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Interventions for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

An intervention is a planned meeting where the family and loved ones of someone struggling with addiction express their concerns and encourage that person to get help. Many believe interventions can be an effective approach to help a loved one enter treatment. With appropriate planning and guidance, this may be the case.

Still, researchers haven’t studied interventions well enough to understand their efficacy. That said, interventions for addiction can lead to negative outcomes if families aren’t properly prepared and advised. Intervention success rates can depend on input from a licensed mental health provider to ensure the meeting’s goals are successfully communicated and do more help than harm.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is a well-organized process designed to break through an addicted person’s denial so that they can recognize and change their self-destructive behaviors. Interventions should be well-planned to ensure the environment is calm and controlled.

When carried out properly, the intervention process facilitates a respectful confrontation of your loved one and their addiction to 1) halt the progression of their maladaptive behaviors and 2) impress upon them the need for and benefits of treatment.

The intervention process hinges on preparation amongst all participants to create a unified front. Each person involved in the intervention should be prepared to speak clearly and respectfully to ensure the atmosphere is non-judgmental and that the addicted person does not feel threatened or attacked.

Do Interventions Work?

For most people, watching someone you love struggle with addiction without trying to intervene can be difficult. However, mental health professionals typically discourage interventions. With a lack of thorough research, the success rate of interventions is debatable. Mainly because while interventions may help a person start treatment, they appear to be ineffective in helping someone complete treatment and promote long-term sobriety.

People often seek addiction treatment when they’re ready. As a loved one, the best way to help someone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) is to learn more about addiction and create healthy boundaries to hold the person accountable. If you choose to hold a substance abuse intervention, involving an addiction specialist or other mental health professional in planning and having them present during the meeting could improve success.

Tips for Higher Intervention Success

The success rate of interventions may rely on preparation, organization, and advice from an expert. Here are some tips that could improve the success rate of an intervention:

  • Form an intervention team. The people you choose to include in an intervention might affect its effectiveness. Along with an interventionist or other medical professional, gather loved ones close to the person, like family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Come prepared. Preparing for an intervention can involve deciding when and where you’ll hold it, who’ll be present, and what everyone will say.
  • Rehearse and communicate in advance. Be sure everyone involved practices what they want to say during the intervention. Sitting together and communicating your feelings beforehand can make the intervention go smoothly. It’s beneficial to explain to your loved one how you’ve witnessed addiction affect your relationship and their lives. Your statements should come from a place of openness and support.
  • Remain supportive but draw boundaries. Let your loved one know that you’re there to help, but still set healthy boundaries. This includes stopping enabling behaviors and codependency if the person you love refuses treatment.
  • Stay on track. An intervention is often an emotionally charged experience. At times, your loved one may feel attacked, and it can be easy to resort to blaming them for their addiction, making it harder to get your point across. To stay on track, rehearse the intervention at least once and be intentional in your delivery.
  • Manage expectations. Even with a well-planned intervention, there’s always the chance your loved one will refuse treatment. Be sure to understand this and plan for how you’ll move forward.
  • Follow up. Even if the person you love refuses treatment, continue to show them love and support afterward. This can make them feel like all hope isn’t lost and know you’ll still be there to help when they’re ready.

Are Interventions Effective? Success Rate of Interventions

The success rates of interventions are hard to determine, as there is a lack of research. In a 1999 study, researchers offered 130 concerned significant others (CSOs) the option of 1 of 3 different counseling approaches: Johnson interventions, Al-Anon, and community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT).1 abstract

The study found that the CRAFT intervention was the most effective at 64%, compared to Johnson interventions (30%) and Al-Anon (13%).1 abstract The CRAFT approach focuses on increasing intervention success rates through functional analysis, motivation building, communication skills training, contingency management training, treatment entry training, life enrichment, and safety training.2 strategy

Intervention Methods

Johnson interventions and ARISE are the two main types of interventions used today. Johnson interventions encourage treatment by planning and implementing a meeting with one or more caregivers.3 strategy Before the intervention, caregivers participate in 2 educational counseling sessions about their intervention goals, the dangers of enabling, problem-solving strategies, and how to carry out the intervention.3 strategy The last session involves the group meeting with their loved one and a therapist to conduct the intervention.3 strategy Family members who are affected by their loved one’s addiction use Johnson interventions.3 target population

ARISE is a less confrontative alternative method to Johnson interventions.4 Abstract ARISE incorporates many of the Johnson intervention strategies while also accounting for the needs of the family members.4 Abstract ARISE aims to enroll people in outpatient or residential treatment, improve treatment retention rates, and reduce relapse.5 patients Similar to Johnson interventions, family members who want to help a loved one fight addiction use ARISE.

Finding Addiction Rehab

Hosting an intervention may seem tempting, especially when someone you love is struggling. Many times, people battling with SUD will seek help when they feel ready. Waiting for a loved one to seek treatment can be painful, but you can help them and yourself without staging an intervention. Maintaining healthy boundaries can also help by preventing enabling.

Learning about how addiction affects people can also help you gain insight into what your loved one is going through. Peer support groups, like Al-Anon, also offer spaces for loved ones of those struggling with addiction to share their experiences and connect with others facing similar battles.

Tools like the treatment directory and the AAC Helpline can teach you more about recovery and the process of treatment. You can gain an understanding of different types of addiction treatment and levels of care. By educating yourself and caring for your well-being, you’ll be equipped to help your loved one when they decide they are ready to seek treatment.

If you are unsure about where to start, contact one of our admission navigators at and they can help you figure out which program will be the right fit for you. You can also look at some of the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

American Addiction Centers can help people recover from addiction. To find out if your insurance covers  treatment for you or your loved one at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.

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