What is an Intervention?

Understanding the Recovery Process

An intervention is a discussion or meeting between an addict and their loved ones. In most cases, the goal of an intervention is to get an addict into a drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment program. An intervention is often supervised by an intervention specialist.

There are many reasons to stage an intervention. Someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol may be unaware of their addiction, or unable to admit they need help. Addiction can have a serious impact on a person’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Addicts may be causing harm to themselves or others. If this is the case, it is time to stage an intervention. An intervention might also be necessary for someone with a behavioral problem (like a gambling addiction) or a serious mental health condition (such as bipolar disorder and/or PTSD).

What is an Intervention?

Benefits of Using an Intervention Specialist

Many family members and loved ones have already tried talking to an addict about their drug and alcohol use, or mental health struggles. While an addict might say they want to change, they continue to drink, use drugs and/or engage in risky or unsafe behaviors.

An intervention specialist can help someone struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or mental health challenges start the recovery process. An intervention specialist is a mental health professional who is trained to help family members and loved ones stage an intervention. With the aid of a specialist, an intervention is the most effective technique families and loved ones can use to help an addict get treatment and long-term recovery.

Family members greatly benefit from using an intervention specialist when:

  • The addict is hesitant or resistant to getting help
  • The person is in denial about their addiction or denies that they abuse drugs or alcohol
  • The addict has a history of anger, violence or aggressive behavior (and/or the person gets defensive when confronted)
  • The addiction is causing lies within non-addict family members (i.e. the addict’s mother is still giving him/her money, but lying to her husband about that)
  • The addict has ever attempted suicide or has a history of suicidal thoughts
  • The person struggling with drug or alcohol abuse also suffers from other mental health problems. Or, loved ones are concerned about the addict’s mental health
  • Loved ones and families have a hard time talking to an addict about their drug and alcohol abuse, or have tried talking to them but nothing has changed
  • The shame or stigma of addiction is preventing either the addict or family members from getting help

How Does an Intervention Work? Here’s How to Stage an Intervention

An intervention happens at a specific time and place. The addict, family members, loved ones, and an intervention specialist are all present (an intervention should not take place without a trained interventionist there to help loved ones manage the situation).

These are the steps for staging an intervention:

1. Meet the intervention specialist

Those who want to stage an intervention need to meet with the intervention specialist (also called an interventionist) beforehand. During this meeting, the intervention specialist helps the family plan out when and where the intervention will take place. They also talk through what family members and loved ones will say to the addict during the intervention. The intervention specialist will ask about the addict’s personal history, the history of their addiction, and what the family has already tried to help the addict seek treatment.

2. Choose an intervention method

There are multiple strategies families can use to stage an intervention. An intervention specialist can suggest which method might be best, or explain how they would approach the intervention. Depending on the interventionist, they might have different methods for staging an intervention.

3. Select a time and place for the intervention

An intervention should take place in an environment that is safe for everyone involved. Family members should make childcare arrangements prior to the meeting, as the presence of young children might cause a distraction. An interventionist can arrange or suggest a meeting place that might work best for the intervention.

4. Write a letter to the addict

It can be very helpful for loved ones to write a letter directly to the addict. The letter should mention how much the person loves the addict and how important their relationship is. The letter might also include how drug and alcohol abuse is affecting the addict, their family and friends, and the person writing the letter. The letter should be honest and also express love, care, and concern for the person struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction.

4. Rehearse the intervention

Typically, an interventionist will meet with a family one or two times before the intervention. This gives everyone a chance to rehearse what they are going to say. Family members can read their letters out loud and talk about how they might respond if an addict refuses to go into treatment. Acting out different scenarios, like what to do if the addict denies they have a problem, helps families prepare for the intervention.

5. Make arrangements for treatment

Families should have a plan in place following the intervention. This can include making transportation arrangements directly to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. It is best to have already arranged a rehab program for the addict before the intervention. An addict might first agree to seek treatment, but then back out if there isn’t an immediate action plan for them to follow.

Deciding Which Intervention Method Is Best

There is more than one way to stage an intervention. Over time, mental health professionals have developed different methods to successfully motivate an addict to seek treatment. While each of these approaches is different, the goal is the same: help someone get treatment for their addiction and make a full recovery. Here are some common intervention methods:

1. The ARISE model of intervention

The ARISE method focuses on having family members very involved in the addiction treatment and recovery process. The ARISE model is all about making sure recovering addicts have a strong support system around them, both in treatment and after they get out of rehab. During this type of intervention, family members and loved ones are encouraged to voice their love, support, and compassion for the addict.

2. The Johnson method of intervention

The Johnson method is a step-by-step approach to staging an intervention. These steps include:

  • Using a “team” of family members, loved ones, and an interventionist to stage the intervention
  • Having a detailed plan in place beforehand
  • Expressing care and concern for the addict during the meeting
  • Talking only about the person’s drug and alcohol abuse
  • Making sure that anything said in the intervention is backed up with specific examples of past behavior

The Johnson model is an action-based method, in which the goal is to get an addict into treatment right away. Many intervention specialists might use some aspects of this method when staging an intervention. It is also the model shown on a popular television show about intervention.

3. SMART model of intervention

SMART is an addiction treatment program that focuses on support and recovery and can be used as the basis for an intervention. The SMART method does not see addiction as a disease. Rather, the program looks at a person’s environment, behaviors, thoughts and feelings — and how their life choices led to drug abuse or alcoholism. One of the goals of the SMART approach is to help someone feel empowered to overcome their addiction. During an intervention, the addict is encouraged to take control of their life and make the decision to change.

What is the cost of an intervention?

The cost of an intervention can vary depending on the level of care or services an intervention specialist provides. Hiring a professional interventionist can cost roughly $2,000 in the lower range or upwards of $10,000 in the higher range. Many drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs or treatment centers offer intervention services.

For those with financial need, there are sliding-scale programs, state-funded treatment facilities, and other financing options that families can look into. Don’t let finances discourage you from using an interventionist. A professional interventionist can play a big part in whether or not an addict decides to seek treatment. There are multiple financial resources available to low-income families who want to help an addict get into a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.

What happens after an intervention?

For an addict, admitting they need help and entering into a treatment program is a huge step. The support of family members and loved one is very important while an addict is in treatment. An addict does not have to hit “rock bottom” before they seek treatment. It’s better if they get help as soon as possible.

Following an intervention, loved ones and family members can support an addict in their recovery in a number of ways. This can include:

  • Not using drugs or alcohol when they are around the addict
  • Listening to the addict talk about their struggles
  • Participating in family therapy, or driving the addict to their therapy appointments

Loved ones can also express how proud and happy they are that the addict is getting help and working to overcome their addiction. For recovering addicts, having family members who love and support them is crucial to maintaining long-term sobriety.