Frequently Asked Questions About Interventions

Staging an intervention can feel overwhelming. If you know someone struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, behavioral problems (like gambling addiction), or a serious mental health condition (such as bipolar disorder), you probably have questions about staging an intervention.

Here are the most frequently asked questions about how to stage an intervention. These also cover how to find an intervention specialist and what the process is like for people involved in an intervention:

Frequently Asked Questions About Interventions

1. Who Should Conduct an Intervention?

It is not a good idea to attempt an intervention on your own. Mental health professionals strongly discourage families from staging an intervention alone. This could backfire or put both the addict and their family members at risk. The best, most successful way to stage an intervention is by hiring an intervention specialist (also called an interventionist). This person is trained to help families stage an intervention and get the person in need into a treatment program right away.

2. What Is The Goal of An Intervention?

The goal of an intervention is to get the person in need into a treatment program. It’s important that this person makes the decision to get help for themselves and is not forced or coerced into seeking treatment. For an addict, getting treatment means going to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. For someone with a serious mental health issue, this means a mental health hospital or another type of treatment facility.

3. Who Participates During an Intervention?

An intervention is a meeting or discussion that includes the addict or person who needs help, their family members, and usually an intervention specialist. An intervention might also involve other important people in the addict’s life (such as friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.) who have been affected by their actions and behaviors. Generally, all are encouraged to participate in the intervention. The interventionist typically leads the discussion and makes sure the focus is on helping the addict seek treatment.

4. What is an Intervention Letter?

Family members are encouraged to write a letter to the addict, which is often read out loud during the intervention. An intervention specialist usually suggests that families write their letter before the intervention and discuss it with the interventionists beforehand. The intervention letter should focus on the love the family member feels for the addict, the importance of their relationship, and how much they want the addict to seek treatment.

5. What Happens at an Intervention?

Most interventions involve specific steps. These steps are designed to help an addict admit that they have a problem and decide to seek treatment. During an intervention, an intervention specialist will facilitate a discussion that focuses on the addict’s behavior and how their addiction is harmful to themselves and others. All family members and loved ones are encouraged to talk and participate in the intervention.

6. What Should Someone Say at an Intervention?

Usually, an interventionist will meet with family members and loved ones before the intervention takes place. This allows everyone to talk about what they are going to say and how best to tell the addict how they feel. Using supportive or neutral language when talking to an addict is far more effective than blame, negativity or criticism.

7. What Do You Do If An Intervention Fails?

It can be very hard to get someone to admit that they have an addiction, and also make the decision to go to rehab. This is one of the reasons it can be helpful to have an intervention specialist present when staging an intervention. When planning an intervention, family members can talk with the interventionist about what to do if the person doesn’t want to seek treatment. Family members should stay firm, stick to the plan and rehearse their strategy if someone is unwilling to get help. It’s important to remember that overcoming addiction can be a long process. A second intervention might be necessary if the first attempt does not work.

8. What Boundaries Should You Set During An Intervention?

Setting boundaries is an important part of staging an intervention. Family members should not bargain, barter or compromise with the person who needs help. Addicts must know what the consequences will be if they do not seek treatment and loved ones should follow through on this (for example, “if you won’t go to a rehab program, you can no longer live in the home”, or “if you won’t go to rehab, we will no longer pay for your car”). Loved ones should also establish boundaries around what they will and will not talk about during the intervention.

9. Are There Different Ways to Stage an Intervention? Which One Should I Use?

There are different methods and approaches to staging an intervention. An intervention specialist can help families decide which strategy is the right one for them. Some interventionists use a specific model of intervention, like the Johnson method, ARISE, or SMART. You can also research intervention methods or ask an interventionist about them.

10. When Should You Stage An Intervention? Should You Ever Not Stage An Intervention?

Typically, families and loved ones decide to stage an intervention when someone refuses to get help or change their behavior. They may have tried talking to the person one-on-one, but nothing changes. Or, the person is engaging in harmful, unsafe or risky behaviors. It is always a good idea to talk to a mental health professional about staging an intervention before you and your family decide to hold one. You do not need to wait until someone hits “rock bottom” before staging an intervention -- in fact, getting help early is key to overcoming addiction and treating serious mental health problems. An intervention should never be staged without a trained intervention specialist present.

11. How Do You Know If Someone Has An Addiction? When Does Use Become Abuse?

In short, use becomes substance abuse when a person can no longer control their behaviors. Over time, substance abuse can also develop into a chemical dependency. When this happens, it is very difficult for a person to stop using drugs or alcohol on their own. Someone with a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol often needs to undergo detox.

12. After An Intervention, When Should Someone Go To Treatment?

It is strongly recommended that an addict or person in need go to treatment immediately after an intervention. An addict might say they are going to get help, but then not follow through if there isn’t a concrete plan for them to follow. Family members should make arrangements for the addict to go directly to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program when the intervention is over.

13. How Much Does An Intervention Cost? Will Insurance Cover An Intervention?

Health insurance may cover a drug and alcohol rehab program and treatment for mental health conditions. Health insurance might also partially cover the cost of an intervention, depending upon what type of insurance you have. The cost of hiring an intervention specialist can range from roughly $2,000 to upwards of $10,000, depending upon the type of services they provide. For families in need, there are some sliding-scale programs and financial assistance options for interventions.

14. Where and When Should You Stage An Intervention?

An intervention should take place in a safe environment free from distractions and interruptions. Many interventionists recommend that the meeting take place in a neutral setting, not the person’s own home. Staging an intervention can save someone’s life. Don’t wait until the problem gets worse before talking to a mental health professional about planning an intervention.

15. What Are The Success Rates of Interventions? How Do I Find An Interventionist?

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, interventionists report their success rate as 80-90% (where success is defined as the addicted individual going to treatment). Of the 15-20% who elect not to go to treatment the day of the intervention, about half do end up going within 1-2 weeks.

Many mental health professionals see an intervention as the most effective way to get someone to seek help and enroll in a treatment program. An intervention is almost always far more successful with the guidance and presence of a trained intervention specialist. Many drug and alcohol rehab programs offer intervention services.