How to complete an alcohol intervention

This Page was last reviewed and changed on May 17th, 2022

Content Overview

It is frustrating to see a family member or friend struggling with alcoholism and knowing that there is very little you can do to help. One thing you can try when all else fails is to hold an intervention, where a group of people close to the addict come together to encourage him or her to get help.

Alcohol Intervention – What is the Best Approach for Success?

Getting a family member or friend to admit to an alcohol problem can be tough – most alcoholics are not ready to accept that their use of the substance they have been using a crutch for a long time is causing harm in their own life, as well as to that of others.

A problem of alcohol addiction is usually easier for family members and friends to see than it is for the person with the addiction. This is often to do with the way in which alcohol abuse affects the frontal lobe of the brain. Your loved one might be struggling to see what is obvious to you because he or she is incapable of thinking clearly or making good decisions.

In fact, Chinese scientists have found that alcohol abuse can cause the loss of grey matter in certain areas of the brain, including the frontal lobe. It is this that impairs logical thinking and decision making.

If you have been met with a brick wall in terms of encouraging your loved one to accept that the addiction exists or to consider a programme of alcohol rehab treatment, it is probably not that the individual is being stubborn or pig-headed. It is more than likely to do with his or her inability to see things clearly. At this juncture, you might consider staging an intervention as this may be your best approach for a successful outcome.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is an effective tool in encouraging a family member or friend into treatment for an addiction. Denial can often be a barrier to recovery for those who suffer from addiction to substances such as alcohol or drugs. As mentioned above, these individuals may not be able to see how serious their situation is. The affected person might be finding it hard to comprehend that his or her actions are having a negative impact on him/herself and on others and consequently may need some help to see the harmful effects their behaviour is having.

This is where an intervention can help. When a group of people that the alcoholic loves and/or respects come together with a common purpose, it often ends in a positive outcome. In a face-to-face setting, this group of people will meet with the alcoholic with the aim of getting him or her to accept that the problem exists and to provide the opportunity for getting help. This, in a nutshell, is what an intervention is.

Staging an Intervention for an Alcoholic

According to charity Alcohol Concern, more than 595,000 people in England are, at the time of this writing, classed as dependent drinkers, yet less than one-fifth of this number are accessing the treatment they need to get better. It can be difficult to get affected individuals to accept help for alcohol addiction; an intervention is often seen as a last resort by many concerned family members and friends.

What to Know Before Staging an Intervention

Before staging an intervention, you should learn as much as you can about the process to ensure that it ends up running smoothly. An intervention requires careful planning and is not something that can just be arranged overnight. You will need to make a list of participants, decide on a venue, and arrange a rehearsal meeting so that everyone knows what will happen and how they are expected to participate.

When is the Right Time for an Intervention?

It is important to know whether an intervention is an appropriate course of action for your loved one. Interventions do not always work, and they are far less effective when you go into it not having much evidence of harm caused by the person’s drinking.

On the other hand, if your loved one has repeatedly rejected other attempts or suggestions to get treatment, and if you have examples of the harm that his or her behaviour has caused to other family members or friends, you are more likely to have a positive outcome.

Do Interventions Work?

If you are a family member or friend of someone with an alcohol problem, you might want to learn more about staging an intervention. While interventions do have a high success rate in terms of getting addicts to seek treatment, you should know that just because your addicted loved one might agree to access help, there is no guarantee that he or she will continue with treatment until the end. So in this respect, an intervention is only deemed successful if the addicted person does end up going for treatment.

What Does an Intervention Look Like?

An intervention is typically a group setting which could be comprised of family members, friends, work colleagues, and sometimes professionals. The group should have at least five or six people close to the addict in attendance. Typically, this will include parents, siblings, and close friends. You might also invite the addict’s doctor or a clergyperson to show the person that it is not just the family who know about the problem.

Make sure that the number of individuals in attendance is not too large so that it becomes unmanageable, but make sure that there are enough people for it to have an impact. A general rule of thumb is to stick to five to eight people.

You should also make sure that you do not invite anyone else who you believe might also have a drinking problem, even if that person is the addict’s closest friend or a parent. Moreover, do not invite anyone who might antagonise the addict or who the addict does not like or trust. Your addicted loved one is less likely to open up in front of those he or she is not completely comfortable with.

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What Takes Place During an Intervention?

During an intervention, you and a group of family members and friends will have a face-to-face meeting with the addicted person. Everyone will take turns in discussing the impact that the addiction has had on their life. Each person should also end their talk with a plea to the addicted person to get treatment.

The intervention is a chance to express frustrations and feelings about the addiction in a calm and supportive environment. Although the aim is to get the addicted individual into treatment, even interventions that do not end in this way can still be beneficial to family members. It will give them peace of mind knowing that they have tried everything in their power to get their loved one to accept help.

It also provides a forum where family members can stop burying their proverbial heads in the sand and give a voice to their true feelings. It may also offer them the perfect opportunity to stop being a part of the problem.

What is the Goal of an Intervention?

The ultimate goal of an intervention is to get an addicted loved one to accept that a problem with alcohol exists and to access a programme of treatment. Beyond that, the intervention aims to help all family members and friends air their feelings in a bid to begin the healing process.

Tips for a Successful Intervention

An intervention is a powerful tool when it comes to alcohol recovery, but only when planned and staged correctly. If you want to increase the chances of staging a successful intervention, there are certain steps that should be taken. Below are some examples:

Find the Right Time to Talk

When it comes to finding the right time to talk, it is important that you make sure all participants can attend. It may be challenging to get your addicted loved one there, especially if you have not pre-warned him or her about the intervention.
Set a date and time when you know that everyone is available. Pick a time when you know that your addicted loved one will be free for the duration of the meeting. Make sure that you arrange childcare for the addicted person’s children if appropriate and ensure that your loved one has no excuse to leave halfway through the intervention.

Use a Private, Formal Spot

Finding the right place for the intervention requires careful consideration. It should be a place that the affected individual can reach easily and if possible, it should be a neutral, private, and formal spot. Your local church hall, doctor’s office, or local community centre might be appropriate venues. Nevertheless, if you think that it will be difficult to get your loved one to such a venue, your only alternative may be to stage the intervention at the home of the addicted individual.

Pay Attention to the Order

It may seem like a simple matter, but order is the key to success when it comes to interventions. The order setup by the interventionist is created after a careful consideration of the relationships among the participants.

Hold Rehearsals

A rehearsal intervention without the addict is something that should not be neglected. This is the perfect opportunity for everyone to understand more about what will happen during the real thing. As most participants will have never been to an intervention before, a rehearsal will help everyone to feel calmer and less stressed about the actual meeting.

During the rehearsal, one participant could pretend to be the addict and then everyone else will get a chance to say their piece. It is important that all participants speak about the things that they want to air during the real intervention. This will provide an opportunity for any raw emotions to be dealt with in advance to prevent them from derailing proceedings during the actual event.

Another benefit of a rehearsal intervention is that it will give participants the chance to practice what they want to say in a calm manner. This should make them feel more confident on the day.

Stick to the Script

The temptation to go off script can be strong, particularly if emotions are running high. But whoever is in charge of leading the intervention should make sure that everyone sticks to the planned proceedings or chaos could ensue.

Use Open, Warm Body Language

The intervention is a time for family members and friends to show the addicted individual that they love and support him or her. It is not a time to punish, berate, or judge the addict for his or her actions. It is therefore important to make a point of using warm and open body language. This will make the addicted person feel more secure and it might help to reassure him or her that he/she is not being vilified.

Keep Tempers Under Control

Since an intervention can bring up facts that might be upsetting to the addict as well as to other participants, there is the risk that tempers could flare. It is essential that those involved know to stay calm and collected at all times, even if the addict is getting agitated and angry. If a shouting match erupts, it could derail the process and result in the addict leaving without agreeing to get help.

Don’t Give Up

Your loved one might enter the intervention with his or her guard up; in fact, this is highly likely. He or she may feel as though everyone is against him/her and may disagree with everything that is said. However, even if the person is adamant about not having a problem or needing help, you should continue with the process and not give up.

You could find that your loved one flat out refuses to get help, no matter what you or others have to say. This might not be the disaster you think it is though. In many cases, addicts will leave an intervention with no intention of getting help, but what often happens is that a seed has been planted and, with time, he or she may begin to realise the damage that is being done.

Have a Treatment Facility Standing By

You need to do your homework in terms of finding a treatment programme for your addicted loved one before the intervention takes place. In fact, it would be even better if you had a treatment facility standing by ready to accept the individual should the intervention go the way you hope it does.

It will be difficult enough for the person to get to the point where he or she is ready to admit the problem exists and to accept help, so taking care of this part of the process will be a huge help. Line up a few detox and rehab options so that the addicted person can begin treatment as soon as possible. It will give him or her less chance to have a change of heart as well.

Finding a Treatment Programme for Your Loved One

Clinics are either outpatient or inpatient (residential) programmes, based in a natural environment. If you have little experience of addiction and recovery, it is wise to speak to someone about your loved one’s situation for advice on the best course of treatment. You can call us here at UKAT and we will provide a full assessment based on what you know about the person’s drinking habits and history of substance abuse. This should give you a rough idea of the type of treatment programme that would be required.

After the Intervention

In an ideal world, your addicted loved one will listen to what everyone has to say and will realise that help is needed. If the intervention is planned and executed well, there is no reason why this should not happen.

If you have done your research and have lined up possible treatment options, your loved one could begin a programme of detox and rehabilitation within hours.

Where Else Can I Find Help?

If you are keen to learn more about interventions and how to stage one, you can talk to us here at UKAT. We can tell you all you need to know about holding your own intervention for an alcoholic family member.

We could also put you in touch with a professional interventionist who can assist with staging the process for you. Although it is entirely possible and common to hold an intervention without a professional present, you may find that having an expert to run proceedings will ensure that things stay on track.

You can also speak to your local GP for information and advice.

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