Don't Wait. Get Help Now All calls 100% confidential and free

(617) 657-2877

The Complete Guide to Drug and Alcohol Intervention

If you have a loved one living with drug or alcohol addiction, an intervention may have crossed your mind. Here’s what you should know about interventions.

The Complete Guide to Drug and Alcohol Intervention

Intervention is a word that’s crossed the mind of anyone who has a loved one living with drug or alcohol addiction. Substance use disorder (SUD) affects 1 in 3 families in the United States, yet only 1 in 10 people with SUD seeks treatment. How can you help your loved one get treatment when they aren’t willing?

There’s a saying that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help, and that’s true. But you can help them want to get help.

Intervention help doesn’t always lead to a treatment admission on the first try. Still, a substance abuse interventionist can plant the seed of recovery in someone who’s initially not considering treatment.

In a best-case scenario, an intervention for drug addiction leads to same-day or next-day treatment admission, which leads to long-term recovery.

Sometimes that doesn’t happen, and your loved one reacts badly, but that doesn’t mean the intervention has failed. Even in that case, you’ve shown your loved one that they are worth the work of recovery and they have a support system of people who care about them. Future interventions (or even a self-driven realization down the line) can lead to treatment and recovery.

Download: 1 – Introduction PDF – Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide For Bedrock
If you’re considering staging an intervention, it’s important to execute it the right way. The intervention process should follow a model or a script with specific stages and planned statements. If the process is unpredictable or goes outside of the script, the person who’s the subject of the intervention could take the experience negatively.

From the basics to the details, here’s everything you need to know about addiction intervention:

What Is An Intervention?

An intervention is a planned meeting where friends and family members try to convince a loved one to seek professional help for a serious personal crisis.

Interventions are normally used to address problems with alcohol or drugs, but they can also address gambling, compulsive eating, self-harm, and domestic abuse.

What is the Goal of Drug and Alcohol Interventions?

For a drug and alcohol intervention, the goal is usually to get your loved one into addiction treatment and to stop using substances. This can be especially tricky for a few reasons:

Intervention Goals

  • Addiction causes withdrawal when you stop using, which can be a powerful deterrent to recovery and keep your loved one in a cycle of using to avoid withdrawal.
  • Denial is a common part of addiction, and it can be hard to convince your loved one that they need help, especially if they see themselves as a “functioning addict”.

It’s important for an intervention to take these obstacles into consideration. Your loved one may not be receptive to your concerns, so you should try to anticipate their reactions by planning an intervention that addresses that. Many families choose to have a third party present to mediate the conversation, like a therapist, a counselor, or an interventionist.

What are Examples of Substance Abuse Interventions?

Because substance abuse interventions are challenging, they need to follow a set structure, model, or script. There are proven intervention models that work for addiction crises, including:

Substance Abuse Interventions Examples

  • The Johnson Intervention Model, which is a confrontational intervention by the people and family members closest to your loved one.
  • The ARISE Intervention Model, which uses a non confrontational approach to avoid alienating your loved one or participating family members.
  • The Family Systemic Intervention Model, which intervenes with the entire family—your loved one’s addiction takes a toll on the people around them, including their spouse, children, and close family.
  • 7-Stage Crisis Intervention Model, which helps people with SUD through a crisis, such as an overdose, relapse, or a non-substance-related event.

One that isn’t a model is the SMART Intervention strategy, which uses goals that are Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific to guide the intervention, which can be community-based or family-based.

There’s no single type of intervention for drug addiction that works better than all the rest. The right intervention script for your loved one depends on their situation, their history, and their needs.

Talk to a drug addiction counselor or a professional interventionist if you’re not sure what type of intervention is the right choice.

When to Intervene for a Loved One

It can be hard to pull the trigger on intervention plans. You might second-guess yourself, worrying that you’re imagining that their substance use is worse than it really is. Or you may think that an intervention will only alienate your loved one and damage their family relationships.

There’s always a risk that an intervention can lead to interpersonal problems, and that’s a leading reason for cold feet on an intervention. You can lessen the chances that the intervention will go sour by following a proven model.

Despite the most common hesitations, you know it’s time to intervene for a loved one when their substance abuse is:

  • Threatening their own life, health, and wellbeing, or someone else’s
  • Affecting you on a personal level, such as loaning them money that goes unrepaid, having your property damaged or stolen, or causing you emotional stress

Either of these two reasons is enough to hold an intervention, but many people considering an intervention are affected in both ways. It’s extremely common for substance abuse to damage lives, both of the person using the substance and the loved ones surrounding them.

If you notice that your loved one’s drug or alcohol abuse has toxic effects on their life or yours, then it’s time to consider intervening.

Perceptions of Intervention

Like many aspects of addiction, there’s a stigma that holds some people back from intervening. The average layperson’s view of intervention is influenced by what you’ve seen in the media, not what happens in real life. The result is common false perceptions about drug addiction interventions.

Having the wrong perception of intervention can cause hesitation. You may be apprehensive because you think an intervention means your loved one is put on the spot and harassed, but that’s not true! Interventions follow a set process that keeps sensitivity and empathy in mind at each step.

Other common false perceptions about intervention include:

  • That interventions don’t work: People with SUD are more likely to get treatment after they undergo an intervention. Interventions don’t always work on the first try, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t work!
  • That intervention damages relationships: It’s a common worry that your loved one will feel attacked and hate you after an intervention. It’s true that interventions are emotionally charged, but initiating one doesn’t have to be the start of a family argument. Having a neutral third-party mediator or counselor present can help keep emotions under control.
  • That your loved one has to hit rock bottom for an intervention to work: On TV, you always see an intervention take place after someone’s overdosed or otherwise hit their absolute lowest point. That simply doesn’t have to be the case (even though it often is). An early intervention can help plant the idea of recovery before the cycle has continued for too long.
  • That interventions are failures if your loved one doesn’t go to treatment: Not all interventions lead to immediate treatment admission, even though that’s the goal. If your loved one isn’t interested in treatment after an intervention, they’re still more likely to attend treatment later. The intervention process boosts treatment rates even if the person doesn’t go to treatment right away.

You can’t rely on your perceptions of intervention from the media. In reality, staging an intervention is a complex process that you can’t sum up as a stereotype.

Why Is An Early Intervention Essential?

An early intervention is important. Don’t wait until your loved one hits rock bottom to hold an early intervention.

Depending on your loved one and his substance of choice, it could take months or years to hit rock bottom. Some people with substance use disorders don’t ever hit rock bottom because they learn to function despite their addiction.

In the months or years that your loved one goes without help between now and rock bottom, they could incur consequences of long-term addiction. An early intervention can prevent drug-related damage to your body such as:

  • Brain damage: Using drugs can damage the connections between neurons in certain parts of the brain. The result is impaired cognitive function, memory changes, and depression. This damage is long-lasting, but with treatment and time it can improve.
  • Cardiovascular damage: Stimulant drugs can cause damage to the heart over time, including eventual heart failure. Drugs that you inject, like heroin or meth, can cause collapsed or abscessed veins and septic heart infections.
  • Respiratory damage: Many drugs have smoking as a common route of use, like heroin, meth, and even cannabis. Smoke is toxic to your lungs, no matter what the type of smoke is. Using drugs via smoking can cause asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, and other inflammatory lung diseases.
  • Kidney damage: Some drugs are filtered through your body’s kidneys. Over time and repeated drug use, that can cause permanent damage. You may become dehydrated while using drugs, especially stimulants like cocaine, meth, or molly. Chronic dehydration can damage your kidneys too.
  • Liver damage: Opioid drugs and alcohol can cause damage to the liver. This damage is worse if you combine multiple drugs. The result can be cirrhosis of the liver, a disease involving low liver function that happens due to chronic long-term inflammation and scarring.
  • Gastrointestinal damage: Alcohol is known for causing stomach and intestinal ulcers, which can lead to chronic pain, bleeding, and weight loss. Other common GI side effects of drugs include acid reflux from stimulants and constipation from opioids.

An early intervention is essential because all of these health conditions develop after months or years of drug abuse. The sooner an intervention happens, the more likely your loved one is to get treatment before long-term damage has developed.

Delaying an intervention until your loved one hits rock bottom means their bodies have more time to deteriorate. Intervene as soon as you know that your loved one has a drug problem that’s affecting their wellbeing. A well-timed intervention can save a life!

What Are Intervention Models?

The success of an intervention depends on choosing the right model for the situation. There are many models of intervention, but it’s important to use a model that is evidence-based, which means that research backs up its use as safe and effective.

Some examples of evidence-based intervention models include:

  • Johnson Intervention Model
  • ARISE Intervention Model
  • The Family Systemic Intervention Model
  • 7-Stage Crisis Intervention Model

Download: 2 – Intervention Models – Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide – Bedrock

Johnson Intervention Model

The Johnson Intervention model focuses on planned confrontation with the goal of getting the target into treatment. One close family member takes the role of the caregiver, who’s in charge of coordinating the intervention and getting a social network involved.

You can usually expect the Johnson intervention to take shape over 4 meetings:

  • At the first meeting, a primary caregiver works with a therapist to assess which loved ones should be involved in the intervention.
  • At the second and third meeting, the caregiver and all loved ones who want to be involved will meet and discuss:
    • The dangers of enabling
    • The intervention strategy
    • The goals of the intervention
    • Potential problems that could arise during the intervention and how to address them
  • At the final meeting, the network of caregivers and loved ones confronts the recipient of the intervention, usually with a therapist present.

During the actual intervention meeting, family members set clear boundaries about getting treatment, with clear consequences if it doesn’t happen. Those boundaries and consequences may look like:

  • “I can’t keep living with you if you don’t get treatment.”
  • “I’ll be ready to talk to you again after you go to detox.”

The consequences set forth in a Johnson model intervention can seem harsh, but it’s for a good reason. If your loved one doesn’t realize that they have a problem, the Johnson model can help them become self-aware of how serious their behavior has become.

This model is one of the older intervention models and some people have concern that it’s too confrontational, leading to negative emotional reactions. In fact, 70% of families who planned a Johnson intervention failed to actually implement it in one study.

Still, the Johnson model does work. In the same study, the people who did receive an intervention had better treatment outcomes than people who didn’t. It may be the most common mainstream intervention technique today, and for good reason.

ARISE Intervention Model

The ARISE intervention model takes its acronym from its full name, A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement. The ARISE method is a family-based intervention that marks itself with a respectful, coercion-free approach that comes from a place of love.

This type of intervention brings together a support system to motivate your loved one to seek treatment and stop using substances.

There are 3 levels to the ARISE model, but you don’t have to complete all of them. In fact, ARISE stops once you find the level that works. The levels include:

Level 1: The First Call

The process starts when a concerned family member (ARISE calls them Concerned Others) receives phone coaching with the end goal of your loved one attending an ARISE First Meeting of the Intervention Network. The Intervention Network is made up of close friends and family members of your loved one.

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, 56% of people who receive an ARISE intervention go into treatment at this level.

Level 2: Strength in Numbers

If the first level doesn’t lead to treatment admission, then the Intervention Network meetings continue. During and between meetings, the Intervention Network acts as one, so everyone interacts with the subject of the intervention together. This makes it easier to enforce boundaries and increases the success of the intervention.

80% of people with SUD have entered treatment after 2 to 5 Intervention Network meetings in the second level.

Level 3: Formal ARISE

It’s rare for a person with SUD to need level 3 of ARISE, but if necessary, it’s very effective! 83% of people with SUD go into treatment after level 3 of ARISE.

If your loved one reaches this level, the Intervention Network holds a Formal ARISE Intervention. During a formal intervention, the people in the Network enforce the consequences of failing to accept help. These can be serious consequences like ending a relationship or losing living quarters.

Family Systemic Intervention Model

Addiction affects more than just the person who’s using drugs or alcohol. It’s common for family members of people with SUD to experience negative changes to their wellbeing and mental health. That’s why the Family Systemic Intervention Model targets the entire family instead of only the person with SUD.

The goal of a Family Systemic Model intervention is to support the entire family in healing from addiction. This can be accomplished by teaching the family skills including:

  • Healthy communication skills
  • Emotional support, both giving and receiving
  • Positive encouragement, both giving and receiving

The person with SUD is involved at the very beginning, which is different from many intervention models that keep it a secret. Every conversation involves the family and the target, so everyone gets a chance to speak.

Unlike traditional interventions that happen once, a Family Systemic Intervention can last for months with meetings every week. In most cases, the entire family goes to therapy sessions together, both during the intervention period and when the target goes to treatment

7-Stage Crisis Intervention Model

The 7-Stage Crisis Intervention model can help people with SUD through a crisis, such as an overdose, relapse, or a non-substance-related event. The goals for this type of intervention include stabilization, crisis resolution, and mastery of new coping strategies. A crisis counselor typically guides the process from start to finish.

Download: 3 – Seven Stage Crisis Intervention Model Guide – Bedrock
The stages of this model include:

  1. Check for imminent danger: If the precipitating crisis is an overdose, then seeking medical attention should be the very first step. Always remove your loved one from danger before starting a crisis intervention.
  2. Establish contact: The crisis counselor will reach out to your loved one and establish a therapeutic relationship. This is a good time for you to reinforce your support for your loved one by reaching out, too.
  3. Identify the problem: Every crisis has a chain of events leading to it. The more that we understand the background behind a crisis, the better we can avoid replicating it again. A crisis counselor will help uncover the reasons behind your loved one’s crisis.
  4. Explore feelings and emotions: You can’t move on from a critical event like a relapse or an overdose (or the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one) without feeling your emotions. The crisis counselor will help your loved one understand and process those feelings in a safe way.
  5. Generate coping strategies: Drug and alcohol use often starts as a maladaptive coping mechanism before addiction begins. In this case, treatment is often necessary before your loved one can use coping skills to their greatest advantage. In treatment, your loved one will begin to learn recovery-friendly skills like emotional regulation.
  6. Restore functioning: You’ll create an action plan to help your loved one meet their goal of functioning again post-treatment. In an addiction crisis, this stage and the previous stage often overlap. The treatment plan at residential inpatient may overlap with your loved one’s intervention plan.
  7. Plan follow-up: Most people with SUD find that they have to manage their condition for the rest of their lives. Addiction treatment isn’t a one-time deal, and having crisis intervention after an overdose doesn’t mean that you’re cured. Your loved one will come up with a plan to manage their condition over the long term.

If you’re not sure which model is the right one for your loved one’s case, talk to a professional interventionist. They can help you choose a model that’s likely to work, and they can help you execute it the right way so you can focus on your loved one and what’s going to happen next.

What Are The Stages Of The Intervention Process?

The intervention process takes place in stages that tend to be the same regardless of the intervention model.

By following those stages, you can run an intervention that’s calm, collected, and prepared for however it will play out. That added level of control increases the odds that the outcome will be good.

Download: 4 – Stages Intervention Process – Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide Bedrock
The 11 steps of the intervention process include:

  1. Form The Intervention Team: The first step is to decide who should be involved. It’s best to limit the intervention team to people who are directly and closely involved with the person who has SUD. That includes immediate family and close friends. Limit the team to people who have been personally affected by the person’s SUD or who have seen its effects firsthand.
  2. Plan and Prepare: Now’s the time when you choose an intervention model, decide if you want to work with an interventionist, and decide where the intervention will take place. Logistics planning should include the intervention team, and it can include a therapist.
  3. Write An Intervention Letter: Every person who’s part of the intervention team should write a letter describing how their loved one’s addiction has harmed them. The letter can be pre-intervention homework meant to get you thinking about what you’ll say. Or it can be a real letter that you’ll read aloud at the intervention.
  4. Find A Treatment Program: It’s always best to have a treatment program chosen and a weekend bag packed before the intervention even begins. That’s because it’s not uncommon for a person with SUD to accept treatment, then change their mind before they get there. Choosing a treatment center ahead of time reduces that possibility.
  5. Stop Enabling Behavior: Make sure everyone on the intervention team is on the same page about enabling. It may feel like you’re helping, but enabling behavior only shields your loved one from consequences and lets them keep being irresponsible. You may be enabling if you pay your loved ones debts or make excuses for their behavior.
  6. Agree On The Consequences: Not all intervention models use consequences, but many do. If your chosen model does, work with your team to choose consequences that make sense for the situation. If your loved one doesn’t go to treatment, you all should be on the same page about what happens next.
  7. Choose The Time And Location: The time and the location can have a huge impact on how an intervention goes. Choose a place that feels safe, like your loved one’s home. Avoid holding the meeting at a place where they may feel exposed or worry about being overheard.
  8. Learn and Rehearse: Now’s when you and your team rehearse what you’re going to say and in what order. In many cases, it’s helpful to have a therapist or an intervention specialist on hand at this point. Having a third party with professional experience involved can help ensure that you’re executing the intervention the right way.
  9. Prepare For Anything: What could go wrong? Spend some time anticipating the reactions that you may encounter. That’s not to say that anything will go wrong, but interventions aren’t always known for being emotionally neutral encounters. It’s best to prepare and not need your preparations.
  10. Conduct The Intervention: This is the part where the intervention begins. You and your team will sit down with your loved one and speak in turns according to the plans that you made in earlier stages. Again, it can be useful to have a mediator on hand, like a therapist or an interventionist.
  11. Follow Up: The final stage depends on how the intervention went and what model you used. There could be additional meetings that continue until your loved one agrees to go to treatment. If your loved one agrees to go to treatment right away, you might make a follow-up plan for when they come home from treatment.

How Much Does An Intervention Cost?

Are you considering using a professional interventionist? Professional intervention services give you access to addiction expertise and a neutral third-party, both of which can be critical in this sensitive situation.

Download: 5 – Intervention Costs – Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide – Bedrock
If you go with a professional intervention, the cost varies based on:

  • Your area
  • The interventionist’s credentials
  • The intervention model
  • How long the intervention takes
  • Whether treatment center planning is included
  • Whether the interventionist’s travel and lodging fees are covered

Depending on those factors, an intervention could cost anywhere from $1,800 to $10,000 or more. Intervention services are sometimes covered in part or in full by health insurance plans, so check with yours before choosing an intervention service near you.

Should One Work With a Professional Substance Abuse Interventionist?

If you’re not fully comfortable with running an intervention, then you should work with a professional interventionist. An interventionist can help you with all the logistics and planning involved in having an intervention. That frees up time for you to spend thinking about how to best support your loved one.

You should always use an interventionist if your loved one has:

  • A history of severe mental illness
  • A history of violence or suicidal behavior
  • Poly-drug abuse, or the abuse of multiple drugs at the same time

In those situations, an intervention is more likely to encounter obstacles like denial and anger. An interventionist can help deal with those responses.

Not convinced that an interventionist is the best way to go? Consider the benefits:

Benefits of Working With A Professional Interventionist

There are plenty of benefits to working with a professional therapist, social worker, or counselor to run your loved one’s intervention. Those benefits include:

  • A personalized approach that takes into mind your loved one’s circumstances and situation
  • The presence of a neutral third-party, which can be useful if the confrontation goes sour
  • Expertise on the different models of intervention so you can use the right one for your loved one’s needs

How to Find a Professional Interventionist

You can find a professional interventionist by consulting a treatment center near you. Your preferred treatment center will have access to professionals and they can refer you.

Many interventionists are mental health professionals or social workers. It’s important to use an interventionist with credentials, which can include certification in intervention services. Before choosing an interventionist, ask about their background and experiences.

Download: 6 – Successful Intervention Tips – Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide – Bedrock

Get Your Loved One’s Intervention and Treatment Started

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment that includes Detox Programs, Residential Inpatient Programs, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and more. After your loved one’s intervention, we can take care of the next steps by stabilizing your loved one and teaching them the recovery skills they’ll use for the rest of their life.


Call us today to learn how we can help! From 12-Step to Internal Family Systems therapy and more, we have addiction recovery options for every person and every situation.

The Complete Guide to Drug and Alcohol Intervention

Download: 7 – Full – Complete Drug & Alcohol Intervention Guide For Bedrock

Written by
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team

©2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.