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How to Stage an Intervention for Alcoholism

By Nigistry Lulu
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Carol Anderson, LMSW, ACSW on December 16, 2020
A successful alcoholism intervention takes planning, teamwork, and research.

An intervention for alcoholism is a meeting to discuss your concerns about a loved one's drinking problem and to offer them help. 

"It provides family, friends, and sometimes even colleagues and employers an opportunity to tell the person how their misuse of drugs or alcohol has been a problem in their lives," says psychologist Elizabeth Hartney, PhD. Research suggests that up to 90% of interventions succeed at getting a person into treatment, according to the the Association of Intervention Specialists.

How to Stage an Alcoholism Intervention

A successful intervention can take weeks of planning, research, and teamwork. In general, here are some steps you can take. 

1. Set up a plan. Meet with people who are worried about your loved one, Alcohol.org and Mayo Clinic report. You need to discuss what you’ll each do to plan for the intervention and what level of participation you’re comfortable with.

2. Team up with a pro. Next, find an experienced professional to help your planning group organize the intervention, reports Alcohol.org. Mayo Clinic suggests that you choose one of these pros:

  • Qualified professional counselor 
  • Addiction professional 
  • Psychologist 
  • Mental health counselor 
  • Social worker 
  • Certified interventionist

Ways you can find a professional interventionist include:

  • Search for alcohol intervention specialists on the Association of Intervention Specialists' website.
  • Ask for a referral from a doctor or therapist.
  • Find a social worker through a local hospital, rehabilitation center, or therapy office.

A professional’s expertise can play a vital role. They will consider your loved one's circumstances around alcoholism, suggest the best approach, and provide guidance on treatment options.

3. Choose an intervention team. These are the people who, along with your professional, are comfortable playing personal roles at the intervention. This group is usually made up of four to six people who your loved one likes, respects, or counts on, reports the Mayo Clinic. As you continue to plan for the intervention, this team will meet with the professional and discuss things like:

  • When and where you’ll hold the intervention.
  • What you’ll each say to your loved one. 
  • Which types of treatment options you’ll offer them.
  • What consequences you’ll each present to them if they refuse to get treatment.

4. Hold the intervention.Have your loved one come to the agreed-upon meeting location without revealing the reason, notes Mayo Clinic. The site also says that once the intervention begins:

  • Take turns calmly sharing your concerns with your loved one.
  • Offer them one or more treatment options.
  • Ask them to accept treatment right away.
  • Explain the consequences you’ll each impose if they don’t get treatment.

5. Follow through. After the intervention is done, keep track of your loved one’s progress, says Alcohol.org. If they entered treatment, make sure it’s going well. If they refused treatment, consider planning another intervention, or talk with a health-care professional about what other actions you could take.

What Not to Do at an Intervention

Don’t invite someone your loved one dislikes, or anyone who has an untreated mental health condition or substance abuse problem, says Mayo Clinic. Also, don’t criticize or verbally attack your loved one at the intervention, says the Association of Intervention Specialists. 

What to do for Yourself

Finally, take good care of yourself, no matter what your loved one chooses regarding treatment. Seeking counseling or going to a meeting such as Al-Anon can be a way for getting your own support.

Life After Alcohol Addiction Treatment