How to Hold an Alcohol Intervention

Edited by Beth Durling

Last updated September 5, 2020

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 140 million Americans ages 12 and above consume alcohol at least once a month[1]. This equates to more than half of the U.S. population. While alcohol use isn’t always problematic, social drinking can quickly lead to serious substance abuse.

Nearly 70 million Americans binge drink one or more times a month, and about 17 million report heavy drinking. Binge drinking and heavy drinking often lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), a condition affecting roughly 15 million people in the United States[1]. Sadly, the effects of alcoholism go beyond the alcohol abuser. The disease can impact their family members, friends, colleagues, and community.

Many families who suffer as a result of AUD consider confronting their loved one by learning how to stage an intervention. Like other types of substance abuse, it can be challenging to get an alcoholic to admit they have a drinking problem, let alone agree to seek help. However, an organized confrontation can be effective with proper planning and careful consideration.

If you’re wondering how to hold an alcohol intervention, the experts at Northbound Treatment can assist. We’ve been helping alcoholics and drug addicts overcome their addictions for over 30 years, and we’re seasoned in guiding families with successful interventions. Read on to learn how to do an intervention for drinking, including the general process and useful tips for an effective confrontation.

How Does Alcohol Intervention Work?

So, what’s an intervention and how does an intervention work? An alcohol intervention is a planned meeting during which an alcoholic’s close friends and relatives confront them about their substance abuse. Usually, each person will share how the alcoholic’s reckless behaviors have hurt them or negatively affected their life. The goal is to get through to the alcoholic and get them to agree to make a change before their substance abuse causes more harm.

Denial is common with all types of addiction. If you’ve addressed your loved one’s addiction to drinking in the past, and they either dismissed your concerns or downplayed their habits, an intervention might be a reasonable next step. When those closest to an alcoholic outline the specific ways they’ve been impacted or hurt as a result of their drinking, it can be a wakeup call and prompt action.

Additionally, an intervention is an opportunity to clearly convey an ultimatum. If an alcoholic thinks they can get away with their behaviors without any repercussions, they may not have the incentive to stop. But when you explicitly tell them what the consequences will be if they don’t get help, they might agree to your terms.

Who Should Be Involved in an Intervention?

As we mentioned, the people involved in an alcohol intervention should only include those closest to the alcoholic. Also, we recommend a group of four to six individuals. Too few people might not be effective, and too many people can be distracting and make the meeting counterproductive.

If you come from a big, close-knit family, it can be hard to decide who to include. It should consist of the people the alcoholic spends most of their time with, aside from anyone who might try to sabotage the intervention. Beyond that, make sure they like and respect each person who will be present. When considering, do interventions work, keep these factors in mind to see the most success. 

Planning an Intervention: Alcohol Abuse

Now that you have a better understanding of how it works, you can begin planning an intervention. Alcohol abuse is a serious and urgent concern, and time is of the essence. That being said, it’s best to avoid rushing an intervention. An organized approach will yield the best possible outcome[2].

Ask a Pro

A successful intervention requires careful planning and attention to detail. Before getting started, it’s a good idea to consult with a professional interventionist with experience in family interventions. They can provide guidance and insight for each step and might be able to sit in during the confrontation. The intervention specialists from Northbound Treatment know how to navigate this emotional and immensely challenging process. We encourage you to reach out to us if you’re planning to confront a family member’s problematic drinking.

Find a Time and Place

After recruiting a group and getting in touch with a specialist, the next step is to get the meeting on the calendar. Determine a date when all parties are available, including the alcoholic. As for the specific time, a formal intervention should be scheduled when they don’t have any other obligations. If possible, avoid confronting them before they leave for work or school.

Just as with a drug addiction intervention, a secure setting is best for alcohol interventions[3]. This might be the home of the alcoholic or one of their family members. In any case, the location should be comfortable and free of interruptions.

Allow Everyone a Turn to Speak

Each person in the intervention group should plan to speak. To ensure everyone gets an opportunity, try to prepare relatively short messages about how your loved one’s alcoholism has impacted you or raised concerns for their well-being. Also, try to be direct. Drawn-out and overly emotional monologues can be less effective than clear and succinct communication.

Outline Consequences

The next stage of an alcohol intervention program is to explain that if they don’t change their behaviors or seek help, there will be consequences. Avoiding vague language is crucial if you want your loved one to take you seriously. For example, saying, “I can’t support your habit” might not be enough to get through to them. Instead, you might try saying something like, “If you continue drinking, I won’t support you financially,” or “If you don’t stop drinking, you have to move out.”

Present Treatment Options

The most critical component of alcohol abuse intervention is being ready to present them with treatment options. If they agree to get help, you might only have a short window to take action. We suggest contacting rehab centers in advance to see if they can accommodate your family member and confirming an exact date they can start. Also, it’s best to look into payment options and iron out details about insurance coverage if possible.

Northbound Treatment’s Approach to Alcohol Rehab

Now that you know how to hold an alcohol intervention, you can start planning. The team at Northbound’s rehabilitation center wants to help your loved one overcome addiction and foster healing within your family. We can assist with planning a formal intervention and outlining alcohol treatment options. 

As an in-network healthcare provider for almost all major insurance plans, there’s a good chance your family member is covered for at least a portion of alcohol treatment. If there are any remaining out-of-pocket costs, we can set up a flexible payment plan.

Since many people with AUD also suffer from a co-occurring mental illness (whether previously diagnosed or not), you may want to look for a treatment facility that offers a dual diagnosis program, like Northbound Treatment. Our integrated rehab plans start with a thorough evaluation of a person’s physical, mental, and emotional state. If a mental health condition is present, it will be implemented into the care plan.

Detoxing from alcohol can be extremely challenging and sometimes dangerous. For this reason, a medically supervised detox program is often a necessary first step of treatment. Northbound offers an accredited detoxification program in Orange County, allowing patients to get clean and healthy in a safe and comfortable environment.

After detoxing from alcohol, they can transfer to one of our gender-responsive residential treatment programs. While living at our rehab center, clients participate in one-on-one therapy, group counseling, recreational activities, and a range of experiential activities. The next phase is outpatient treatment, during which clients continue rehab while living back at home. After that, we offer ongoing addiction support services designed to help individuals adjust to the realities of a sober life and prevent relapse.

Call us at (888) 978-8649 for help with a family intervention or to learn more about the programs we offer.

External sources:

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-intervention

Article Reviewed by Beth Durling

Beth DurlingBeth Durling BA, CADCII, ICADC is the Clinical Director of Northbound Treatment Services. She is also the proud owner of The Durling Group, Inc., a national consulting firm, where she worked closely with large scale corporations, healthcare companies, and universities, helping to enhance outcomes.

Beth founded and resided as CEO for The Center for Life Change, a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Riverside County where she gained national recognition for her outcomes as a leader in the field of addiction surrounding patient care, specializing in retention strategies for both staff and patients.

She also founded The Heart Culture Academy, creating a collaborative national community of trained influencers, helping people change their relationships, their work environments and personal lives through her published Model, Heart Culture.

Beth believes individual lives can be enhanced through learned consciousness, utilizing her specialized techniques that offer long-lasting, connection-based relationships. She has toured the country speaking and distributing this message.

Beth has been writing and speaking to assist individuals and organizations through transformative processes for the last 25 years. She is the mother to two adult children, Ridge and Rachel and resides in San Clemente, California.

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