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Addiction Interventions and Intervention Specialists

It is often tough to know how to begin speaking with a loved one about substance abuse. Sometimes the signs of addiction are difficult to tell, and it is not clear if the use of substances has crossed into a problem. Other times it is clearly a problem that has arisen, but we are unsure how to address it. Interventions are often the best way of starting the conversation.

Interventions: A Definition

Interventions are a planned and careful way of addressing issues in the hopes of keeping things from getting worse. Interventions are confrontations but should not necessarily be confrontational in tone. The goal is to help the loved one with a substance abuse issue become aware of their problem. These encounters can occur with just two individuals, with a family, or with the addition of an interventionist. Interventionists are individuals who specialize in facilitating productive interventions.

The Need for Interventions

It may seem scary to have an intervention, and there may be doubt of why it is necessary. Sometimes the future results of addiction are not so noticeable. However, it is not always safe to wait for worse consequences from substance abuse to appear, and an intervention is needed before things get out of hand.

  • Impact on Individual: Substance abuse can have a dangerous effect on the individual and their lives. Addiction often causes us to do and say things we would not otherwise; it lowers our inhibitions. It can lead individuals to do dangerous things that can harm themselves and others in more serious cases. Substance abuse also takes a psychological toll. Individuals find that they are not in control of themselves and are becoming a slave to their desires. Feelings and thoughts like this can lead to increased anxiety and depression, and other mental disorders.
  • Impact on Family and Society: Addiction does not just impact the individual but also their friends, family, and society around them. Again, sometimes substance abuse may drive individuals to do reckless things that endanger the lives of others. Even in less extreme cases, those who are addicted also cause turmoil and grief within their families. Obviously, there will always be difficulties in family and society, but there are many cases where substance abuse is enhancing these problems or causing new ones. In these situations, loved ones and friends should be watchful and prepared to step in with an intervention if needed.

Effective and Ineffective Interventions

Just like anything else, it is possible to handle an intervention well or poorly. Effective interventions result in positive, constructive conversations in which all parties are heard and progress toward recovery is made. Ineffective interventions result in anger, hostility, increased tension in relationships, and no steps toward healing. Often, interventions are somewhere between these extremes, but certain things can be done or avoided to have more effective interventions.

Steps in Effective Interventions

There are at least seven steps that will help in preparing an effective intervention:

  • Make a plan: For any intervention to be effective, it needs to be prepared. In many cases, seeking advice from a counselor or interventionist is the best practice to begin this process. It is also useful to decide who else to involve, if anyone.
  • Gather information: Once a plan has been made, it will help further prepare for the encounter. The most important thing is to try to understand the extent of the substance abuse problem as much as possible. The more specifically one knows the nature of the problems and their consequences, the easier it will explain the concern to the loved one receiving the intervention.
  • Form the intervention team: Once there are a plan and information gathered, the team needs to be formed. It was already recommended to decide who else to involve and to consult a professional; now is the time to bring them into the fold and share the plan. An important task at this point is to figure out what roles each person will have. Is someone to gather the loved one to a specific location? Is someone prepared to comfort the loved one? Is someone there to ask questions and show tough love? Different people have different skillsets, and being prepared is key.
  • Decide on specific consequences: In many cases, the loved one struggling with addiction may not want to cooperate. If this is the case, it will be necessary to have consequences in place. For instance, if the loved one refuses to seek treatment, they will need to move out or be unable to be around the family’s children. Consequences will depend on the situation but are necessary. Though this can be one of the most challenging portions, it is important that there are stakes involved and all parties are clear on them.
  • Make notes on what to say: It is not uncommon for the intervention’s emotional and tense nature to make it difficult to remember what one wanted to say. For this reason, it is highly recommended that loved ones planning an intervention prepare notes on what they would like to communicate.
  • Hold the intervention meeting: Once everything has been prepared, it is time to hold the intervention itself. Remember to try to remain calm, communicate honestly, and be firm in consequences.
  • Follow up: Once the meeting has ended, follow-up is needed regardless of the outcome. If the loved one follows through with treatment, it will be important to continue following up and encouraging them to stay on the path. If they do not follow through or listen, it will be necessary to enact the decided consequences. It is essential that any effects decided on are actually passed; if not, the loved one struggling with addiction will reinforce that things are not really serious.

Things to Avoid

  • Emotionally charged language, unmanaged emotions
  • Insults or insulting language (junkie, addict, etc.)
  • Mobbing the loved one (i.e., too many people or “ganging up” on them)
  • Manipulation through coercion, shame, or ambushing

Types of Interventions

There are different types of interventions used for different situations or as different methods for achieving results. Holding an intervention is by no means an exact science, so some models or methods may be more effective than others for particular individuals or circumstances. The different options include Crisis Intervention Teams,[2] Brief Interventions,[3] the Johnson model, the SMART model, and ARISE Interventions.

Professional Interventionist

Interventions are critical but also very difficult. It is highly recommended that those seeking to prepare an intervention seek professional support. At Cycles of Change Recovery, we would like to come alongside you in this experience. Our experienced counselors are equipped to come alongside loved ones and assist throughout the intervention process.

You can read about our accreditation, staff, and facility in Palmdale, CA, for more information.


  1. Mayo Clinic. “Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/.
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs.” https://www.nami.org/.
  3. Buddy T. “Brief Interventions Effective for Some Drinking Problems.” https://www.verywellmind.com/.
  4. American Psychological Association. “Johnson Intervention.” https://www.apa.org/.
  5. Stephanie A. Hooker, et al. “Encouraging Health Behavior Change: Eight Evidence-Based Strategies.” American Academy of Family Physicians. https://www.aafp.org/.
  6. Garrett J, Landau J, Shea R, Stanton MD, Baciewicz G, Brinkman-Sull D. The ARISE Intervention. Using family and network links to engage addicted persons in treatment. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1998 Jul-Aug;15(4):333-43. DOI: 10.1016/s0740-5472(97)00212-2. PMID: 9650142.

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