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Staging an Alcohol Intervention: A Comprehensive Guide

Staging an Alcohol Intervention: A Comprehensive Guide

When a loved one struggles with alcohol misuse, they may not see a need for treatment. In this case, an alcohol intervention can be helpful.

When people live with an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction, they experience lasting changes in the brain that make it difficult to stop drinking. This means they will continue to drink, even when they face serious consequences. They may not always see a need for treatment. If this is the case, an alcohol intervention can be helpful, as it can encourage your loved one to seek some form of help, such as starting medication assisted treatment for alcohol use or working with a recovery coach. While your loved one is seeking treatment, you may also benefit from attending family support groups. Learn about all of these options, as well as tips for staging an intervention, below. 

What Is An Intervention?

An intervention refers to a meeting or series of meetings in which concerned family members and friends come together to confront a loved one about their alcohol addiction. An intervention can be a surprise meeting, in which loved ones confront a person with an addiction, or it can be a planned meeting, that the loved one knows they will be attending. Regardless of whether the person with the alcohol addiction knows about the purpose of the meeting in advance, the goal of the intervention is to convince the person to seek treatment. 

What Is The Purpose Of An Intervention?

The purpose of an intervention is not to attack or criticize a person with an addiction, but rather to encourage them to seek treatment. During an intervention, loved ones express their concerns to the person with the alcohol addiction, hoping that the person will agree to go to treatment. At the conclusion of an intervention, the person is often offered an opportunity to seek treatment for alcohol misuse. 

Another purpose of interventions is to provide family members and friends with the skills to address the loved one’s addiction without enabling it. If family and friends work with a professional interventionist, they will ideally be provided with education on the course of addiction, as well as information about how they can avoid enabling their loved one. At the conclusion of the intervention, the hope is that loved ones will be able to change their own behaviors to better support the person with the addiction. This could involve stepping back and refusing to provide money or other forms of support if the person continues to refuse treatment. 

How Does An Intervention Work?

A drinking intervention may look different depending upon the specific type of intervention model you use. Regardless of the specific model,an intervention works by allowing concerned family members and friends to come together to encourage a loved one to seek treatment. Often, there is some planning that goes into the process. Loved ones will plan what they will say to the person with the addiction, as well as make arrangements for the person to seek treatment. Depending upon how the family conducts an alcohol intervention, they may or may not work with an addiction treatment professional during the process. 

What Is An Intervention Model?

An intervention model is a specific strategy for carrying out an intervention. Intervention models provide guidelines for how to conduct the intervention. Some common models are described below:

  • The Johnson Model: A Johnson Intervention is probably what most people picture when they think of staging an intervention for alcohol misuse. This model involves a planned confrontation with a person struggling with addiction. Family members using this intervention technique work with a trained addiction treatment professional. They have pre-intervention meetings during which they plan what they will say to their loved one and learn about the dangers of enabling an addiction. 

Finally, the team comes together, in the presence of a therapist or other addiction treatment professional, to confront the loved one and ask them to seek treatment. Arrangements are typically made in advance to allow the person to be admitted to a treatment facility immediately after the confrontation, and family members may give ultimatums, such as no longer being a part of the person’s life, if they refuse to go to treatment. 

  • The CRAFT Model: The CRAFT intervention stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training. This model is less confrontational than the Johnson model. Families following the CRAFT model come together for numerous sessions, and there are no surprise confrontations. Family members learn about ways to effectively communicate with their loved one who has an addiction. Ultimately, the goal of a CRAFT intervention is to motivate a loved one to enter treatment, but this is not achieved through a surprise confrontation. Rather, the loved one with the addiction is involved in the family treatment process and encouraged to seek treatment of their own.

Under the CRAFT model, family members benefit, even if their loved one does not seek treatment. They learn ways to practice self-care and cope with their loved one’s addiction without enabling it. They also learn how to communicate more effectively with a person who has an addiction, and how to react to the behaviors associated with addiction. Ultimately, behavioral changes in the family members can encourage a person to seek treatment. 

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Things To Consider Before Staging An Alcohol Intervention 

Before performing an alcohol intervention, there are several things to consider:

  • Whether to hire a professional: Intervening with a loved one struggling with alcohol misuse can be challenging. Often, an intervention is easier to conduct if you have the assistance of a trained professional, who can provide support and train the family on how to best communicate with a person who has an alcohol addiction. You might try to perform an intervention on your own, but it may not always go as planned. Reaching out to a local addiction treatment facility and asking for assistance in conducting an intervention can improve your chances of success.
  • Where your loved one will go for treatment: The ultimate purpose of an intervention is to encourage your loved one to seek treatment. It is helpful if you arrange treatment in advance, so your loved one can begin immediately after the intervention. You can research treatment centers in your area and choose one that seems to be a good fit, or a professional conducting an intervention can assist you with locating treatment.
  • Choose your approach: It is also important to consider whether your loved one will respond better to a confrontational approach, or less confrontational methods. Some people may become angry with a surprise confrontation, like the Johnson method, so you may want to consider gentler approaches. 
  • Decide what you’ll say: When you conduct an intervention with your loved one, you will need to share your concerns with them in a loving, supportive manner. It can be helpful to write a letter in advance, or prepare a checklist of things you’d like to discuss. Refrain from blaming or shaming your loved one; instead, be prepared to discuss the consequences of their addiction and your concern for their wellbeing. 

When Is An Intervention Necessary?

An intervention is needed when a person shows signs of alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, but they have continued to refuse treatment. A person with an alcohol use disorder will continue to drink, despite serious consequences. 

Some signs of an alcohol use disorder include drinking even when it causes problems at work, continuing alcohol consumption despite the fact that alcohol contributes to a health problem, and drinking in dangerous situations. A person with an alcohol use disorder is also likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t drinking, and they may have several failed attempts to stop.

If a person shows some or all of the symptoms above, and they have refused to seek treatment, an intervention may be needed. Formally addressing the concern with your loved one can provide them with the motivation they need to reach out for help. 

How To Stage An Alcohol Intervention

If you’re ready to stage an alcohol intervention, you’ll need to do some planning. The following steps can teach you how to stage an intervention:

Step One: Decide Who Will Be Involved 

The first step in planning an intervention is deciding who will be involved. Think about who should be a part of the intervention team. Often, close family members, such as spouses or significant others, parents, or grandparents are involved. Influential people like close friends, coworkers, or someone from church may also participate. 

Step Two: Research Local Professionals

If you decide to hire professional help to stage your intervention, the second step is to find a local professional to assist you. Contact an addiction treatment facility or mental health center to inquire about holding an intervention session.

Step Three: Plan For The Meeting

Typically, this step occurs with the assistance of a professional. You will meet with him or her to make a plan for the meeting, including what you will say and how you will respond if your loved one refuses to seek treatment. You will also make a plan for where your loved one can be admitted for treatment at the end of the intervention. 

Step Four: Hold The Intervention

The final step involves holding your intervention. In some cases, this may be one meeting in which a loved one is confronted and urged to seek treatment. In other families, an intervention may involve multiple team meetings. What is important is that you have a plan in place and that you stick to this plan during your intervention.

Alcohol Intervention Do’s and Don'ts

The following alcohol intervention tips can make the process more successful:

  • Don’t shame your loved one for having an addiction or blame them for their problems.
  • Do talk to your loved one with respect and empathy. 
  • Do provide specific examples of concerns that you have, such as noticing that your loved one no longer shows up to work. 
  • Do acknowledge that you understand this process is difficult for your loved one.
  • Do be prepared to follow through with consequences, such as no longer allowing your loved one to borrow money, if they refuse to seek treatment.
  • Do stick to the plan your team devised for the intervention. 
  • Do not blame yourself if the intervention doesn’t go as planned.
  • Do be prepared for the possibility that your loved one will be angry, and make a plan for how you will remain calm. 
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Alcohol Intervention FAQs

If you’re seeking information on how to stage an alcohol intervention, the answers to the following questions will be beneficial. 

What Are Some Intervention Techniques?

Intervention models can vary between different agencies and professionals, but two common alcohol intervention models are the Johnson model and the CRAFT model. The Johnson model is often pictured on television and involves a surprise intervention, whereas the CRAFT model is carried out over multiple family therapy sessions and is less confrontational. 

How Do You Plan An Intervention?

One of the best ways to plan an intervention is to contact an addiction treatment facility to seek professional help with your intervention. The planning stage usually involves learning about the nature of addiction, deciding what you will say when you meet with your loved one, and determining where they can go for treatment after the intervention.

What Are Examples Of Treatment Interventions?

While the term intervention is typically used to describe the process of meeting with a loved one and encouraging them to seek treatment, the word “intervention” can also refer to specific treatment modalities used when a person enters a rehab program. Some common alcohol interventions include behavioral interventions like counseling, as well as support group meetings and the use of medications. 

What Is The Most Effective Intervention For Alcohol Misuse?

There is not one single alcohol intervention model that works for everyone, but research suggests that the CRAFT intervention is particularly effective. Some research shows that it is more effective than other models, and one study found that after four to six CRAFT meetings, 63% of people entered addiction treatment. 

Do Interventions Work?

Interventions do not work for everyone, and the success rate can vary based upon the type of intervention carried out, as well as the severity of the loved one’s addiction. Research with the CRAFT model suggests that it is successful around 63% of of the time. 

Who Can I Contact For An Intervention?

You can contact a local mental health facility or addiction treatment provider to seek assistance with conducting a family alcohol intervention. If the facility you contact does not perform interventions, chances are that they will refer you to someone who does provide this service. 

How Do I Get On The Show Intervention?

Being on the show Intervention requires submitting an application through A&E, the television network that broadcasts the show. Keep in mind that while this show can link your loved one to valuable treatment services, you are not guaranteed to be selected for the show. You should not count on being selected for this show, as your loved one may go without treatment if you are never chosen. Instead, you will likely have better outcomes if you seek out a local interventionist to assist your family. 

What Should I Do When An Intervention Is Not Working?

Ideally, you will work with a professional to conduct your intervention, and they will provide you with guidance on how to respond when the intervention doesn’t seem to be working. If your loved one does not enter treatment following an intervention, you may need to take a step back. Continuing to provide money, support, and a place to stay can enable them to continue with their addiction. A professional interventionist can provide you with training on how to modify your own behavior to increase the likelihood that your loved one will enter treatment. 

Work With Confidant Health For Alcohol Help 

If you’re seeking services for a loved one after an alcohol intervention, Confidant Health offers numerous options. We can provide online medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, as well as access to a recovery coach to help your loved one stay committed to treatment. We also offer weekly virtual family support groups so that you can be an active participant in your loved one’s recovery. 

Download our app today to get started. We are available on both the App Store and the Google Play Store. 

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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