Steps to Plan an Intervention for Substance Abuse

i Sep 12th 2 Comments by

When planning an intervention, it is important that certain steps are followed in order for it to be effective. The last thing you want to do is come across as ambushing your teen. In order to have an effective intervention, we recommend the following 7 steps be taken. These steps were gathered by experts at the Mayo Clinic.

7 Steps to Planning a Successful Intervention

Step 1: Make a Plan

A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group. It’s best if you consult with a qualified professional counselor, addiction specialist, psychologist, mental health counselor, social worker or an interventionist to help you organize an effective intervention. An intervention is a highly charged situation with the potential to cause anger, resentment or a sense of betrayal.

Step 2: Gather Information

The group members find out about the extent of the loved one’s problem and research the condition and treatment programs. The group may initiate arrangements to enroll the loved one in a specific treatment program.

Step 3: Form the Intervention Team

Teen_InterventionThe planning group forms a team that will personally participate in the intervention. Team members set a date and location and work together to present a consistent, rehearsed message and a structured plan. Often, non-family members of the team help keep the discussion focused on the facts of the problem and shared solutions rather than strong emotional responses. Do not let your loved one know what you are doing until the day of the intervention.

Step 4: Decide on Specific Consequences

If your loved one doesn’t accept treatment, each person on the team needs to decide what action he or she will take. Examples include asking your loved one to move out or taking away contact with children.

Step 5: Make Notes on What to Say

Each member of the intervention team describes specific incidents where the addiction caused problems, such as emotional or financial issues. Discuss the toll of your loved one’s behavior while still expressing care and the expectation that your loved one can change. Your loved one can’t argue with facts or with your emotional response to the problem. For example begin by saying “I was upset and hurt when you drank…”

Step 6: Hold the Intervention Meeting

Without revealing the reason, the loved one is asked to the intervention site. Members of the core team then take turns expressing their concerns and feelings. The loved one is presented with a treatment option and asked to accept that option on the spot. Each team member will say what specific changes he or she will make if the addicted person doesn’t accept the plan. Do not threaten a consequence unless you are ready to follow through with it.

Step 7: Follow Up

Involving a spouse, family members or others is critical to help someone with an addiction stay in treatment and avoid relapsing. This can include changing patterns of everyday living to make it easier to avoid destructive behavior, offering to participate in counseling with your loved one, seeking your own therapist and recovery support, and knowing what to do if relapse occurs.

A successful intervention must be planned carefully to work as intended. A poorly planned intervention can worsen the situation — your loved one may feel attacked and become isolated or more resistant to treatment. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that consulting an interventionist can be beneficial.


  1. eleanor
    June 22, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    This was very helpful. How do I find an interventionist? And are they expensive? How can I be sure I can do the intervention myself?

    • Ann Lally
      July 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      It would be nice to save the money you might spend on an interventionist (insurance does not reimburse), but it might be prudent to engage one, particularly if your loved one needs to be escorted directly to a recovery program.Perhaps you can discuss this with a counselor or therapist first. A successful intervention involves tough love and objectivity.

      I have not used these sites, but a therapist and interventionist provided them to me. Perhaps you can call a few and interview them to learn about their own protocols and costs before engaging anyone. Wishing you every success. Hang in there.

      1. Network of Independent Interventionists

      2. The Association of Intervention Specialists.


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