Using Intervention to Help Someone Overcome Addiction

Learn how to plan a successful intervention

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Interventions are grouped events staged by family or support networks to make a person who is in deep denial about their addiction aware of the impact their addiction is having on their life. It also helps the person set goals for engaging in treatment. Entertainment media have popularized dramatic interventions, but a successful intervention often requires professional help for conveying messages of care and concern.

Read on to learn about the steps for planning a successful intervention.

Man listens during intervention.

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Steps for Planning an Intervention

Interventions shown in entertainment media may use discredited therapeutic practices.

People with addiction—whether it's substance use disorder or behavioral addiction, such as hoarding—are often deeply in denial. There is often not much to be done until the person with the addiction admits they need help. This is why loved ones and friends may choose to stage an intervention.

Gather Information

Connecting with others affected by a loved one's addiction will enable a greater understanding of how the addiction is currently impacting those around the person and the extent of that impact.

Consult With a Professional

It's important to seek professional help to aid in the intervention, such as a licensed mental health provider with training in addictions, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a certified intervention professional. This is important particularly when the following issues are present:

  • If the person has a history of violence, violent speech, or threats of violence in the past
  • If the person has a serious mental health illness
  • If the person is suicidal or has talked about suicide
  • If the person is taking a mood-altering substance
  • If you have any concerns they may react negatively, self-destructively, or violently

Create a Plan

A plan should be structured with a single goal in mind: to interrupt the pattern of addiction for the person struggling and get them into a treatment program and working toward recovery.

Find a Treatment Program

Treatment works best when it is customized and suited to the addicted person's needs. It may help to call several places ahead of time so that options can be offered during the intervention.

Finding Treatment Options

To find treatment options in your area, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357).

If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Gather a Team

There are a few types of intervention teams, including:

  • Family intervention: A family intervention involves gathering family members toward a common treatment goal.
  • Adolescent intervention: In addition to family members, an adolescent intervention may include peers.
  • Executive intervention: Often, addiction impacts the work environment. Executive intervention may include peers, coworkers, supervisors, and family.

Set Consequences

Consequences may include boundaries and communicating what will transpire if a person refuses treatment.

Even if a commitment to change does not happen the day of the intervention, having everyone come together as a unified group may make continued refusal of treatment more challenging.

Plan What to Say

The intervention process should focus on hope and positive outcomes. Be sure to offer support, and respect the person who is suffering from addiction. It's important to avoid talk of resentment, shame, or blame, as that may deter the person from seeking help.

During the Intervention

During the intervention, convey a strong message of concern, caring, and love.

The addicted person may be in deep denial, which is a natural part of addiction. They may not be able to fully process everything they are hearing.

Emotions may get high during the intervention. However, at no time should things get to the point of yelling. If that happens, it's important to take a break, get some fresh air, and take deep breaths to calm down. Yelling is not part of an effective intervention.

After the Intervention

An intervention is considered successful when it achieves the goal of getting the person struggling with addiction into treatment. It's important to positively reinforce their choice to improve and continue to be supportive as they do the difficult work of recovery.

Additional Tips for Success

Some additional tips for success with an intervention include:

  • Keep it short, at about 60 minutes (or 90 minutes at most).
  • Avoid shaming the person to the point that they become emotionally stuck and can't continue the conversation.
  • Focus on the positives whenever possible, so they feel hopeful and worthy of the changes you are asking them to make.


An intervention is an event in which family members and close friends come together for a conversation with a person who is struggling with addiction. Interventions are designed to make the person who is blinded by their addiction aware of the impact their addiction is having on themselves and others.

It's important not to shame or blame the person with the addiction. Interventions are most successful when the addicted person is heard and supported. They are also more successful with the help of a mental health professional in attendance.

The goal of an intervention is to get the addicted person to admit they have a problem and to get help.

A Word From Verywell 

It can be very painful to watch a friend or family member be impacted by addiction, especially when they refuse to get help. Support is an important part of any intervention. You may benefit from seeking out therapy or a support group for yourself, which can make a difference in how you handle your loved one's addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the types of interventions?

    There are several common models of intervention. These include: the Johnson Model, ARISE Intervention Model, and the Love First Model. All of these models have the common goal of getting a person struggling with addiction to accept treatment.

  • Who should be on an intervention team?

    Typically, interventions include family, but they may include peers, extended family, or even coworkers and supervisors if it is a work-related intervention. Interventions should also include a trained intervention specialist or mental health provider to ensure success.

  • What should you do if an intervention is unsuccessful?

    It's important to see the intervention as a learning experience. It may help to regroup and have professional input on what might have happened. It could be that the person with the addiction needs more time to make a commitment to improvement.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clark, CD. Tough love: A brief cultural history of the addiction intervention. History of Psychology, 2012;15(3):233–246. doi:10.1037/a0025649

  2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Staging an intervention.

  3. Association of Intervention Specialists. Learn about intervention.

  4. Association of Intervention Specialists. Intervention – a starting point for change.

By Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks, LMFT
Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, health reporter and medical writer with over twenty years of experience in journalism. She has a degree in journalism from The University of Florida and a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University.