Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide

A drug intervention can help motivate an individual to seek treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. Learn more here. 

Drug intervention and alcohol intervention

Table of Contents

What is an Intervention?

When a family member, friend, or loved one is struggling with addiction, it can be challenging to figure out how to convince them to seek help. While a direct, personal conversation may impact whether the loved one decides to seek treatment, undergoing a formal drug intervention can be more effective.

Those who struggle with addiction often find themselves in denial that they have a problem. Someone may not seek treatment on their own because they may not understand how addiction impacts their life and those around them. Therefore, staging an intervention can help the individual struggling with addiction understand the harmful effects that their substance use has on others.

An alcohol abuse intervention or drug intervention is most successful when a medical doctor, licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or professional interventionalist is consulted about the process. When one of these professionals is present and helps plan the intervention, it can be easier to stay on track and identify the impacts of a loved one’s addiction. 

Structured Attempt by Family and Friends

An intervention is a structured plan that involves confronting an individual about their drug or alcohol addiction. This carefully planned process is typically done by family and close friends and helps someone suffering from drug or alcohol addiction see the consequences of their substance use. 

Convince to Get Treatment

Ultimately, the goal of a drug intervention is to convince the individual struggling with addiction to seek the help they need to heal. It may involve a variety of tactics, with the most powerful being those that are specific and aligned with a clear treatment plan and goals. Some of the ways that family members and friends can convey their concern about drug addiction include:1

  • Providing specific examples of the behaviors that impact the loved one’s relationships
  • Offer a treatment plan that has clear steps and goals
  • Clearly state what each family member or friend will do if the loved one refuses to attend treatment 

What to do During an Intervention for Alcohol Abuse?

An alcohol abuse intervention follows a step-by-step process for targeting alcohol addiction. Instead of wondering how to stage an intervention, it is better to follow this step-by-step process to ensure that all points are covered and that each person has time to speak. Even before the intervention happens, however, there is plenty of planning to be done. 

Who Should be on the Intervention Team?

Deciding who should be on the intervention team does not need to be challenging. The team members will likely be those who are close to the individual who is struggling with alcohol addiction. When deciding who should be on it, family and friends should simply consider the four to six people who have the most impact on the individual.

Generally, it is not a good idea to include people your loved one does not like, those who have substance abuse problems, people who could potentially sabotage the intervention, and people who are unsure what they will say at the intervention. If there is someone who the team would like to have there but is worried about the consequences, the team could have that individual write a letter to the loved one instead. 

Gathering Team 

When it is almost time to have the alcohol intervention, it is essential to gather all individuals participating in the intervention. This gathering may be family members, friends, and even children. The intervention meeting should be somewhere where everyone is comfortable and may not be at home. Further, the intervention could take place at a neutral area or even a treatment center.1  

How to Stage an Intervention

For those wondering how to stage an intervention, it is best to follow the plan described below. With a plan, there is a higher likelihood that the intervention will work. Additionally, it is best to find an interventionalist trained in substance abuse intervention. 


The first step in staging intervention is planning. By now, loved ones have likely noticed the signs of substance abuse and have decided that it is time to say something to the individual so they seek the help they need. By staging an intervention for alcohol or drug abuse, the family has chosen to help their loved one find the treatment they need.

Much of this planning involves gathering information to figure out the extent of the loved one’s problem. Additionally, family members and friends are encouraged to research addiction, withdrawal stages, and become familiar with treatment plans and programs. Typically, the more planning, the better. Moreover, the family members and friends should also note what they plan to say to their loved one. 

Preparing for Intervention

Preparing for the alcohol abuse intervention involves deciding on the specific consequences that the family members and friends will enact if a loved one refuses treatment. These consequences can range in severity, but it is vital to choose factors that motivate the individual to accept treatment.

Additionally, each member should write down what they plan to say and highlight the problems that they have identified. Whether the loved one’s addiction has caused financial stress, emotional issues, impaired relationships, or physical problems, it is essential to have all these instances prepared to share. Additionally, writing these ideas down can help organize thoughts should the individual struggling with addiction argue.

It is best to use phrases directed towards the self instead of the person who is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. Part of the intervention should be to describe how the loved one’s substance abuse has impacted each family member. This step may help the individual who is struggling with addiction realize the impact that they have on their loved ones. 

During the Intervention

During the intervention, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure that it is successful. Because alcoholism or substance abuse can impact so many aspects of an individual’s life, it is all too easy to become overly emotional and angry. Instead, people involved in the intervention should remain calm and collected and factually present their information.

Additionally, it is never a good idea to hold an intervention on the spur of the moment. Instead, those holding it should be careful planning and involve a professional interventionalist to ensure that the intervention goes smoothly.

Furthermore, a single person should act as the liaison, and it may be best to have an interventionalist play this role. It can help those who are involved in intervention stay on track.

One of the best ways to plan intervention is to try to anticipate how the loved one will object. If you have gone through these potential objections and crafted calm responses for each one, the intervention may go more smoothly. It is also best practice to avoid any confrontation during the intervention. The purpose of this experience is to show love and support for the person who is suffering from addiction. Thus, an intervention should not include any name-calling, accusation, or blame. 

Following Up After the Alcohol Intervention

Finally, it is critical to follow up after the intervention is over. It may be best to get an immediate decision from the individual who is the subject of the intervention, but it is also important to follow up as soon as the next day to make sure that the individual has committed to staying on their treatment plan. It may help to show that person your support and can help with avoiding relapse.1

In one study, researchers found that when an individual perceives their family and friends as being supportive of their treatment plan and their decision to attend a rehabilitation facility, they were much less likely to relapse. On the flip side, those who did not perceive their family and friends as being supportive of their decision for rehab were much more likely to relapse.2  

When to Stage an Intervention?

Not only is it challenging to know how to stage an intervention, but it can be difficult to figure out when to stage an intervention. For some families, alcoholism and substance abuse may have gone on for years and no one knew how to say anything. For others, a family member may have recently gotten into substances, and they are worried about the consequences the abuse has on their lives.

Regardless, the time to stage an intervention should be when the family member, friend, or loved one recognizes that substance abuse is impacting the individual’s life, relationships, and work. 

Alcohol Abuse Signs: Recognizing Signs of Alcoholism

The signs of alcohol abuse typically range from early to later symptoms. Some of the early symptoms may include:

  • Patterns of heavy drinking
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as driving
  • Frequently drinking and being intoxicated
  • Only planning activities that involve alcohol use
  • Constant thinking about alcohol

Even so, there are later stages of alcoholism that family members may recognize. These progressive symptoms of alcoholism usually occur because of recurrent problems. Some of these later symptoms include:3

  • Consistently drinking more alcohol than planned
  • Denying the existence of having drinking problems
  • Requiring an alcoholic beverage in the morning or after waking up
  • Severe mood swings and personality changes
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal stages  


On some occasions, those who abuse alcohol may show aggressive behavior toward their family members. This aggression may be in the form of mood swings or emotional changes. In addition, some people who misuse alcohol and drugs find themselves engaging in behaviors that they would not normally do in the absence of alcohol. These behaviors can become violent and directed towards family members and friends.3  

Secretive Behavior

Along with some of the behaviors that family members and friends may notice, some people with alcohol problems find themselves being secretive with the amount they drink. This behavior may involve hiding alcoholic beverages without the family members knowing, lying about the number of drinks an individual has had or lying about their drinking behaviors.4  

Health Issues

There are several health issues that an individual who suffers from alcoholism can have. Many of these are due to overdrinking and extra stress on the body. Some of the more serious health conditions can include:

  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes complications
  • Eye problems
  • Installation issues
  • Sexual function issues
  • Birth defects
  • Bone damage
  • Neurological complications
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk of cancer 

Deterioration of Physical Appearance

Additionally, family members may notice a deterioration of their family member’s physical appearance. Whether during the alcohol withdrawal stages, particularly stressful times, or all the time, these changes can be frightening.

Some of these physical changes can be due to liver damage, dehydration, lack of sleep, and lack of nutrition.5 For example, family members may notice that their loved one has red eyes, slurred speech, problems with their coordination, and changes in their physical appearance, such as:

  • Broken capillaries on nose and face.
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle hair
  • Brittle nails
  • The appearance of wrinkles and aging
  • Poor hygiene
  • The frequent smell of alcohol on loved one’s breath
  • Weight loss
  • Yellow eyes due to liver damage 

Advantages of Using a Professional Interventionalist

Wondering how to stage an intervention? The best way to do so is to use the services of an interventionalist. There are several advantages of using a professional interventionalist to help plan and lead an alcohol intervention or drug intervention.

Not only will the individual be more likely to seek treatment if the intervention goes well but using a professional interventionalist can help the family find the resources they need for a successful intervention. 

Evaluating Life Choices

Professional interventionalists can help the loved one who struggles with addiction evaluate their life choices and see how they have impacted their family members and friends.7 Even so, the interventionalist also understands that a drug addiction or alcohol addiction stems from past adverse experiences and difficulty in coping with those experiences. As such, the professional can help create a trauma-informed intervention that stays away from accusations.8  

Get Help for Whole Family

Addiction is a disease that can impact the entire family. Alcohol addiction can have numerous different effects, including financial stress, emotional distress, and sometimes even physical violence. A professional interventionist understands the impacts that alcoholism can have on the family and helps family members find the support they need through rehabilitation and treatment.9  

Stop Conflicts

As was mentioned above, having conflict during the intervention will not lead to positive outcomes. Because emotions can get in the way of an effective intervention, having a professional present can keep the team in a neutral state so that emotions do not block the essential information that family members and friends are trying to convey. 

Keep Intervention on Track

Interventions should not be a lengthy experience. Instead, they should have a clear process and stay on track with the information that the team is trying to put out there. Thus, having a professional can help the intervention team stay on track, plan what family members and friends will say, and craft a treatment plan that makes sense for the given situation. 

Stop Enabling

Unfortunately, many family members do not realize that they are enabling their loved one’s alcohol or drug addiction. To stage a successful drug intervention, the team needs to recognize the signs of alcoholism and their behaviors that may enable their loved one’s behavior.10

However, recognizing enabling behaviors is not an easy task. For that reason, having a professional interventionalist present can help family members recognize their faults so that they can learn to support their loved one who needs treatment. By doing so, they are more likely to have a successful alcohol or drug intervention. 

Disadvantages of Doing Intervention by Yourself

As mentioned in the sections above, it is possible to do an intervention by yourself. However, the likelihood that this intervention will be successful is slim. Not everyone understands how to approach someone regarding a mental health or an alcohol addiction and doing an invention by yourself may lead to undesirable consequences. 


It is stressful to have to plan intervention by yourself. Quite a bit of planning must go into it for it to be successful, and there will be many times when you do not know how to phrase something, plan something, or keep the intervention on track. Instead of worrying about all the pieces yourself, it is better to use a professional interventionalist who can create a clear plan and aid with ideas. 

Unclear of Mental Illness / Violent Behavior

Mental illness is multifaceted. Additionally, one will never know if the loved one suffering from addiction will lash out during the process. Instead, it is better to hire a professional and hold your intervention in a place where everyone can be calm and collected. 

Unclear of Next Step of the Process

Holding an intervention is a process and it is not something that you can simply guess at. Instead, it requires careful planning and specific steps. Licensed interventionalists have training in how to plan and understand the step-by-step process. 


While an intervention may show positive results initially, the loved one may end up relapsing back to their negative behaviors. A professional interventionalist can create a treatment plan and help someone find the right program, thereby preventing a relapse. 

Alcohol Intervention Treatment Models and Methods

There are several alcohol intervention treatment models that can be used when planning an intervention. Below are a couple of the common approaches to alcohol intervention and drug intervention. 

The Johnson Model

The Johnson Model is an intervention that aims to confront the individual who abuses substances. It is typically done by one or more of their caregivers and focuses on the dangers of enabling behaviors. This method is a more confrontational intervention that focuses on problem-solving strategies and involves the use of a social network while in the presence of a therapist or professional interventionalist.11  

The ARISE Model

The ARISE intervention is meant to help the individual who suffers from drug abuse recognize their alcoholism or substance abuse and aims to make sure they understand the impact they have had on their lives and the lives of others.

This model not only helps individuals who suffer from addiction but also their families. It can be an empowering type of intervention that can help multiple family members through the treatment process.12  

The Love First Model

With the Love First model, the family becomes part of the recovery team and is involved in their loved one’s treatment process. By using the power of love and concern to create change, this intervention will guide the family and professionals through the intervention process for a successful treatment.13  

Family Approach

The family plays a major role in the treatment process. Not only is the individual who suffers from addiction experiencing negative outcomes, but the family is also negatively impacted by the substance use disorder. Furthermore, family members can be used to motivate a person with an alcohol abuse disorder to initiate changes and seek treatment.

Family members can also be a supportive part of their loved one’s recovery. The more supportive and involved the family is within the recovery process, the more likely that individual is to recover and avoid relapse.14  

Confrontational Approaches

While family members may be tempted to use confrontational approaches to the intervention process, numerous studies have shown that using confrontation does not yield the results they want.

In fact, it can have many harmful effects on the loved one and make them feel as though they are not supported by their family members. Instead, using a family approach in a supportive method is likely the best way to go.15  

Get Professional Help at The PAC Program

The PAC Program offers intervention services and can help family members and friends develop an intervention that will help their loved one realize the benefits of attending treatment for addiction. Because alcohol interventions are much more successful when they are led by a licensed professional, The PAC Program can provide the necessary services for a successful intervention and help facilitate treatment plans.  


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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