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How to Plan a Successful Intervention

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Intervention tips | Help planning an intervention

An intervention is, quite simply, an expression of love. Do not forget that. As you read the tips provided further down in the page, and as you organize and plan the logistics of the intervention upon a loved one, you must not forget that the central point of an intervention is to express love. Certainly, it is much more complex in its actual execution, but at its very core, an intervention is predicated upon love; love for a very sick person. That cannot be absent from any intervention. Keep this in your mind and heart throughout your planning of the intervention and through its completion.

Generally speaking, an intervention is a gathering of the friend’s and family of an individual whose personal behavior and decisions have been so poor as a result of some sort of self-abusive behavior, like drug or alcohol abuse, that it has become necessary to gather together and collaboratively express concern over such behaviors and for each individual to express their particular observation of such behaviors to the individual engaging in them. Most often, the person to be intervened upon is quite literally blind to the truth about how their behavior has harmed their life and, in a sense, it is the job of those involved in the intervention to help that person see what they are virtually incapable of seeing for themselves.

It’s important to note that many interventions are performed with no particular outcome or requirement for the individual being intervened; or, in other words, a more of a “heads up” intervention. As in, “heads up your addiction has become a problem, but not one bad enough for us to look into getting you treatment for it.”

We don’t advise such an intervention. If a person has reached the point where they need to be intervened upon, then they also will need immediate help recovering from their addiction and they aren’t going to find it unless you have already made it readily available to them. In almost all successful interventions the goal is to get the addict into treatment for their addiction.

Also, if you have the financial means to do so after arranging for treatment for the individual in question, it would be advisable to hire an Interventionist registered with the Association of Intervention Specialists to assist you. These are people trained and vetted in the art of conducting a fair and successful intervention. Please feel free to call us at 888-U-GET-WELL if you would like a recommendation on a board registered interventionist, as we work with many.


Recall what we said at the beginning of this article: the intervention, at its core, is an expression of love. Unfortunately, as is the case with most addicts, there may be a slight dearth of people who can truly show them love. Addicts tend to burn a few bridges – often irreconcilably – before they get help and there may be more than a few people who want to participate in an intervention for the wrong reasons. In other words, just because someone has strong feelings for a person, that is not sufficient reason for them to be asked to participate in an intervention. Many an intervention has failed miserably because it turned into an opportunity for people to pile on the addict and just take shots at them. That is not the point of an intervention. Only those that the addicts happens to love and respect should be there, and even then only those who are willing to set aside their present feelings of anger and hostility they may be experiencing towards the addict.


Sometimes the need for an intervention becomes apparent out of nowhere and it is blatantly obvious to everyone but the addicted individual that they need help immediately. In such a case an intervention should be conducted immediately, however we are suggesting that there are times which are more ideal to do an intervention when sometimes it might strike those planning the intervention as a reason to put it off. For instance, right after a “sobering” event like a job loss or period of incarceration for a drug/alcohol offense would be more ideal than, say, after the addicted happens to beat the charges of such an offense.

One of the points of an intervention is helping the addicted realize that they have hit “bottom” and this is just easier to do when it is more apparent. Again, if things are already bad, we are not suggesting that you wait until they get worse, since the addict you plan to intervene upon could be dead by then. But again, to use the scenario above as an example, if the addict in your life gets picked up for DWI, don’t wait until the matter has been resolved in court to perform the intervention. Get it done while the addict is still feeling like a low-life for having spent the night in jail. Generally a judge will allow an addict to complete treatment before remitting punishment and, quite often, the punishment will be less if the addict successfully completes treatment.

Also, ideally an addict should be sober when the intervention is done. This might require performing the intervention very early in the morning and/or waking the addict before they have had a chance to use for some period of time. In some cases, there will be no period of time when the addict is completely sober in which case you must just try to get them when they are at their most sober and often this will be early in the morning or whenever the addict tends to wake.

So, in summation, the best time to do an intervention is immediately after it has become apparent that it is need and especially right after a traumatic event and when the addict is sober, or at least more sober. There are really no reasons to put off an intervention.


As we said, and still maintain, the intervention is an act of love. That said, it is often mistaken gestures of love, that are in fact enabling behavior, that have helped the addict survive as long as they have as an addict. In other words, an addict by definition is crippled with respect to their ability to survive in the world so often they have looked to others to support their lifestyle and it is often those very people who are choosing to intervene upon the addict.

All enabling behaviors must stop and this must be made crystal clear to the addicts. Make ultimatums for if the addict chooses not to enter treatment. For instance, do you provide a place for the addict to live? Car? Cell phone? You must make it known that this will end if they don’t enter treatment immediately on YOUR terms not theirs. Do they have outstanding warrants for their arrest? Let them know that they have two options: to go to treatment, or otherwise go to jail as you will be notifying the police of their whereabouts. Do they have a child they’ve been neglecting? Let them know you will be notifying Child Protect Services.

The point is not to be mean or hateful, but rather is to make the option of remaining out of treatment as unattractive as possible and entering treatment should really seem as the only suitable option. This can be difficult to do in a loving manner, but if you exercise the proper word choice and tact it can be in fact a very powerful expression of love. As in, “I love you to the extent that I man no longer willing to help you kill yourself.”


The addict will – hopefully – be left vulnerable and impressionable after everyone participating in the intervention has said their peace, expressed their concerns and issued their ultimatums which will – again hopefully – allow them just enough willingness to enter treatment. Our experience shows that this willingness will present for a very, very finite period of time. You must capitalize upon it and make the most out of it.

So, you really need to have flight/travel arrangements already made, a treatment center ready to take the addict as a new admit and bags packed for the addict. Any unnecessary time spent in transit is time the addict has to rethink their decision. Yes, you are literally whisking them away where they will be gone from anywhere from 30-90 days or longer. This abrupt “whisking” is exactly what you want. It keeps the addict from being able to think; the selfish rationalization present in the mind of an addict will do anything to avoid treatment and to get high again.


These are just some general guidelines to follow and are by no means exhaustive. We strongly recommend enlisting professional help. We have people available 24 hours a day for you to speak with regarding your loved one who may be in need of an intervention, please feel free to call us whenever at 1-888-U-GET-WELL or click the contact button below.