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What is the Best Way to Conduct an Intervention for Alcoholics?

Picture this: you arrive home, planning to relax in front of the TV. Your mind is on a million different things and you are barely aware of entering through the front door. Suddenly, you notice that your family and friends are gathered, all looking at you with somber expressions.

They invite you to sit with them and tell you they’re worried about you. They believe you have a problem with alcoholism and this is an intervention.

How do you feel? What thoughts race through your mind? Do you agree to listen or leave immediately? Are you getting ready to fight?

Almost anyone in this scenario will get defensive. They will feel shame, guilt, anger, betrayal, and all manner of difficult emotions. This is especially true for someone who has been abusing alcohol for months, as their coping mechanisms are maladaptive and they likely feel unstable.

But interventions are sometimes necessary, even if a negative reaction is a real possibility. Let’s discuss what is the best way to conduct an intervention.

Alcohol Intervention

When is an Intervention Necessary?

In most cases, an intervention should come long after you have started trying to talk to the person about their addiction. Rather than jumping straight to this volatile scenario, you should approach them in a private setting.

This initial step gives them the chance to share what they’re going through and recognize they need help without being pushed towards it. Once you have opened the channels of communication, you can begin telling them about your own concerns and the reasons you think they should seek treatment.

In other words, an intervention comes when other means of communication have been exhausted. You can tell that the person will not get treatment without significant pressure.

Addicts Can be Volatile

There are times when an intervention is an earlier step. Some individuals are more likely to get aggressive than others, even when sober. With the influence of months or years of alcoholism, they may be more volatile than ever before.

If you’re worried that the person might fly off the handle if you approach them yourself, an intervention is a better option. While you love the person and know they love you too, it is important to remember that they are not themselves right now. Don’t ignore red flags, as you could be putting yourself and your loved one in danger.

How to Conduct an Intervention

Once you’ve determined that other means of communication are not working and decided to conduct an intervention, how do you go about it? The person will get defensive and the environment will be tense. Conflict is inevitable. As such, it is crucial that you prepare for all scenarios.

Contact a Professional Interventionist

Humans may be one of the only species with complex language capabilities, but that doesn’t make us good communicators. In fact, the fear that we’ll reveal too much about ourselves, cause the other person to feel negative emotions, or damage a relationship often leads us to avoid big conversations. When we do finally speak, we don’t express ourselves clearly. Sometimes, we get caught up in the moment and say things we don’t mean.

A lack of healthy communication skills will cause an intervention to fail before it even begins. Since addiction is seen as a family illness, with everyone around the addicted person being affected by their actions, lies, and manipulation, you’re especially unlikely to remain neutral and speak effectively.

For this reason, you should contact a professional interventionist to help prepare for and conduct the intervention. These are experts in the treatment of addiction who have been trained to de-escalate situations and facilitate effective communication.

They know what addicted people need to hear in an intervention and the kinds of statements that can sabotage it. They will discuss your loved one with you in an effort to get an idea of how they might react. They will also assess your communication styles and provide advice regarding what and what not to say during the process.

In the intervention itself, they will identify volatile moments and help calm the situation, bringing it back to the topic at hand.

Professionals cannot predict the future or control minds, so this is no guarantee that your loved one will agree to get treatment. However, they can significantly increase the chances of success.

Logistical Decisions

You need to decide on the best time and place to host the intervention as it can make a huge difference. If the individual is under the influence of alcohol, you’re unlikely to achieve anything. If they are exhausted from work, you may struggle too. There’s not going to be a perfect moment for the intervention, but assess when they’re most likely to be sober and open to the discussion.

The intervention should be in a safe space as well. If there is significant dysfunction in the person’s home at the moment, a community center or other neutral space may be the best option.

Of course, all of this needs to be decided with the other participants. It will be tough to coordinate everyone’s schedules, so focus on what is the best you can do, rather than being uncompromising.

The Intervention Itself

Before the intervention, you will prepare scripts with the professional, while deciding on roles. You can expect the intervention itself to be along the following lines:

Starting the Meeting

  • Calmly and clearly state the purpose of the meeting: to discuss concerns about the person’s alcohol use and offer help.
  • Emphasize the meeting is out of love and concern, not criticism.

Communicate Effectively

  • Use “I” statements to express feelings and avoid accusations (e.g., “I feel worried when I see you drinking heavily,” instead of “You are always drunk”).
  • Focus on specific behaviors and their impacts rather than personality traits.
  • Allow the person to respond; this should be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Present Treatment Options

  • Outline a prearranged treatment plan that includes immediate steps (e.g., contacting a rehab center, scheduling an appointment with a therapist).
  • Discuss the benefits of the treatment plan and how it addresses the individual’s specific needs.
  • Provide reassurance of support throughout the treatment process.

Handle Resistance with Tact

  • Stay calm and composed if the person reacts negatively (denial, anger, sadness).
  • Reiterate the concerns and the consequences of not seeking treatment.
  • Be prepared to listen to their fears and objections and address them respectfully.

Explain the Consequences

  • No matter how well you communicate your concerns, your loved one is unlikely to seek help if they believe they can continue drinking without consequences.
  • Explain the boundaries you have prepared beforehand (whether cutting off funds; separating from them; or even kicking them out of the house if absolutely necessary).
  • Make clear that these are not punishments, but rather the natural consequences of their decision: the situation is unsustainable).

Follow Up

  • After the intervention ends, do not tiptoe around the subject. Follow up with them to ensure they’re sticking to any terms you agreed on. Keep the channels of communication open.


There is no perfect way to conduct an intervention. It is always going to be a tricky situation that you have chosen after exhausting regular channels of communication. Fortunately, with an expert interventionist, you can be prepared to carry out an intervention that has a good chance of success.

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