How to Stage an Addiction Intervention

An intervention is a formal conversation, one that is focused on helping an individual to identify a current pattern of behavior as a medical disorder that requires treatment and encouraging that individual to agree to immediately begin that treatment.

Though you may have had a dozen informal conversations with your loved one about their use of drugs and alcohol, an intervention is a more serious affair in which you state your concerns, identify the need for treatment, and then draw a line in the sand. 

Because it is a formal event, an intervention should not be held impromptu unless it is a crisis situation. Rather, there are a number of factors to consider before you stage an intervention for someone in need of treatment for addiction. Here are some of the most important.   

Professional Interventionist

It may be advisable to hire a professional interventionist to assist you with the process of staging and running the intervention. A professional has the experience to guide you in your choices and help you to ensure that you do everything possible to help your loved one understand the urgent need for immediate addiction treatment. Though you certainly can stage an intervention without professional assistance, it may be a service that is included in the rehab you choose or offered at a lesser rate. Often, hiring an independent interventionist may help to remove the burden of staging an intervention when you are already in crisis due to a loved one’s addiction.


The people you choose to take part in the intervention can have a significant impact on how the discussion unfolds. If you choose someone who has a tendency toward the dramatic, then it is likely that there will be parts of the intervention that are highly emotionally charged. If you choose someone who is angry with the person at the center of the intervention, it is likely that there will be a fight.  

Though it is almost impossible to care about someone who is struggling with addiction and not feel extreme emotions around the issue, it is important that all participants have the ability to manage their emotions and keep things on an even keel throughout the intervention. Extreme emotions can throw an intervention off track and pull the focus from the essential truth at the core of the event: to get the individual struggling with addiction into treatment.  

Before you hold the intervention with the person living with addiction present, it is a good idea to gather everyone together in advance for a planning session. If you have hired a professional interventionist, then this person will likely run the planning meeting, answering questions as needed and making sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how to conduct themselves, what the focus is, and what is expected of them and when. This is a good time for people to work on what they will say directly to the person in question, practicing if necessary, and checking in with others to make sure that the tone is nonjudgmental and helpful in nature. 

group of men sitting in a circle during group therapy at laguna treatment center

What You Will Say

You may be looking forward to an opportunity to share your concerns, experiences, and hopes for your loved one in a safe setting – or you may be dreading the process. This is your chance to pick out one time in your experience with the person living with addiction that exemplifies what you have gone through due to their choices under the influence. Keep it short – a few minutes total – and follow up with how it made you feel and why you think treatment will help.  

End by pointing out how you believe choices on your part may have made it easier for your loved one to continue living in addiction and clarify what you will change in the event that treatment is not chosen. Point out, as well, that you will be there for support throughout the treatment process and that their wellbeing is your priority.  

Planned Meeting

When you identify the things you may have been doing to help your loved one continue living a life of addiction, you can make the decision to no longer continue doing those things. Whether or not your loved one chooses to enroll in a treatment program, this choice can help you to draw your line in the sand, making it clear both to yourself and to your loved one that today is the day that healing begins. Whether or not your loved one chooses to join you, making a conscious effort to identify the things that you may be doing to enable your loved one can be your first step in recovery.   

For many worried family members, the idea that they may be contributing to their loved one’s addiction is unfathomable. Unfortunately, it is rarely a conscious choice. Many family members, because they love the person who is struggling and want to see them happy and well, inadvertently enable addiction by: 

  • Giving them money or other financial support, thus freeing up their resources to buy drugs or alcohol 
  • Supplying them with drugs or alcohol  
  • Helping them avoid the consequences of addiction (e.g., helping them cover at work, bailing them out of jail, etc.) 
  • Lying about their behavior to others 
  • Repeatedly promising that this will not continue, then allowing it to continue 

Follow Through

No matter what your line in the sand is, it is important that you follow through after the intervention if your loved one refuses treatment. When you pull back on providing support and your loved one is no longer buffered from the consequences of addiction, it may encourage them to choose to enter rehab later even if they do not initially accept help.

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