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What Is An Intervention And Does It Work?

One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is the fact that many people who experience it are unwilling or unable to acknowledge that there is a problem. For some people, there is a genuine belief that the drug or alcohol use is well under control and does not need treatment. Others are aware that they are abusing their substance of choice in a way that is harmful, but they are unwilling to quit that substance. And of course, there are some people who do try to stop using drugs or alcohol but are driven back to it by intense cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. The harm goes well beyond the physical and mental health of the individual, and extends to every area of their life, including their finances and their relationships. The addicted person is not the only one affected: close friends and family members can suffer a deep impact.

Interventions are often considered by loved ones who are desperate to help the addicted person and regain a sense of control over their own lives. They want an end to constant arguments, they want to restore financial stability, they want their home and family to be a safe place. Through an intervention, they try to make the addicted person understand the destructive effects of the substance abuse. The goal is to motivate the addicted person to get treatment.

What Is An Intervention?

An intervention is a process whereby the loved ones of an addicted person gather to talk to the individual about the consequences of their addiction, and to ask them to accept treatment. Although this can be done by the friends and family members with no outside help, using a professional interventionist ensures that this emotionally charged event can be moderated by somebody who is objective and coming in with no preconceived hurts or biases.

What Happens During An Intervention?

Like many things in life, a successful intervention is carefully planned, well-timed, and involves the right people. There is no standard formula to an intervention because every situation is different, but on a high level, most professional interventions will include the steps below.


Once an interventionist has been approached, one of their first steps is to gather as much information as they can about the individual and their addiction. They will ask loved ones questions about the extent of the problem, how long it has been going on for, and what specific impacts it has had on friends and family members.

  • Other things that happen during the planning phase include the following:
  • The intervention team is assembled: anyone who agrees to participate is asked to write notes on what they want to say.
  • The date, time and location of the intervention are determined, and a plan for ensuring that the addicted person will be there is formulated.
  • Treatment options are researched. If possible, a space is held for the addicted individual in hopes that treatment will be accepted.
  • Each participant plans for the eventuality of treatment not being accepted: what will be the consequences to the addicted person, and how will that consequence be carried out?

The meeting

During the intervention itself, each friend or family member has a turn to talk. Their contribution should include two elements: details about how the addiction is impacting their lives, and what will happen if the addicted person declines to get help. It is important that this consequence is something the friend or family member is willing to follow through with immediately after the intervention.

The interventionist’s role during the meeting is to manage emotional outbursts and keep the discussion focused. The interventionist may also assist the addicted person in their efforts to communicate with their loved ones.

Follow through

Whether the addicted person accepts help or not, there will be some follow-up actions that are needed. If treatment is accepted, the interventionist may be able to transport the individual to a facility immediately. If there is a delay, loved ones may be able to help the person pack some belongings and prepare for an extended absence from home.

If treatment is declined, friends and family members need to be willing to immediately act on the consequences they have stated. This could mean cutting off financial support, moving the addicted person out of the home, or cutting off contact from the person.

Do Interventions Work?

The short answer is, sometimes. While interventions can be an effective way of helping someone with an addiction understand that they need help, it is a strategy that can backfire. Here are some strategies that can be used to increase the chances of success:

  • Plan the intervention. Spur-of-the-moment gatherings are unlikely to be successful, because participants need time to think about what they want to say. You also need to ensure that the meeting happens when the individual is least likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Learn about the addiction. Substance abuse is a complex condition that shows up differently in different people. Learn as much as you can about the substance your loved one is addicted to, its effects, and the withdrawal timeline. In addition, reach out to addiction rehab centres so you have treatment options to offer to your loved one.
  • Rehearse the meeting. Gather the participants together to decide who will sit where and what the order of speaking will be. If you haven’t already done so, appoint a moderator whose job it will be to keep the meeting under control. During the rehearsal, try to anticipate what objections the individual might have, and prepare responses to them.
  • Don’t “gang up” on your loved one. Remember that many substances create feelings of paranoia and agitation. Your loved one may already be in a heightened emotional state, and seeing everyone gathered together may feel confrontational. Your goal is to get help for your loved one, not to make them feel attacked.
  • Stick to the plan. Interventions can be highly emotional, and if your loved one has an intense reaction, it can be easy to go off-track. Participants may become targets of anger, accusations, and manipulation, and it is important to stay calm and resist the individual’s efforts to derail the conversation.
  • Insist on an immediate answer. Don’t let the person say they will think about it. Make it clear that they must decide then and there whether to accept the treatment they are being offered. Have plans in place to act appropriately in the case of either answer.

Professional Intervention Help

Addiction Rehab Toronto offers professional intervention services to make you feel less alone and overwhelmed. We know what it takes to plan and execute a successful intervention, and we will travel to wherever you and your loved ones are. If the person with the addiction accepts treatment, we can immediately escort them to our facility for detox and a fully customised addiction treatment program. Call us today for more information.