according to the addict’s needs.

Now, let’s dive into what goes into planning and executing a successful intervention.

1. Select Your Intervention Team with Great Care

When planning an intervention, you need to be very careful when selecting the family and friends who will be present for it.

Only those who have a meaningful and loving relationship with the addicted person should be at the intervention.

If there is someone you know who loves the addict dearly, but is currently on bad terms with the addict, then this person should not be there.

The sole purpose of this intervention is to help convince the addict they need help. This is not a time to mend fences; that can be done later.

Also, make sure the people who come to the intervention are also people the addict is comfortable opening up around.

Once your team is assembled, make sure you keep them in the loop about what exactly will happen during the intervention. They should know who is going to speak first, who will say what, etc. No one involved in the intervention (other than the addict) should come in not knowing what the game plan is.

Having a clear game plan helps keep things organized and increases the effectiveness of the intervention.

2. Hire an Intervention Specialist

There is one member of your intervention team who shouldn’t know the addict very well: an intervention specialist.

Some people work solely as intervention specialists, while others are also social workers, therapists, or doctors.

An intervention specialist can help you form your intervention team, and they can help you put together a plan that will increase your chances of success. During the intervention, the specialist can act as the voice of reason when tensions run high.

3. Choose the Right Moment for the Intervention

Staging the intervention at the right time can make or break its success.

The best time to talk to a loved one about their addiction is most definitely when they are sober. If it’s extremely rare that you encounter the addict sober, then choose a time when they are at least close to sober.

If they aren’t sober, there’s a chance they won’t fully register what’s going on and won’t be able to think clearly. There’s a good chance they may not even remember what is said later on.

Plus, choosing a moment when the addict is sober helps ensures the safety of everyone. If they aren’t sober and become angry, there’s a higher chance of them lashing out in a violent manner.

Oftentimes, staging an intervention in the morning is the best bet. It can also be a great idea to hold the intervention after a big drug-related incident has occurred.

For example, if your loved one has been charged recently with drunk driving, holding an intervention shortly after can prove to be highly effective. This is because the consequences of their drug use will be fresh in their minds.

4. Choose the Right Location

Once you know what time the intervention will be held, it’s time to choose the location.

First and foremost, the location should always be private. You may think it’s “safer” to do it in a public place, but this can cause everyone to freeze up and feel uncomfortable about being overheard or causing a scene.

Also, many people think that having an intervention in their home is a great idea. However, this can often backfire, as the addict can simply retreat to their room or the bathroom if they start to get uncomfortable.

Oftentimes, the office of the intervention specialist or therapist is the best location. Being in this sort of setting usually forces people to be on their best behavior. Plus, an unfamiliar setting decreases the chances of the addict attempting to retreat to another room.

5. Choose a Speaking Order

It’s very important to choose a speaking order for the intervention. Otherwise, everyone will try to speak at once and you’ll end up overwhelming the addict.

Be very strategic about who speaks first and who speaks last. It’s usually a good idea to have the first person who speaks be someone the addict loves dearly and doesn’t have any “beef” with.

Usually, this is a child of the addict, or a niece or nephew. It’s someone who won’t have any bias in the situation and can really just speak from their heart.

The last person to speak should also be someone who is very close to the addict and who is directly impacted by their behavior. This is usually a spouse or a parent.

However, it may be the case that family members have already talked to the addict about their problem numerous times, and the addict may be sick of hearing it. In that instance, it can sometimes be best to leave the talking to friends and the interventionist.

Before the intervention, you can role-play different scenarios to find which one works best.

6. Hold a Few Rehearsals

Speaking of role-playing, it can also be a good idea to hold rehearsals before the intervention.

Emotions are going to be running very high during the intervention. This will make coming up with what to say on the spot very difficult. If you know exactly what you’re going to say beforehand, it’s less likely that your emotions will get in the way of you completing your speech as planned.

If someone cannot attend a rehearsal, it’s usually best to ask them to not attend the intervention, as rehearsing is a very crucial step in ensuring the intervention succeeds.

During rehearsals, you may also want to have one person role-play the addict. This way, you’ll be prepared with how to react when the addict tries to counter your statements.

An intervention specialist can be particularly helpful in these moments, as they can help you prepare what to say and coach you on ways to deal with the reactions of the addict.

7. Stay on Script

When planning an intervention, you are going to be spending hours developing the script for it.

This script will detail everything you want to say, how you want to say it, and the order you want to say it in. You will likely do multiple revisions of this script with the interventionist to ensure everything and everyone is included and heard.

When you get to the actual intervention, you may find your emotions taking over and therefore feel tempted to ad lib.

This is not a good idea, so try to stick to the script as best as possible. Don’t plan any sort of surprise speech. Catching other participants off-guard can easily derail the whole intervention.

8. Be Warm and Keep Tempers Controlled

It is never the point of the intervention to belittle the addict so they just feel awful about themselves.

If someone is an addict, their self-worth is already pretty low, and your goal should never be to make it lower.

Therefore, it’s very important to let the addict know that the intervention comes from a place of love and concern, not anger and spite. You can display this best through your body language and tone of voice.

Make sure your body language is warm and open. Do this by keeping your legs and arms uncrossed, leaning in and making eye contact with the addict when your speaking, and keeping your hands unclenched.

Your script will contain words of love and understanding, so make sure your body language matches that sentiment.

Tensions can flare up easily during an intervention, but it is absolutely necessary that everyone keeps their tempers under control. If the addict attempts to pick a fight or bring up old grievances, do not engage. Make sure the conversation always steers towards helping them and loving them.

9. Always Have a Plan B

In a perfect scenario, the addict will calmly and carefully listen to what everyone has to say and then agree to the treatment plan in place.

However, we all know that things are rarely perfect. Therefore, you need to come into the intervention with a backup plan in the event that things don’t go well.

When someone is in the throes of addiction, you never know how they are going to respond. The addict might yell and scream at everyone, leave the room, hysterically cry, or even say horrible, vulgar things that they don’t mean.

Having a backup plan in place will help you be best prepared for this scenario.

Be prepared to wait out the addict’s aggressive behavior. Make sure you are prepared to not cave into it. If the addict gets aggressive and someone else gets aggressive back, then you’ve entered a situation where you are trying to fight fire with fire.

Make sure everyone is prepared for the addict to lash out. Everyone acting in calm solidarity will help the addict calm down and re-engage in the conversation.

10. Never Give Up and Prepare for the Journey Ahead

There’s a chance the first intervention will be a complete fail.

But this shouldn’t stop you from staging another intervention in the near future. It may take multiple interventions and conversations to finally get through to your loved one.

As we said at the beginning of this article, 90 percent of people who undergo an intervention seek treatment after.

However, this doesn’t mean that the same 90 percent who seek treatment stick with their treatment and come out the other end healed. The percentage who do that on the first try is likely much lower.

Therefore, while getting the addict to agree to treatment is a great success, it is only the first step in the journey to recovery. Be grateful for this big victory, but also be prepared for the ups and downs that lie ahead.

How to Do an Intervention: Wrap Up

Now that you know how to do an intervention, it’s time to plan and execute your own.

Remember, you shouldn’t try to do the intervention alone. Check out our intervention specialist page to learn about hiring a qualified interventionist.

Out interventionists will be in your corner every step of the way!