10 Easy to Follow Steps for Addiction Intervention


There are different types of intervention strategies that depend on the addict/alcoholic in question and what their needs may be. These strategies can range from unstructured counseling and feedback – (which can be done by friends, families and support networks), to more formalized structured therapy – (which is going to involve intervention, therapeutic and addiction professionals. To learn more about getting an interventionist call 1-877-97-LIVES or go to www.livesinrecovery.com and click on the Alumni Crisis Referral Helpline to chat with one of our professional Admission Coordinators). Brief interventions are: Time limited; Directed towards a specific goal; and Are structured. The main goal is to have the addict/alcoholic themselves to accept responsibility for their own recovery. (It must be understood however, that brief interventions are NOT a replacement for specialized care of high level chemical dependency that is found in formal structured therapy.) Brief interventions are used to encourage people to attend 12-step meetings and to seek treatment if needed.

How To Have An Intervention 

A successful intervention will follow a specific plan of action and will include timeline goals to achieve change with regards to specific behaviors. An effective interventionist will assess the addicted person’s readiness and willingness to change. A strategic plan will be developed to assist the addict/alcoholic in progressing to the next level and will implement that strategy. Below you will find 10 steps to take that will enable you to be as prepared as possible for performing an intervention with the support of family, friends, co-workers or other important people in the addict/alcoholics life:

  1. Define the purpose of the planned talk so that everyone involved understands; Set up a time to meet with the  addict/alcoholic to talk, and use the meeting to help the addict/alcoholic understand the reason that the intervention is being done.
  2. Raise awareness of addict/alcoholic’s personal health. (You will use known information about the effects of the chemical that they are using, as well as information the family, friends, doctor - may be able to provide of their current physical status.)
  3. You will want to determine the level of substance abuse, so that you know what you are dealing with. (You will either have your own information gained through your personal relationship with the addict/alcoholic or information shared by their family & friends, of the person’s addiction history/behavior), along with what the addict/alcoholic share themselves in the intervention - to establish the level of their addiction.
  4. Actively listen to what feedback you get from the addict/alcoholic and direct it towards the purpose of your talk with them.
  5. Help the addicted person to weigh for themselves the costs and the benefits of staying in their current lifestyle and in changing their current lifestyle.
  6. Offer the addict/alcoholic positive change alternatives and options – which could range from going to meetings, getting treatment, participating in an IOP, moving into a recovery house program to get a solid footing or a combination of these.
  7. Identify potential change strategies such as: Achieving a behavior change with a plan to accomplish it; A change through brief treatment, long-term treatment or through self-help attendance; and Define how these can be accomplished.
  8. Help the addict choose the most appropriate change strategy for them by assisting them with awareness to cost information, insurance options, family support for pets, bills, etc. - if they were to go away for a while, transportation and so on. (See Addiction Intervention Outline for what steps will need to have already been taken.)
  9. Reinforce personal decisions made by the addict/alcoholic by repeating the goals and outcomes to be expected.
  10. Schedule a follow up talk to track their progress. This can be in the form of a face-to-face meeting, a phone  call, email or Face Time.

Addiction Intervention Outline

Contact family, friends, co-workers, doctor, clergy, employer and any other important people in the alcoholic-addict’s life that would be willing to participate.

Communicate with each person who will be participating in the intervention, for each to prepare a “non-accusatory” statement that tells the addict/alcoholic of the good traits and characteristics that they possess when not under the influence, as well as factual observations of the addict/alcoholic while using and/or drinking. The statement should also include how much the person writing deeply cares for the addict/alcoholic and expressing that their motivation to participate in the intervention was to encourage them to accept the help that has become available to them.

It is suggested that all those participating in the Intervention meet at least once before the actual intervention to rehearse what they will say, make any necessary edits in order to eliminate content that may become repetitive or confrontational.

Remember, the goal is to just get them to become willing to receive help.

Discuss w/ those involved the plan, ability and/or system for payment of any known costs such as detoxification fees, treatment fees, and transportation costs. You will need to know what insurance is available, what finances the addict/alcoholic has to use and what, (if any), financial support the family is willing to offer.

Contact The Watershed by calling 1-877-97-LIVES or go to www.livesinrecovery.com and click on

Alumni Crisis Referrals to chat with an Admissions Coordinator and begin the process of getting treatment set up for the addict/alcoholic.

Remember that if for whatever reason they can’t be admitted to The Watershed, you will receive assistance from our full time staff in the Resource Department to find treatment that will suite their current financial status/needs.

If possible, have someone pack their belongings for approximately 7 days. If things are moving to fast for that, then clothes and personal items may need to be purchased after they are admitted to treatment. (Most important is to be prepared to seize the opportunity to get them help quickly.)

In the majority of cases, telling the addict or alcoholic “about” an intervention that is about to occur, will most predictably lead to a “no show” on their part. Due to this, you will set up a time and place to meet with them for whatever reason you may give, (other than saying what it is really about). Here is where the group will be assembled and waiting. This may seem a bit like trickery or an ambush…(and it is)…but as a rule, it is the only way and this is about saving their life NOT their feelings.

Most likely when the addict/alcoholic arrives they will be surprised or caught off guard by seeing everyone there. You want to let them know that everyone is there out of love and concern. Ask the addict/alcoholic to just listen with an open mind to what is said and that what they do with it will be totally up to them.

You want to keep in mind that the goal is to get the addict/alcoholic to agree to enter detox. If theyagree to this help, “act quickly”. Let them know about the place that you have set up and that they will be transported directly there. At least 2-3 of those individuals that the addict/alcoholic will listen to and trust, should transport them straight to the facility or to the airport to go to the facility.

If the addict/alcoholic persists in their state of denial, then it will be time for “tough love”. You will, as a group, want to insure that they know the group loves and cares for them regardless of their decision, but that no one in the group will continue to be a part of their addictive lifestyle on any level. Let them know that it is time to part company, and that they are on their own as long as they are choosing to remain in the addictive lifestyle – reminding them one last time of their alternate choice to take the action being given to them.

As long as there is someone willing to bail out the addict/alcoholic from the consequences and wreckage caused by their active addiction and behaviors, they will never change what they are doing. We have to remember that “pain” is a major motivator and is the common factor in the majority of addicted people becoming willing to receive treatment.

Intervention and Addiction Q&A

Who can I call if I have questions about how to talk to someone?

You can call 1-877-97-LIVES or go to www.livesinrecovery.com to chat with a Watershed Admissions Coordinator with any questions you may have.

Is the addict/alcoholic less likely to do well in recovery if it was a “mandated” situation?

Not at all! The vast majority of people entering treatment are being motivated by “pending consequences” such as jail, potential loss of children, employment, marriage, etc.. Whatever motivates the addict/alcoholic into treatment is fine. The important thing is that they just becoming willing to go.

What causes the most problems for people with addictions with regards to getting help?

People who are suffering from alcoholism and drug addictions are prone to serious denial with regards to their addiction and to the harmful effects of their behavior on themselves and others. (Reasoning with them is often met with denial, rationalization, minimization, justification and defensiveness. Sometimes they will verbally attack the very loved one that is trying to help them.)

If the addict/alcoholic is “REALLY” sorry for what they have done, can’t they just quit?

No matter how sorry they are and how determined they may be - they do not have the power within themselves to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs on their own for any significant length of time.

If the addict/alcoholic has not yet run into “significant” problems such as jail, loss of employment, divorce, etc…, is it possible that it won’t get any worse if they keep using drugs and drinking alcohol?

No it is not possible. Addiction/Alcoholism is a progressive, incurable and fatal disease. As time passes the consequences will come and they will get worse, ultimately ending in jails, institutions and death.

What are some other tips that can help me in facilitating or being a part of an intervention?

Stay calm

Couch your comments

Avoid labeling the person an “alcoholic” or “addict”

Cite specific incidents resulting from the person’s substance abuse (Such as a DUI arrest)

Stick to what you know firsthand, not hearsay

Talk in “I” statements, explaining how the person’s behavior has affected you (When you drive drunk, I don’t sleep all night”)

Be prepared for denial and resentment

Be supportive and hopeful about change

The person I am trying to help is severely addicted and I need a professional interventionist. Can Watershed help me? 

Absolutely! You can call 1-877-97-LIVES or go to www.livesinrecovery.com , click on the Alumni Crisis Referral Help Line and chat with a professional Admissions Coordinator and let them know that you are in need of an interventionist. Watershed can assist in guiding you in the right direction.

Could sharing your feelings and concerns with the addict/alcoholic in the intervention do more harm than good?

Not if the guidelines are followed. Remember, the intervention is not to “attack” the addicted person…it is to share with them the truth in a way that would motivate them to want help. Many addicted people, when faced with losing important relationships, health or reputation often motivate them to enter treatment.

Are there any addicted/alcoholic people who can get clean and sober without treatment?

An addict/alcoholics ability to recover without treatment varies widely. Some people are however able to get clean/sober and establish a foundation of recovery through prayer, self-help groups, active church/religious participation and supportive people in their life.

How can I best bring the subject up with the person who is currently abusing alcohol and/or drugs?

Don’t bring up the subject of their addiction while they are under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. (The reason being, when the person is under the influence, they have a weekend ability to understand things logically and are more inclined to be dismissive, angry, blaming and impatient. They could also be very irrational and potentially violent.)

DO NOT be under the influence of any chemical substance “yourself” when having this talk.

Set up a time when the two of you can have a good amount of time to be alone. You want to have a “two way” conversation. Even if they want to have the talk “right now”, when there is little time and little privacy, simply set it for a time where both time and privacy will be plentiful.

When you meet, preface the conversation by telling them that you care and that it is out of this care and concern that you are having this conversation.

You will want to share with them the behaviors of concern that you have observed and share the worries that you have with regards to the effect the chemical use is having and could have in the future.

Be sure that this is a “two way” conversation, so that they do not feel that they are being lectured, judged or picked on.

If they tell you that they definitely do NOT have a problem, ask if perhaps you could both speak again at some point down the road. Let them know that while “you” believe there could be a problem, you recognize and appreciate the need to give them the room to think about it.

Don’t attempt to speculate or try to explore what “their motives” are. That can sidetrack you from the main point.

Lastly, don’t expect a HUGE change to occur in how they think or act right away. The conversation that you have with them could be the first time anyone has even suggested they had a problem or that they even considered the thought themselves.

My loved one has relapsed! What does that mean?

Addiction/Alcoholism is a chronic disease and relapses, while not a requirement, are not unusual. If this has happened, DON’T give up hope! This does not mean that they aren’t serious, aren’t trying or that the solution they’ve been given is failing.

If they are in relapse, what can I do?

You have several options. One thing you can do is to contact The Watershed at 1-877-97-LIVES or www.livesinrecovery.com and click on the Alumni Crisis Referral Helpline to chat with one of our professional Admission Coordinators about treatment at The Watershed or if they can’t come into TWS, you will be able to obtain resources for a facility that can meet the needs of your loved one or friend. You can also get in touch with the self-help group, sponsor or “recovery community” friends that they have trusted and worked with in the past. You will want to prepare to do an intervention again. (The sooner the better!)

I am a teen and the person that I am concerned about is my friend and is also a teen…What do I do if we have talked about it and they are just getting worse?

If this is your friend and you have attempted talking to them about their problem and either they have found that they can’t quit or you have found they are unwilling or unable to quit, then YOU need to take the next step. It is at this point time to bring this issue to your friend’s parents or another supportive adult in your friend’s life, (such as a pastor, coach, doctor, teacher, etc…). It can be a really scary thing, but remember that this is a progressive and fatal illness. Your friend needs help as soon as possible. If you are concerned about how your friend’s parents may react, it may be advisable to take this to your parent(s), school’s counselor or another trusted adult listed above, so that they can speak with your friend’s parents.

“I” feel terrible for my friend and this is ALL really stressing me out and making me feel REALLY bad. What can I do?

Thank goodness that your friend has someone like you who cares so much for them. **Refer to the steps in the above question in how to help your friend** However, you are struggling and it is happening because helping an addict or alcoholic in active addiction is very tough. For “your” own well-being, you need to be talking with and getting support from an adult that you can trust. You should limit the time you spend with the alcoholic/addict friend, because your friend’s chemical use can also put “you” at risk. Once you have taken steps to provide your friend with a solution, (or if a teen) –have involved an adult -- start thinking about you and getting out there to do things that you enjoy and that make you happy!

I am the friend or family member of an addict/alcoholic. Where can I go for support and answers to my questions about how to deal with my own feelings, struggles and concerns?

The most advisable places for you to go are Al-Anon/Nar-Anon for friends and family members OR Al-Ateen/Nar-Ateen for the children of alcoholic/addicts – or kids being directly affected by a loved one’s addiction. (In addition to this, there is also Celebrate Recovery, which is a faith based 12 step support group)

How can I find support groups in my area?

You can click on the “Recovery Resources” drop down, click on “Find a Meeting”. With this you can locate Al-Anon/ Nar-Anon/ Al-Ateen or Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings in your area.

If you are a teen, check with your guidance counselor…often times there are actually support groups in the school that are not widely advertised, but exist for kids to find friendship and support among their peers in.

Need help now? Chat Live

© 2016 Rebecca Balko


Read 2396 times Last modified on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:42
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.