How Does an Intervention Work?

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated November 25, 2019

Dealing with addiction in the family is a very stressful experience. You may be at your wit’s end and worried about your loved one’s health and safety. Perhaps you’re frustrated, feeling that your friend or family member is in denial about needing help. When other attempts to get them into treatment haven’t worked, or you’re unsure about how to approach the topic, an intervention can be beneficial.

What is an Addiction Intervention?

An intervention is a highly structured, planned conversation involving close family and friends, the person in active addiction, and an intervention specialist. Northbound has a team of on-site interventionists as well as a network of connections throughout the country to assist with out-of-state interventions. You do not have to go through the process alone.

Not Sure If An Intervention Necessary?

Maybe you’re wondering if an intervention is something you should consider. What if it’s not time yet? Perhaps my family member isn’t really ready to talk about it. Or what if you don’t really need to hold an intervention for your loved one? It’s common to have questions and concerns like these. In fact, many people who are in or have been in your shoes have wondered about the same exact things.

The truth of the matter is that, in all honesty, your family member may never be “ready to talk about it”. He or she might not ever feel truly comfortable discussing addiction with you. But, that doesn’t mean you should continue to wait for the “right time”. That time might not ever really come. So, it’s up to you to help your struggling friend or family member before the situation worsens.

If you’re still unsure, however, about carrying out an intervention, don’t feel ashamed or guilty. This is a very challenging and difficult thing to do. But, it may be your only chance to help the person you love to break completely free from substance abuse. So, if you think an intervention might be necessary but you’re not quite sure, it’s best to keep an eye out for the signs.

Signs That It’s Time to Intervene

Here are some common signs that it’s time for an intervention:

  • Your loved one has an increased level of tolerance. Have you noticed that he or she drinks a little more alcohol in one setting than before? Maybe the individual is using more medication than normal. Perhaps he or she takes pain pills “just in case”. 
  • The individual is spending more and more time alone. Maybe your friend or family member is starting to show signs of social isolation. The person may be spending less time with family members and friends. Even the things they used to really enjoy may seem less interesting for them.
  • Financial hardship and problems are becoming more prevalent. Addiction has a way of causing people to struggle financially. This is due to many reasons. For one, continuous alcohol or drug use tends to rewire the brain and cause impairment of judgment. This may lead people to make decisions that are irresponsible and unhealthy. Also, when a person depends on alcohol or drugs, it means they struggle to function without that substance. As a result, the individual will feel that they must do whatever is necessary in order to by more. This may include using money to pay for drugs instead of bills.
  • Your loved one has lost a job or failed classes in college. Many times, people who suffer from addiction struggle to succeed in school or at work. They may have difficulty getting to work on time because of the effects of drugs or alcohol. Or, they might struggle to keep up with their studies. This might be a sign of substance use problems.
  • There’s a lack of self-care. Addiction can cause people to lose interest in self-care. Individuals may not practice good hygiene and they may often appear to be disheveled and unkempt.

Beginning the Intervention Process

This allows individuals to get into treatment as soon as possible. If the person accepts the offer for help, the team at Northbound can start the admissions process. If the person refuses help, a set of predetermined consequences will be enforced. These might include cutting off monetary support, asking them to move out, or suspending contact with children. Once an individual realizes the impact of his or her decision, the person may have a change of heart and see that they do have a problem and need treatment.

The Importance of Professional Guidance

When you are planning to approach a friend or family member about their addiction, it is best to do so with help from someone who knows how to successfully intervene. Professional guidance is one of the most important things to have when it comes to intervening. In other words, you need to get help from someone who knows what they’re doing. This is where professional interventionists come in. 

Once you and your family come to the conclusion than an addiction intervention is necessary, it’s important to follow through with it. It may, however, be difficult to know where to start. After all, your loved one is suffering from a disease. This illness changes the way your family member thinks and feels. So, it may be challenging to convince him or her to get help. The last thing you want is to make your family member feel as though you are attacking him or her. Instead, it is better to make sure your family approaches the process the right way in order to help improve the situation.

How an Interventionist Can Help Your Family

If a loved one is in denial about the extent of their substance use or is unwilling or unable to recognize the negative effects, an intervention can shed light on the reality of the situation. The interventionist will work with your family to:

  • identify concrete examples of the person’s destructive behavior
  • create a narrative of what each person will say (usually in the form of a letter)
  • determine a plan of action when your loved one either accepts or refuses treatment 

The goal is not to place blame or make the person feel ashamed. Instead, the intention is to show him or her how much you care and how concerned people are for the individual’s well-being.

An interventionist can give you the guidance you need when it comes to carrying out an intervention process. This individual can walk you through the beginning stages, helping you to figure out the best time or place for the intervention. They can also help you develop a good team to carry out the intervention. Finally, the interventionist can be present during the meeting to help provide guidance throughout the encounter. This may be extremely beneficial because interventions can be very emotional and it can be hard to stay on track. The professional individual can help to keep everything together in those difficult moments.

After you connect with someone who can help you and your family with the intervention, you can begin the planning process. 

How Does an Intervention Work?

Normally, a team of individuals gathers during an intervention with the purpose of the meeting to address a friend or family member about his or her addiction. But, ultimately, the goal is to encourage the individual to get help. Substance abuse negatively affects individuals who suffer from it. But, it also impacts his or her friends and family members. So, interventions often bring these things to light, helping the struggling individual to understand the consequences of the substance problem.

The group that will take part in the intervention should be made up of individuals who truly care about the person who is suffering. These should be people who can control themselves in emotionally-charged atmospheres. After all, it’s highly likely that there will be challenging moments during the meeting. But, high emotions can sometimes cause interventions to be ineffective. For instance, individuals may feel the need to place blame on others or unnecessarily bring up negative situations from the past. This can definitely cause problems and prevent the meeting from being successful.

During an intervention, the family members of the person struggling with addiction can discuss the effects of the individual’s problem. They can do so in a safe, neutral, and comfortable setting. This helps to ensure that each person feels secure and free to speak truthfully.

After the team establishes a location, they can prepare to hold the intervention. It’s important for the team to go over what they will be discussing in the meeting. They should talk about the intervention in detail, figuring out what they should and shouldn’t do.

Next, it’s time to intervene. During the meeting, individuals may discuss their concerns and feelings. This can help the struggling individual to see the importance of making a change. Also, during the intervention, group members can talk about the consequences that might occur if the individual doesn’t get help. In some cases, this might mean the person may no longer be allowed to live at home.

If the individual does not decide to get help, the consequences must be enforced. If, however, the person chooses to make a change, it’s important to take immediate action. Be sure to have a rehab center already lined up to take your loved one after the intervention. 

Let Us Help You and Your Family Today

Here at Northbound, we truly believe that recovery is possible. Through an organized intervention, our team can help your loved one to break out of the cycle of denial and move in a positive direction in their life. You can have peace of mind knowing that they are in a safe environment receiving the personalized treatment they need. In addition, family members are engaged in the recovery process as well. It’s not too late to get your loved one the help they need at Northbound.

If you’re concerned about someone you love, contact Northbound today about talking to an intervention specialist. Just give us a call at (866) 311-0003 to learn more about how we can help you and your family. 


Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.


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