Stage An Intervention

As a person with a loved one experiencing Substance Use Disorder it’s hard to know how to help or how to cope. The most important thing to do is to continue to express to your loved one that you care for them and you are available to provide healthy support if they want it. SUDs are often correlated with feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, guilt and desperation and can often be associated with experiences of trauma. As SUDs can be so complex and difficult, by caring about your loved ones wellbeing you are doing the first and most important step. The next step is to educate yourself. 


Consider attending a Family and Friends meeting where you can connect with other people going through a similar experience (explore nearby meetings here >>>). The camaraderie of sharing those experiences with others may be healing and provide you with much needed strength. Furthermore, they may have stories or advice or be able to point you in the direction of some resources that can help you figure out what the next step will be for you. You can also consider reading  up on SUDs to better understand what your loved one is facing (explore our  recommended readings here >>>). Additionally, we strongly urge you to give us a call. We recognize that this is a time of need for both you and your loved one and we are here to provide support, help you find resources, and just listen when needed. 

Contact us at (603)554-8142

If you have done your best to find resources to help and to educate yourself,  and you believe you need to stage an intervention with your loved one, we have outlined some very basic steps here for how to safely do so. We would like to be very clear that an intervention is a high risk plan which can worsen the situation — your loved one may feel attacked and become isolated or more resistant to treatment. We would advise you to contact us or another professional to assist you in communicating with your loved one in a safe and healthy way. 

Contact us at (603)554-8142


Although risky, a well-planned intervention done with respect, compassion and kindness can be a first step in helping a person begin their journey to recovery. Below is an outline of how to plan an intervention. Remember, an intervention is complicated, emotionally exhaustive and difficult to plan. Best results are achieved with the help of a professional. If you are considering planning an intervention please contact us and we will work with you to find the best resources for you and your loved one.

1.  Make a plan.

A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group. Each member of the planning group must be willing to support their loved one’s recovery journey for it’s duration; which may be for that person’s lifetime; an intervention is only a first step in recovery and your loved one will need support throughout the entire journey, just as we all need support throughout our lives. It’s best to 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. A professional counselor can help to plan an effective intervention that is based in the love and care that inspires an intervention.

2. Gather information.

The group members find out about the extent of the loved one’s SUD and research the condition and treatment programs.  There are a wide variety of programs available to help individuals find recovery. Each individuals’ path to recovery is unique so while it is helpful to research options ultimately the decision needs to be up to the individual.   

3. Form the intervention team.

The 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. Having all the specifics worked out helps to ensure that an intervention will happen, and will happen effectively. Often, non-family members of the team help keep the discussion focused on the facts and solutions rather than strong emotional responses. Some intervention strategies are benefitted by not incorporating the loved one in the intervention plans, others benefit from including them; sorting out details like this are part of how a qualified professional can be useful when planning an intervention. The most common intervention style does not involve the loved one of concern until the intervention.

4. Set your Boundaries.

At this point you and your loved one have probably been struggling for a while. In order to start reshaping your relationship into one that supports recovery and a healthy life you need to be clear, with yourself and them, about what your needs are to keep you healthy and well so that you can best support them. For example, you may want to offer to drive your loved one to meetings everyday but ask yourself if that is really feasible for you. Take some time to define what your boundaries are and then discuss them with the group. When you are developing your boundaries, be sure to ask yourself if they are reasonable, are these boundaries you will be able to respect? For instance, if you set a boundary of “If you don’t seek recovery I can’t see you anymore” will you be willing to honor that boundary? Or will you actually want to be able to help them if/when they are ready for recovery.  When the intervention comes you can communicate to your loved one what those boundaries are. 

5. Offer help.

Just as each member of the team can communicate their boundaries each member of the team can also offer to help the individual reach their treatment goals. Examples include offering to drive the individual to treatment once a week or offering to care for children while the loved one is receiving treatment. Oftentimes the barriers to a person achieving recovery aren’t just the challenges of the recovery process. Having a safe support system can go a long way towards an individual finding the path to recovery. Knowing what that support system has to offer, like rides or a safe place to sleep, can clear some of the barriers to recovery. Also, prepare a list of resources that you are willing to help them research. For instance, you could identify the nearest Community Recovery Center and tell them about the services they offer.  For best results, we think it is important that the individual works with a professional to identify the path to recovery that works for them. You can do the first steps for them by researching available resources in the area but the choice should be theirs to make. 

6. 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 belief 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…” is less triggering than saying “you’re wasting your life…”. In some interventions the team members write letters to their loved one and read them aloud or present the letters to them at the intervention. That the message conveys love and concern while accurately illustrating the problem is the important part. Use the tools you are comfortable with to be there for your loved one in this critical moment. A professional can help to develop tools that are most effective for your team and your loved one. 

7. Hold the intervention meeting.

Without revealing the reason, the loved one is asked to the intervention site (if this style of intervention makes you uncomfortable, reach out to a professional to find alternative options). Members of the core team then take turns expressing their concerns and feelings. Then present the information you have gathered; the resources in your area you identified, the boundaries you are setting for yourself, and the ways you are willing to help and support the individual to find  recovery. When you are done, give the person time to consider what you have said. Understand that being surprised with an intervention may be upsetting and remain calm and supportive. Use kind and supportive language throughout your intervention and keep your body language and your tone of voice in line with the kind and caring message you are trying to send. When the intervention is over, invite your loved one into a safe space where they can feel comfortable and collect their thoughts. 

8. Follow up.

If the intervention goes well, you and your loved one will have formulated a plan to start them on the road to recovery. Just as healing from any illness is aided by a supportive community healing from Substance Use Disorder is aided by a supportive community. They will need your caring support now more than ever. Follow through on the help you promised to provide and respect their boundaries as they have agreed to respect yours. Following up will also require reshaping your life to support building a new healthy life for everyone involved. You may need to change some of the patterns of your everyday living to make it easier to avoid triggers, it may be helpful to participate in counseling with your loved one, you may want to seek out your own therapist or join a recovery support group for yourself. Finally, you should get educated on how to react if return to use occurs. An intervention is only a first step to recovery. Planning it well can make the difference between alienating your loved one while making them resistant to treatment and helping your loved one start their recovery journey.


If staging an intervention sounds overwhelming and risky, it is, and we understand. Give us a call at (603)554-8142 and we will help you find the resources you and your loved one need. 


This intervention outline was based on the ARISE intervention system, The American Addiction Centers intervention recommendations and the Johnson Model of Intervention.