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How to Stage an Alcohol Intervention

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What is an Alcohol Intervention?

An alcohol intervention is an attempt to get someone you love to seek treatment for their drinking. During the intervention, attendees share their thoughts and feelings about their loved one’s drinking. 

In most cases, family and friends attend alcohol interventions. Addiction counselors and/or a clergy members will also attend in most cases. 

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, but may include losing family or personal relationships, losing jobs/employment, or even losing housing arrangements. 

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What is the Goal of an Alcohol Intervention?

The goal of an alcohol intervention is to motivate someone to seek treatment for their alcohol use. In some cases, the only goal of an alcohol intervention is to get someone to drink less. This might be the case if they haven’t been drinking long, but it interferes with their lives. These people may have the ability to drink less without professional help.

In other situations, the goal of an intervention is to get the person into treatment. It’s important to share specific treatment options with the person during the intervention. This way, they can take immediate action without overthinking or changing their mind. 

Do not assume an intervention failed if someone responds negatively. Offer an ultimatum, accept their reaction, and move on. Sometimes, the person will seek treatment or reduce their drinking even if their initial reaction is negative. 

Types of Interventions for Alcohol Addiction

There are several types of interventions, including:

Brief

Brief interventions are best for people who aren’t long-term, heavy drinkers. The goal of a brief intervention is to help someone with problematic substance use. Their drinking and behavior might concern loved ones, but they don’t have an addiction.

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.

Professional

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

An addiction counselor attends a professional intervention. Sessions take longer and involve everyone in attendance to share their thoughts and feelings about their loved one’s drinking.

This is the most expensive type of intervention.

Crisis Intervention

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

This type of intervention is common among people: 

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

Johnson Model

The Johnson Model is another common type of intervention. This method was developed by Dr. Vernon Johnson and is family-focused and centered around models of caring. This type of intervention is planned without the knowledge of the person with the addiction. It often includes a trained professional in addition to 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

ARISE

This style of intervention is less confrontational than the Johnson Model. It’s very focused on a person’s family and overall support system. This method acknowledges the effects addiction has on the entire family.

The goal is to promote healing and empowerment for the addicted person (and their family) and help them accept treatment. 

An ARISE intervention helps the addicted person recognize that a change is needed and treatment is the best way to achieve these changes. 

Family Systemic Intervention

This style of intervention focuses on the person’s support system. This usually includes their family. During the intervention, all parties are encouraged to express their point of view. The goal is to get the entire family to seek help from both individual and family therapy. 

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6 Tips for Staging an Alcohol Intervention

Interventions include several steps:

1. Determine Who Will Attend

Anyone impacted by someone’s drinking can be invited to the intervention. However, people who might discourage treatment or deny there is a problem should probably not attend the intervention. 

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

Ideally, people whom the individual cares about and respects will be present. 

2. Choose a Time and Place for the Intervention

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

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

Avoid making the person feel cornered or trapped. Do not trick them into attending. If possible, let them know family and friends want to speak to them about an issue so they aren’t blindsided.

3. Plan What to Say

This is one of the most challenging aspects of planning an intervention. Chances are if you’ve been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism, you likely have a lot to say. But when the time comes to say these things, it can feel overwhelming and intimidating.

Planning thoughtful words in advance will help you communicate effectively with your loved one. The most important things to share include how their drinking has affected you, how you feel about it, and that you want them to seek treatment. 

4. Give Examples

In addition to sharing how someone’s drinking makes you feel, you’ll want to provide examples of times they hurt you. A good model to use is:

“You did X because of your drinking, and it made me feel Y.”

So, for instance, you might say, “you missed my birthday because you were drunk, and it was hurtful.”

Giving specific, situational examples helps the person understand how their actions affect others.

Remember, 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 problems linked to their drinking makes it more difficult to deny the problem.

5. Provide an Ultimatum 

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

There’s no easy way to deliver an ultimatum to a loved one. It doesn’t feel good for anyone involved, but it’s necessary to set boundaries.

It also provides a clear next step. The person has a choice. They can seek treatment and continue to receive support, or they can refuse treatment and risk the consequences you’ve set. These may include not inviting them to regular planned events or requiring them to find another place to live. 

6. Provide Treatment Options 

Ideally, your loved one will agree to seek treatment after 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 facility after the intervention.

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How Much Does an Intervention Cost?

Most professional interventions start around $1,800 and can be as expensive as $10,000

The cost of alcohol intervention varies based on:

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

Some intervention professionals charge on a sliding scale or offer a financing option. 

Summary

Interventions help people with alcohol and drug addictions recognize they have a problem and encourage them to seek treatment.

There are several different types of interventions. 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. In general, they include planning, confronting your loved one, and encouraging them to seek treatment. Successful interventions result in helping the person seek treatment.

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Updated on June 16, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol Use Disorder - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 11 July 2018.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017. 
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, 2017. 
  4. CDC. “CDC’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 July 2019. 
  5. McKay, James R., and Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel. “Treating Alcoholism as a Chronic Disease.” Alcohol Research & Health.
  6. Huebner, Robert B, and Lori Wolfgang Kantor. “Advances in Alcoholism Treatment.” Alcohol Research & Health : The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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