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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on September 8, 2023
8 min read

How to Stage an Alcohol Intervention

Kelly Brown
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

What is a Drinking Intervention?

An alcohol intervention is an attempt to get a loved one to seek treatment for their drinking. During the intervention, attendees share their thoughts and feelings about their loved one’s potential alcohol abuse disorder.

In most cases, family members and friends conduct these interventions. A mental health counselor, healthcare professional, and/or clergy member may also be present.

Most interventions end with an ultimatum: the person must seek help or accept the consequences of their choice to keep drinking. These choices vary, depending on the circumstances.

Consequences can include:

  • Getting cut from family or personal relationships
  • Losing employment
  • Relinquishing housing arrangements

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Six Tips for Staging an Alcohol Intervention

Here are some tips to set up a successful Intervention for alcohol use disorder:

1. Determine Who Will Attend

You can invite anyone affected by the person’s drinking to the intervention. However, people who might discourage treatment or deny there’s a problem probably shouldn’t attend.

The best people to include in an intervention are those who show compassion and speak confidently, honestly, and firmly about the person’s potential alcohol use disorder.

2. Choose a Time and Place for the Alcohol Intervention

It might be tempting to rush an alcohol intervention when concerned about a loved one’s well-being. Unfortunately, this can backfire when planned incorrectly.

Choosing a neutral, distraction-free location and convenient time is best for everyone. If possible, don’t plan the intervention during another event, such as a family holiday.

Avoid making the person feel tricked or trapped. Let them know family members and friends want to speak to them about an issue so they aren’t blindsided.

3. Plan What to Say

The most important things to share include how their alcohol use disorder affects you, how you feel about it, and that you want them to get help.

This is one of the most challenging aspects of planning an intervention. If you’ve been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism, you likely have a lot to say. Planning thoughtful words in advance will help you communicate effectively with your loved one.

4. Give Examples

In addition to sharing how a loved one’s drinking makes you feel, you’ll want to provide examples of times they hurt you. 

For example, you can say, “You did X because of your drinking, and it made me feel Y.” This can sound like, “You missed my birthday because you were drunk, and it was hurtful.”

Giving specific, situational examples helps people understand how their actions affect others. Alcohol affects memory and distorts perception.

It’s also easy to deny a problem when there are several days or weeks between incidents. Providing someone with a list of offenses linked to their alcohol use disorder makes it more difficult to deny the problem.

5. Provide an Ultimatum

An ultimatum is your bottom line. It means telling your loved one they must seek treatment or else they will continue to harm themselves and others.

There’s no easy way to deliver an ultimatum to someone you love. It doesn’t feel good for anyone involved, but setting boundaries is necessary.

An ultimatum provides a clear next step and gives your loved one a choice. They can get help and continue to receive support, or they can refuse treatment and risk the consequences you’ve set.

6. Provide Alcohol Treatment Options

Ideally, your loved one will agree to seek help after you confront them during the intervention. This is why it’s important to have information about treatment centers ready.

In some professional interventions, the counselor can take the person directly to the addiction treatment center after the intervention.

What is the Goal of an Alcohol Abuse Intervention?

An alcohol abuse intervention aims to motivate someone to get help for their alcohol use. This can be for mild alcohol abuse or serious alcohol addiction cases.

Mild Alcohol Abuse Cases

In some cases, the only goal of an alcohol intervention is to get someone to drink less. Mild alcohol abuse occurs when a person’s drinking interferes with their lives and those around them.

Often, the person hasn’t been drinking long but refuses that they have a serious problem that needs addressing. If they recognize the magnitude of their situation, they may still be able to drink less on their own and without professional help.

Serious Alcohol Addiction Cases

Serious alcohol addiction cases usually involve scenarios where the person has a long history of alcohol or drug addiction. Staging an intervention aims to get the person into professional treatment or to begin therapy to overcome their addiction.

It’s important to share specific alcohol addiction treatment options with the person during the actual intervention. Doing so lets them take immediate action without overthinking or changing their mind.

If someone responds negatively to an intervention, don’t assume that the attempt was a failure. Offer an ultimatum, accept their reaction, remain calm, and move on. Sometimes, people will get help or reduce their drinking even if they’re unwilling to do so.


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What are the Six Types of Interventions for Alcohol Addiction?

There are several types of interventions for people who abuse alcohol, including:

1. Brief Intervention

Brief interventions are best for people who abuse alcohol but don’t have a history of addiction. A brief intervention aims to help someone with problematic substance use. Their drinking and behavior might concern loved ones, even if they don’t have an alcohol use disorder.

This intervention style usually lasts between 5 and 30 minutes. If a counselor is present, they might conduct a brief counseling session. Brief interventions are the most affordable.

2. Professional Intervention

A professional intervention is the most common type. These usually occur after someone has been drinking heavily for a long time.

An addiction counselor is present in professional interventions. These sessions take longer and involve everyone in attendance to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about their loved one’s drinking.

It’s the most expensive type of intervention since it involves organizational work from a professional interventionist.

3. Crisis Intervention

When someone faces an alcohol-related crisis intervention, police may get involved. They will provide medical and social resources to help the person with the addiction. 

This type of intervention is common among people:

  • With mental illness
  • Who are homeless
  • Who lack support and/or resources

4. Johnson Model

The Johnson Model is another common type of intervention developed by Dr. Vernon Johnson. It’s family-focused and centered around models of caring.

This type of intervention is planned without the knowledge of the person with the alcohol use addiction. It often includes a trained professional interventionist and the person’s loved ones.

This approach rejects the idea that someone must hit “rock bottom” before seeking treatment.

The Johnson Model has seven components, including:

  1. Assembling the intervention team
  2. Planning the intervention
  3. Establishing love and not blame or anger as the focus of the intervention
  4. Focusing on only the addiction and not other issues
  5. Providing evidence of the incidents cited during the intervention
  6. Establishing treatment goals and not punishing the addicted person
  7. Providing well-researched treatment options


An ARISE intervention is less confrontational than the Johnson Model. It focuses on a person’s family and overall support system by acknowledging addiction's effects on them.

This model helps the addicted person recognize the need to change their behavior, and treatment is the best way to achieve these changes.

An ARISE intervention aims to promote healing and empowerment for the addicted person and their family members. It helps them accept treatment and overcome addiction.

6. Family Systemic Intervention

This intervention style focuses on the person’s support system, which usually includes family members. During the intervention, all parties are encouraged to express their point of view.

The goal is to get every family member to seek help from both individual and family therapy.


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How Much Does an Alcohol Intervention Cost?

Most professional interventions cost $1,800 and can be as expensive as $10,000.

The cost of staging an intervention varies based on:

  • Intensity of alcohol abuse
  • Professional(s) involved
  • Time spent preparing for the intervention
  • Type of intervention
  • Length of intervention
  • Other associated costs (travel, lodging, etc.)
  • Whether someone is transported to a treatment center

Some professional interventionists charge on a sliding scale or offer financing options. Generally, insurance policies don’t cover the cost of an intervention.

In rare cases, clergy members can conduct interventions free of charge. These interventions are risky, however, as they may be less effective.


Interventions help people with alcohol and drug addiction recognize their problem and encourage them to get treatment.

There are several different types of interventions, depending on the situation. You can determine the best option for your loved one based on the severity of their alcohol use and available community resources.

Interventions occur in several steps, which include planning, confronting your loved one, and encouraging them to get help. A successful intervention results in the person seeking help, from joining a treatment facility to attending support groups or other alcohol treatment.

Updated on September 8, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 8, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.

  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.”, 2012.

  3. Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, 2017.

  4. CDC’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.

  5. McKay, J.R., and Hiller-Sturmhöfel, S. “Treating Alcoholism as a Chronic Disease.” Alcohol Research & Health, 2011.

  6. Huebner, R.B., and Kantor, L.W. “Advances in Alcoholism Treatment.” Alcohol Research & Health, 2011.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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