How to Perform an Intervention

Three Parts:Planning the InterventionHaving the Intervention MeetingFollowing Up After the Intervention

If someone you love is struggling with alcohol, drug addiction, compulsive gambling or other destructive behaviors, staging an intervention might be the best way to help the person get better. People with serious addictive behaviors are often in denial that they have a problem. When heart to heart talks and other attempts to help prove ineffective, you can join forces with friends, families and a professional interventionist to confront the person with the truth and a detailed plan of action.

Part 1
Planning the Intervention

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    Consult with a professional. To ensure the best chances for success, you should consult with someone who has experience helping addicts and conducting interventions. A professional interventionist will be able to guide you and other family member through the process, increasing chances that the intervention will be successful.[1] You can meet with the professional beforehand to plan things out, and you may even want to invite him or her to the intervention to act as a facilitator. It’s especially important to consult with a professional if the following is true:
    • The person has a history of mental illness.
    • The person is likely to get violent in reaction to the intervention.
    • The person has exhibited suicidal behavior.
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    Form an intervention team. This should be composed of five or six people the person in question is close to and respects. The person's parents, siblings, trusted relatives and best friends are likely candidates. Invite people who have been impacted by the person's addiction and are invested in the person’s future. It's important to invite people who can be relied upon to be there for the person in times of need, since the intervention is just the first step on the road to recovery.[2]
    • Don’t invite people the person doesn’t like or trust. The person you're trying to help could end up becoming upset and leaving instead of being receptive to getting help.
    • Don’t invite people who might disrupt the intervention by getting too emotional or coming to the person's defense. For example, the person you're trying to help might be close to his little sister, but if she might end up taking his side and telling people he doesn't really need to go to rehab, she'll be doing more harm than good if she's there during the intervention.
    • If you think a certain person should be there, but he or she might disrupt the intervention, have him or her write a letter that can be read out loud instead of coming in person.
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    Find the right treatment plan. The treatment plan you put forward is a central part of what makes interventions effective. Just telling the person that you think there's a problem isn't going to be enough to help him or her stop the addiction. Laying out a well-researched treatment plan the person can begin right away is better than just saying "you need to get treatment."
    • The treatment plan should incorporate ways your loved one can get professional help to overcome his or her addiction. This could mean going to rehab, getting psychotherapy, or beginning some kind of outpatient treatment program. Research facilities and decide what makes the most sense for the person you're trying to help. Figure out what steps are required for admission, and have everything set up in advance. You may also need to figure out how the treatment will be funded.
    • Prepare a list of support groups that your loved one can sign up for right away. You might want to offer to drive the person to the
    • Have a plan in place for making sure the person physically gets to the treatment facility. If it's an inpatient facility, have a plan of action for transporting the person there. If it's an outpatient facility, assign a loved one to be responsible for driving the person to and from the facility on a regular schedule.
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    Decide on consequences to put forward. Each person involved in the intervention should put forward consequences that will be put into place if the person refuses the treatment plan. Difficult as it may be, each person must be willing to make a big change in order to help the person make a new start. The biggest goal is to help the person realize that his or her addictive behavior will no longer be enabled by loved ones. This will make it much harder for the person to continue his or her addictive behaviors.
    • If family members have been hosting the person or lending him or her money, consequences might include cutting off financial aid, or asking the person to find another place to live.
    • For those closest to the person, the consequence might be getting a divorce or changing the relationship in another way.
    • Consider legal consequences as well. For example, instead of bailing the person out of jail after a drunk driving incident, family and friends might vow not to help out next time. There will be no more “rescues.”
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    Choose a location and time. Once the intervention has been planned out, settle on a date and time when everyone can be there. Pick a private place where the person feels comfortable, like a loved one’s home. Each person who is to be present at the intervention should understand the gravity of the situation and be sure to arrive at the designated time. Having a no show could end up being disruptive to the intervention.
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    Have a rehearsal. Since the intervention meeting can be very emotional, having a rehearsal beforehand can help. It's very important to keep things on track during an intervention, and rehearsing the entire session will help people stick to the plan when the time comes. If you plan to have a professional interventionist there to guide the session, see if you can schedule a rehearsal with everyone present.
    • Communicate openly with one another and take notes on what the loved one is doing that is harmful to himself and others. Gather the facts about the person you are dealing with. Make confidentiality a clear rule for all partakers in the meeting.
    • Consider creating a list of actions and behavioral patterns that will no longer be tolerated. Next to each activity, write what your action will be if the person continues these behaviors.
    • Have people write down what they plan to say. It's not necessary for people to memorize their lines; this isn't a performance. The important thing is to cover all the bases without straying too far from the program.
    • Anticipate the person’s reactions and have responses ready. If the person reacts defensively or with anger, everyone should be prepared to handle it without disrupting the intervention.

Part 2
Having the Intervention Meeting

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    Invite the person to the meeting without telling them what it is. If you tell the person what's going on, chances are they're not going to come. In order to make sure the person shows up, it's necessary to omit the information that his or her family and friends are staging the intervention. Come up with a plan for having the person go to the meeting spot without being clued in to what's going on. For example, you could tell the person to come to your house for dinner, or meet at a friend's house to hang out.
    • Make sure the plan doesn't seem contrived. Ask the person to do something that's not out of the ordinary.
    • Everyone should already be gathered in the space by the time the person gets there. When the person arrives, state that it’s an intervention and tell the person that everyone has something they want to say.
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    Have each member speak. Following the rehearsed format for the meeting, everyone should go around and read his or her prepared statement. If a professional interventionist is involved, he or she can act as the leader of the meeting and call on people to speak. Give each family member or friend the chance to say how the person’s actions have personally affected their lives, and how much they love the person and want things to get better.
    • Yelling or acting angry and confrontational is not advised. The person you're trying to help might just get up and walk away if this takes place. People should keep these feelings to themselves for the sake of having a successful intervention.
    • That said, it's fine to express some amount of emotion. Expressing sadness and hope that things will get better could help move the person to action. It's OK to cry.
    • Avoid trying to lighten the mood or otherwise derail the serious discussion taking place.
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    Present the treatment plan. After everyone has spoken, the leader of the group (or the interventionist) should present the treatment the treatment plan to the person. Make it clear that the treatment plan has been thoroughly researched and recommended by experts, and say that everyone believes it's the person's best bet for getting better. Ask the person to make an immediate decision to accept the plan.
    • Discuss what will happen if the option isn’t taken. It should be made clear that if the option isn't taken, there will be consequences.
    • Be ready for the person to express anger, start crying or even laugh. Stress the seriousness of the situation and don't back down.
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    End the meeting with concrete next steps. As soon as the intervention meeting is over, the person should begin treatment of some kind. This might mean physically escorting him or her to a facility where they can start detoxing or undergoing treatment, or it might mean starting therapy or an outpatient program. Have the person make a commitment to going through the entire treatment process and doing whatever it takes to stop the addiction from progressing further.

Part 3
Following Up After the Intervention

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    Support the person if he or she chooses treatment. It might be awhile before you can determine whether the intervention was successful. Even if the person is initially receptive to treatment, there's a long way to go before things will feel stable and secure again. Help him or her feel connected and supported throughout this difficult period. It's important for everyone involved in the intervention to do their part to make the process as smooth as possible.
    • Many people feel cynical and negative during recovery, complaining about the treatment facility, the therapist, the other members in the support group, and so on. Do not give in if the person asks to end the treatment plan early. Resist the temptation to commiserate, since this can damage the person's resilience.
    • Don’t accept half measures. The person may argue that just two weeks of rehab was enough to cure the addiction, or that going to counseling three times a week is too much. Do what you can to help the person stick to the original treatment plan that was approved by a professional, since half measures don't usually work.[3]
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    Be prepared for the person to refuse treatment. Sometimes denial and anger end up winning the day, and the person decides not to get treatment. There's no way to force someone to get treatment if he or she just isn't ready. The most you can do is strongly encourage the person to go forth with the treatment plan, and make it clear you'll support him or her along the way.
    • Even if the person refuses treatment, this doesn’t mean the intervention was pointless. Now the person knows that his or her family thinks there’s a serious problem.
    • By getting these issues out in the open, family can stop the process of enabling the person’s addiction.
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    Enforce the consequences. As painful as it might be, it’s important to enforce the consequences that you planned to put in place if the person refused treatment. Allowing the person to just continue living the same way as before the intervention is never going to help. Until the person has full control over his or her addiction, there's always danger that a crisis will happen.[4] The best thing you can do is cut off funding, break up with the person, or do whatever you personally know will create a significant life change that may help the person take a new path.
    • If another crisis happens later, take advantage of it. For example, if the person ends up in jail or in the hospital, use that experience to show the person that he or she really does need treatment. Having a second intervention may be helpful.
    • Remember, you are helping him or her to heal. Sometimes, we need to endure the pain of a loved one in order to provide the person with the help needed to get well.


  • Listen to what the individual has to say, but do NOT agree with him. Keep explaining your observations in detail. Do not give in. Remain firm in your thoughts and your feelings ... never waver. Give each person a turn to speak his or her own mind, as each one looks directly at the person and does not falter.
  • This may hurt the whole family, and it may seem as if you are all ganging up on the addict, and in a way you are - but it will hurt him less than ending up dead or in serious trouble.
  • Do not fear using it on children who are headed for trouble and will not listen. The consequences must fit the situation, of course.
  • This is a well known method used by many outstanding citizens. The children of Betty Ford used intervention to get her into a rehab center due to her alcoholism. She eventually started the Betty Ford Center.
  • Addicts generally choose to go to the treatment center rather than accept the consequences. Do not allow it to be postponed or put on a back burner!
  • If a child is struggling in something, consult a local care home for advice for help.


  • Make sure that there is an actual serious problem, and that the behavior of the friend or family member in question is causing more harm to others than the intervention would cause to them.
  • Get legal advice before proceeding or you may face civil or even criminal liability for kidnapping or false imprisonment.
  • Be very careful of the mental state of the person you are performing an intervention on. An intervention should only be performed on someone with a normal state of mind, for both the target individual's safety, and the safety of the people performing the intervention.
  • Denial doesn't always mean a lie: some users might actually be telling the truth when they say their habits are under control. Be honest with yourself about whether they are really causing you harm, or could you be trying to control them.

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