- Bring together three to eight people who are important to the alcoholic and are willing to learn how to help.
- Set up a planning meeting to discuss moving forward with the intervention.
- Choose a detail person.
- Choose a team chairperson.
- Discuss the importance of not alerting the alcoholic to the intervention plans.
- List ways you’ve tried to help the alcoholic that may have enabled the addiction.
- Put in writing all the negative consequences caused by the addiction problem.
- Write a one- to two-page letter to the alcoholic.
- Read your letters to each other, editing out anger, blame, and judgment.
- Determine bottom lines, and write them down on a separate page.
- Test each other’s willingness to follow through with the bottom lines.
- Identify financial resources for covering treatment costs.
- Evaluate treatment centers using the evaluation questions.
- Set a date, time and place for the rehearsal and the intervention.
- Choose a treatment center, answer its pre-intake questions, and make an appointment for admission.
- Make airline reservations if the treatment center is out-of-state.
- Create a plan likely to guarantee the alcoholic’s presence at the intervention.
- Identify objections the alcoholic may use to avoid or postpone treatment, then formulate your answers.
- Pack a suitcase using the guidelines provided by the treatment staff.
- Determine who should drive the alcoholic from the intervention to treatment.
- Compile a list of all prescribed medications the alcoholic is presently using.
- Rehearse the intervention.
- Decide where each person will sit, including the alcoholic.
- Discuss the order in which you’ll read your letters.
- Find a discreet place to park your cars.
- Script the chairman’s introduction and closing statement.
- Review objections and answers.
- Plan to arrive at the intervention location 30 minutes before the alcoholic is expected to be there.
- If the intervention is taking place at the alcoholic’s home, arrive as a group.
- After the intervention, call the admissions staff and let them know whether or not the alcoholic has agreed to treatment.
- Collect all letters and send them to the alcoholic’s treatment counselor.
- Sign up for the Family Program.
- Locate an Al-Anon or Family Anonymous meeting near your home or office.
– Adapted from the book Love First, by Jeff Jay and Debra Jay, (Hazelden, 2nd edition). All rights reserved.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if the person I love has an alcohol or other drug problem?
A: Ask yourself, “Is my relative or friend experiencing repeated negative consequences due to alcohol or other drug use, and continues to drink or drug anyway?” If you answer yes, it is likely the person you’re concerned about has a problem, and it may be alcoholism or drug addiction. Click here to take a quiz to further assess your situation.
Q: Isn’t it true that you can’t help someone until they want help?
A: This is not true. Alcoholics and addicts don’t spontaneously decide to get help for their addiction. Something happens in their life that causes them to want help.
Ask yourself this question: “If an alcoholic won’t get help until she wants help, what will get her to want help?” It can be years of personal tragedy or the loving intervention of family and friends.
Q: Don’t addicts have to “hit bottom” before they can recover?
A: An addict’s bottom can be divorce, arrest, health problems, financial ruin, child neglect, loss of friends, domestic abuse, jail, insanity, death. Typically, an addict can suffer several or all of these consequences. When the addict hits bottom, the family does too.
We can “raise the bottom.” Families do not have to endure years or decades of personal heartbreak and suffering over a loved one’s addiction. Family intervention is a loving and honest way to raise the bottom.
Q: I’ve been told that treatment doesn’t work when someone is forced to accept help.
A: It is not how someone gets into treatment, but what happens once they are in treatment. Hazelden conducted a 25 year study which shows that the success rate in treatment is the same for people ordered into treatment by the courts and those who entered treatment on their own.
William Bennett, former Drug Czar, writes in the Washington Post: “One clear fact about drug treatment is that success in treatment is a function of time in treatment. And time in treatment is often a function of coercion — being forced into treatment by a loved one, an employer or, as is often the case, the legal system. People who are forced to enter treatment under legal sanctions are more likely to complete treatment programs and thus more likely to get well…”
In intervention, however, we do not force someone into treatment. We ask them to go. They make the final decision for themselves. We do, however, makes decisions to no longer do things that make it easy for the alcoholic to stay sick, and this often convinces reluctant alcoholics to get help.
Q: Is it possible to intervene on an older adult or senior?
A: There are special techniques for intervening on an aging parent or a grandparent. A loving approach works very well when helping an older person. The language used with an older adult is different, and we look for age-specific signs and symptoms of addiction. Older people benefit from treatment programs designed for their age group. While recovery is slower, success is greater among elders.
If the person you are concerned about is over age 55, get special education on older adults before intervening. For more information, please see Aging and Addiction.
Q: How many people do I need to do an intervention?
A: We suggest three to eight people. These are people the alcoholic loves and respects. They may be family members, friends, co-workers, employers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy. People significant in the alcoholic’s life.
If you don’t have a minimum of three people for your team, consult a professional clinical interventionist.
Q: Do I need to hire a professional interventionist?
A: Each family should examine their needs and make a decision based on their specific situation. Many families, after thorough education and preparation, successfully intervene without using a professional interventionist. Other families prefer to have a professional present.
There are circumstances when a professional clinical interventionist is required. If the person you are intervening on has a history of mental illness or violent behavior, for instance. Or has had several previous treatments followed by relapse. Books on intervention will give you complete guidelines for determining if you need to hire a professional. Meet our interventionists here.
If you cannot afford to hire a professional interventionist and feel you need one, ask your minister or rabbi to learn about intervention with the family so he or she can facilitate the intervention. The book Love First is written to give you a complete roadmap for planning and carrying out a structured family intervention. You can also learn how to do an intervention by purchasing a membership to the Intervention Workshop podcasts & videos.
Q: Will my health insurance pay for intervention services?
A: No, insurance does not cover professional intervention services.
Q: What if other family members are opposed to doing an intervention?
A: When people are opposed to intervention, it often means they need more information. Rather than asking people to commit to doing an intervention, ask if they’d be willing to learn about intervention. Suggest they start with this website. Most people are willing take this first, small step. Next, they can read the book Love First. After everyone is educated, the family is ready to make a well-informed decision about intervention.
Q: I’m afraid the alcoholic in my family will walk out of the intervention. What do we do then?
A: This is one of the most common fears families planning interventions have. This happens infrequently, but we prepare for it anyway. Select one or two people from your intervention team who are highly respected by the alcoholic to follow him outside. They can gently and lovingly assure him everything is all right, and ask him to come back in. A professional interventionist can do this, too.
Q: Won’t the addict get angry during the intervention and begin an argument?
A: Anger is rarely seen during an intervention using a love first approach. It is more likely that the alcoholic will become tearful. While families often believe the alcoholic will react with anger, this almost never happens.
If the alcoholic you want to intervene on has a history of violence toward others, you are advised to consult with a professional before proceeding. If family members are concerned that they will not be able to contain their own anger during the intervention, hire a professional interventionist
Q: What do we tell our children when mom (dad) is in treatment?
A: Be honest with your children. Tell them that mom has a disease and she is working to get better. Ask the treatment center if they have an education and support program for children. Buy books written for children of alcoholics. Go to National Association for Children of Alcoholics for resources. Click here to see the page on children in our web site.
Q: Can children participate in an intervention?
A: Yes, but each child should be evaluated individually. We prefer not to involve children under the age of 12 in an intervention, except in special circumstances. It should always be the child’s choice; never something imposed upon him or her. Rather than directly participating, some children choose to write a letter an adult reads for them during the intervention.
If a child does participate in an intervention, provide good support for the child before, during, and after the intervention. Allow the child to talk about his or her feelings. If the alcoholic declines treatment after the intervention, explain to the child that it is not because the alcoholic does not love him or her. It is because the addiction blocks the sick person’s ability to make healthy decisions. Assure the child that he or she did a good job during the intervention.
Q: Our family members are scattered across the country. How do we do an intervention when we live so far apart?
A: Most people are able to arrange their schedules and make travel plans for something this important. People who are unable to attend can participate from home, and write a letter for someone on the intervention team to read for them during the intervention.
Q: What if our addicted loved one relapses after treatment?
A: If this happens, a family who has done an intervention is better prepared to handle the crisis than most families. You can do another intervention to address the relapse. This often doesn’t require all family members to attend some live a distance away. Consult with the counselor from the treatment center, and the professional interventionist, if you used one. They can help you decide what the alcoholic needs to do to get back on track.
We also offer comprehensive Recovery Mentoring services that will make relapse far less likely. If one of our Recovery Mentors accompanies your loved one home from treatment, takes them to AA and follows through with all of the clinical aftercare plan for an intensive two week period, relapse is highly unlikely.
Q: What’s the difference between Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous?
A: Al-Anon is a 12-Step support group for the families and friends of alcoholics. Also, Naranon is available for families of people addicted to other drugs. Families Anonymous is a 12-Step group for families of people addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Families Anonymous is particularly helpful to parents of an addicted child of any age. Alateen is for the teenage children of alcoholics.
Alcoholics Anonymous is for alcoholics with a desire to get sober. Narcotics Anonymous serves the same purpose for people addicted to other drugs. Both are 12-Step support groups.
12-Step groups are non-religious, non-professional, and are not part of any government agency. There are no dues. They offer the best help for long term recovery in the family. Regular attendance is necessary to begin getting the full benefit from these programs. When the entire family participates in the recovery process, the addicted loved one has a greater chance of long-term success in recovery.
There are religious groups that utilize the 12 Step model, such as Christians in Recovery and Jewish Alcoholic, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS)
See our page for Twelve Step and Other Resources.