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The Intervention Process

An intervention is a crucial time when friends and family come together to help someone who they believe may be in a crisis due to drugs, alcohol, or behavioral addictions. Though it is confrontational in nature, as those staging the intervention aim to make the person look at their behaviors and the negative impacts, it is often done out of love, concern, and deep care. An intervention is an important time when an addict’s loved ones hope to make the person realize they must put an end to their destructive ways, accept they have a problem, and agree to treatment and a recovery plan. The confrontational aspect of the intervention is counteracted by the clear expression of how much the addict is loved.

The Intervention Process

An intervention is not about shaming a person into recovery but making them realize they have a condition that will not go away without treatment. Those staging an intervention must be aware of the possibility that the recipient will not openly accept or acknowledge their addiction and may respond with denial and hostility. A failed intervention may have dire consequences, such as the addict refusing communication with those in attendance. It is imperative that those planning an intervention have as many facts as possible regarding a person’s behavior, habits, and drug or alcohol use. Make certain a person truly is an addict before planning an intervention or you may damage a relationship permanently.

Many societal behaviors are accepted as normal, such as drinking after work or using medication to relieve pain, and it can be difficult to determine when an actual addiction is present. There are certain criteria, such as the CRAFFT screening tool and the DAST-10 questionnaire, that can help determine whether someone is in addiction. If you are concerned that someone is engaging in behavior beyond their control, you may find the best approach is to ask. Determine how frequently the person is engaging in the behavior, if they have lost or damaged relationships due to the behavior, and if there has been a noticeable degradation in the person’s character since engaging in the activity. Once you are certain that an addiction is present, begin planning an intervention. When successful, an intervention causes a person to realize that they are truly suffering and they are ready and willing to seek treatment. For many, an intervention means the difference between life and death.

Here are the steps of the intervention process:


  • If you believe someone you love or care about is using drugs, alcohol or tobacco, your first step is to ask them directly.
  • Ask about drugs used within the past year, don’t neglect illegal or prescription medications.
  • When considering intervention regarding alcohol use, ask how much is consumed per week.
  • Use the CRAFFT screening tool when determining whether an intervention is needed.
  • Use the DAST-10 questionnaire to address potential addiction problems.

  • Advise

  • Do advise them of facts regarding the nature of addiction and drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.
  • Explain the short- and long-term effects associated with drug abuse.
  • Show how drugs impact and change the brain, making the user dependent and in need of help quitting.

  • Assess

  • Determine whether they are ready for help and want to quit.
  • >Do discuss the serious consequences of substance abuse and explain why quitting is the best option.
  • Assess whether a person can quit on their own or if a recovery center is needed.
  • Point out that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all method but that everyone must find the recovery tools, steps, and strategies best for their individual needs.
  • Make sure they understand the underlying nature of drug abuse and addiction in order to come to the decision that quitting is the only solution.

  • Assist

  • Explain the processes used in treating drug and substance addiction.
  • Help set realistic expectations for the quitting, detoxification, and recovery process.
  • Assure them that treatment is not a one-shot deal and you are with them for the long haul.
  • Remind them that involuntary treatment can be as effective as voluntary and that they have your support regardless of how treatment began.
  • Offer assurance that you hold everything they say and are going through in strict confidence; do not gossip about their addiction or recovery.

  • Arrange

  • Provide support during treatment and withdrawal from addiction.
  • Review different types of addiction treatments and help select the best method, if applicable.
  • Understand that treatment isn’t always effective the first time around. Prepare for long-term support and help should relapse occur.