James Haggerty Recovery

Family Intervention Guide

A Guide to Addiction Intervention for Family Members

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One of the hardest things about a loved one’s drug or alcohol use disorder is watching them struggle with their disease. As a spouse, family member, or friend of someone suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), you may be realizing there is little you can do to provide help and support for your loved one. It may be at the point when having an honest and open conversation with your loved one is the only thing left to do. However, conversation isn’t always enough, and a more formal meeting is often necessary.

This is when it’s time to hire an interventionist.

An intervention offers a more comprehensive and structured approach to confronting your loved one suffering from SUD than having a casual conversation. An intervention works best when led by a trained professional and aims to help someone who is suffering from SUD understand how their behavior is affecting those people who love them. Then, it offers them a way out.

But, I always like to clarify: Intervention is NOT a one time event. Intervention is a process. 

Introduction to Interventions for Addiction

It is often difficult for people suffering from SUD to even accept they have a problem, much less get them to commit to going to treatment. Many of these people are high-functioning substance users, but at the same time, they can be delusional and irrational. This is a difficult combination of perspectives to deal with, but one goal of intervention is aimed at convincing them to realize they need help.

Unlike an informal chat or suggestion, an intervention is a carefully planned and well-thought-out process that is best guided by a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, doctor, or specially trained interventionist. These meetings include family, close friends, and anyone who cares about the person struggling with SUD.

Signs Your Loved One Needs an Intervention

Signs Your Loved One Needs an Intervention

Anyone struggling with SUD at any stage of their illness can potentially benefit from an intervention. When someone is misusing drugs or alcohol in a manner that is affecting their behavior, their physical health, and their mental state, it is not difficult to point out the various signs and symptoms of drug use, depending on which substance they are using. Some common signs of misuse of substances are listed below, but this list is not comprehensive.

Someone who exhibits any of these signs is a candidate for intervention.


  • Slurs speech
  • Acts confused
  • Exhibits memory loss
  • Moves clumsily
  • Can’t stop drinking
  • Tells lies
  • Takes Risks
  • Acts violently
  • Experiences delirium


  • Shows a lack of interest
  • Isolates
  • Exhibits poor hygiene
  • Exhibits flu-like symptoms
  • Appears drowsy
  • Has a decreased libido
  • Has lost weight
  • Has abnormal sleep patterns
  • Steals
  • Has financial problems


  • Acts abnormal
  • Seems restless
  • Has dilated pupils
  • Twitches
  • Experiences paranoia
  • Hallucinates
  • Has frequent nosebleeds
  • Has a runny nose
  • Shows weight loss
  • Acts impulsively


  • Acts with increased activity
  • Shows increased attention
  • Shows weight loss
  • Experiences a lack of sleep
  • Hallucinates
  • Experiences paranoia
  • Acts delusional
  • Experiences memory loss
  • Acts aggressively
  • Has skin sores
  • Has rotting teeth

It is important to point out that someone’s rock bottom is not a necessary requirement for an intervention. In fact, Intervening should take place long before they reach their lowest point.

How to Plan for a Family Intervention

An intervention can be a highly sensitive situation with charged emotions and a sense of betrayal and resentment felt by your loved one. Handling these emotions is often a delicate process that professional interventionists are trained for. Thus, in planning for an intervention, it is best to consult with a professional counselor, social worker, psychologist, physician, or trained mental health professional who is qualified to guide an intervention. A professional, substance abuse interventionist can help in organizing the most effective intervention.

Form a group of family members and close friends to participate in the intervention. Have the group gather information and research your loved one’s condition and treatment programs so they get an idea of the extent of the problem your loved one is dealing with. The group members may choose to initiate the arrangement of a treatment program in advance.

Set a date, time, and place for the intervention.

Preparing for a Family Intervention

Family Intervention

Leading up to the meeting, the group should work together to form a collective and consistent message and rehearse a structured plan. An interventionist is helpful at this stage to coach the group on what to say and to keep the focus of the discussion on the facts. The goal here is to formulate a mutual solution.

If family members become emotional, disrespectful, or accusatory, they should be asked to cool down and realign their attention to the importance of planning a successful intervention. In preparation for an intervention, it is important that members of the intervention group do not tell your loved one about the intervention in advance.

Group members should take notes on what they want to say and decide on detailed consequences they are prepared to keep to themselves if their loved one doesn’t accept treatment. Group members should be prepared to verbally express their specific experiences with their loved one’s SUD, such as having to deal with financial repercussions or emotional issues that were caused by their substance use.

It is important to express the magnitude of the effects your loved one’s behavior has caused while remaining compassionate and caring. This should be done while indicating the expectation they share that your loved one can heal and overcome their disorder. Statements that start with facts regarding how their actions made the group member feel avoid the opportunity for the loved one to argue. For example, “I felt sad when you were drinking and …” or “It hurt me that you were high when ….”

Conducting the Intervention

When holding an intervention meeting, have the group members take turns telling your loved one how they feel, expressing their concerns one at a time. Present the option for treatment and allow each group member to state the consequences of their loved one not accepting treatment. Require the loved one to make an immediate decision.

Follow-Up Care After the Intervention

The primary goal of an intervention is getting your loved one to willingly go to treatment or rehab. Detox, treatment, and/or rehab must be completed for optimal success in recovery. When your loved one completes treatment, it will undoubtedly be an exciting time for friends and family because your loved one will be more like their old self, but they are not out of danger yet. Rehab may not be enough to face all the past triggers and familiar spaces and to sustain long-term recovery.

You may be tempted to welcome your loved one back home following treatment. However, sobriety may be short-lived without further work. If your loved one enters a safe living house or similar environment following treatment, it can further increase their chance of remaining in recovery indefinitely. There are many SUD resources for families and those in recovery that can be helpful in finding help for family members wanting to get support therapy for themselves and for their loved ones.

Understanding the Role of Family in Addiction Interventions

Role of Family in Intervention

A crucial component of a successful intervention is the support of family members. Changing everyday habits and patterns that lend to the availability and convenience of destructive behavior, or enable it, can mean the difference between someone staying in recovery and relapsing. When family members and spouses get counseling at the same time, it is beneficial to everyone, including those suffering from SUD and members of the family who aren’t suffering from SUD but may be enabling just the same. Counseling for family members, spouses, and even friends of those with SUD can empower and teach everyone how to be more supportive in recovery and what to do if relapse does occur.

Challenges That May Arise During an Intervention

A poorly planned or disorganized intervention can make a bad situation worse, so planning for challenges that may arise during the intervention ahead of time can contribute to the overall success of the plan. In each potentially challenging scenario described below, a trained professional interventionist is the best solution.

Your Loved One Is Intoxicated at the Intervention

If your loved one shows up to the intervention intoxicated, this may result in a hostile environment, or they may not be willing or able to hear what the group members have to say. It is usually best to postpone an intervention if your loved one shows up drunk or high. If intoxication is minimal, a professional interventionist has a good chance of being able to guide the meeting to a successful place because they are trained to deal with these situations.

Your Loved One Becomes Violent

It isn’t uncommon for someone suffering from SUD to become aggressive at an intervention and be verbally abusive out of a feeling of betrayal or anger in hearing the boundaries members plan to set. Again, a trained professional is vital in deflecting these issues and helping your loved one and the group member not to react in a negative manner, thus, saving the integrity of a successful intervention. If a professional interventionist is not present, it is best to end the intervention altogether.

Your Loved One Leaves the Intervention

A successful intervention aims to provide a safe and non-judgmental place full of optimistic support and love. Even when this is achieved, your loved one may choose to simply get up and walk out. It is not okay to physically restrain them or force them to stay. An objective, non-threatening professional would have the best chance of talking your loved one into staying and hearing what the group has to say.

Group Members Get Angry or Violent

An intervention is supposed to be a safe place for family and friends to share what they have to say and for the loved one to be able to listen and not feel attacked. When the meeting fails to serve this purpose, you risk the chance of failing to accomplish the primary goal. An interventionist is trained to defuse these types of reactions and steer the focus back on the intended path.

Your Loved One Refuses Treatment

After listening to group members’ pleas, your loved one may still refuse treatment and/or fail to admit they have a problem. Not all interventions end in a trip to treatment. This doesn’t mean the intervention was unsuccessful. They may take time to process the meeting, and it might influence them to seek treatment at a later time.

Family Intervention FAQs

You might still have questions about interventions, and that’s okay. Interventions are difficult and complex, so it’s important to be as educated as you can beforehand. A professional interventionist can answer any more questions you have regarding your specific situation.

How Do I Know if an Intervention Is the Right Approach for My Family?
If your loved one is suffering from SUD, you suspect they are misusing drugs or alcohol, or if they are exhibiting signs they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, then they are a good candidate for an intervention. If members of your family care about your loved one, want them to go to treatment, and are willing to set boundaries, then intervention is the right approach for your family.
What if My Loved One Refuses to Go to Rehab?
If your loved one refuses to go to treatment after the intervention, it doesn’t mean all the effort and emotional upheaval the intervention group endured to organize and conduct a successful intervention was a waste. Oftentimes, individuals who successfully complete treatment and stay in recovery cite an intervention as motivating their decision to attend rehab at a time after a seemingly unsuccessful intervention took place.
Does My Loved One Have to Hit Rock Bottom First?
Rock bottom is a dangerous term. If you’re waiting for your loved one to hit rock bottom, you’re continuing to enable them. They have already bottomed out, and their next rock bottom might be their last. An intervention leverages family and friends to begin raising their loved one’s lowest point because when they see that others believe in them, they start to believe in themselves too.
Why Do We Need a Professional Interventionist?
Hiring a trained professional to guide your family through the intervention process allows for an objective party to help organize the intervention and coach group members on what to say to have the most effective intervention. No matter how prepared you are for an intervention, you cannot predict the reaction of someone suffering from SUD, and several things can go wrong.

Fortunately, a professional interventionist has experienced these potential challenges amid other interventions and is trained to diffuse these situations and steer the meeting and members back on track. This can considerably contribute to the success of an intervention.

Suggested Reading: Is a Family Interventionist Needed for SUD?

Professional Substance Abuse Interventionist Services

professional substance abuse interventionist

Seeking the assistance of a professional substance abuse interventionist is a crucial step towards helping your loved one overcome addiction. These experts bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, ensuring that the intervention process is conducted with care, empathy, and effectiveness. With their guidance, you can navigate the complex and emotional journey of addressing addiction, fostering a supportive environment for your loved one to take the first steps towards recovery. Remember, you don’t have to face this challenging situation alone – a skilled substance abuse interventionist is here to help you and your family achieve the best possible outcome.

If your loved one is in need, it’s important to have the help of a successful substance abuse interventionist to ensure the best possible outcome. I’m here if you want to chat.

Want to Learn More About Family Intervention Services?

white barMy good friend and partner, Brad Langenberg, and I offer a family focused intervention service.
Learn more about it and reach out for a free and confidential consultation to see if we can help you and your family.