How to Start the Intervention Process

By Patti Richards

You see her sliding deeper and deeper into the abyss of her addiction. Each day brings some new disaster. Her job went first, and then money started disappearing. You’ve tried to cover her absence from family gatherings and the children’s events at school, but it’s getting harder and harder to make excuses. And just yesterday, the police called with the news that she was in the hospital after wrecking the car. You know that, if things don’t change, she won’t      survive. You’ve read about families holding interventions in cases like these but aren’t sure where to begin. The only thing you’re sure of is you have to do something before it’s too late.

When addiction takes over someone’s life, it impacts every friend and family member. And the ones closest to the addicted loved one find themselves on an emotional roller coaster unlike anything else. As the addiction continues, the hopelessness a family feels can be overwhelming.

Taking the necessary steps to get your loved one help can be daunting. Planning an intervention is often the only way to get the person struggling to understand her desperate need for treatment. Learning how to plan and when to enlist the help of a trained interventionist is the best place to begin.

Intervention Basics

An intervention begins as an educational process for the loved ones of an addicted person and culminates in a meeting between the addicted individual and the people in her life who have some level of influence.1 This group — called an intervention team — may include family members, close friends, clergy members, coworkers and mentors who have been impacted by the addiction in some way.

Interventions can happen in a team member’s home, at work in a conference room or other private area, or at the office of a clergy member or counselor. These meetings give the people closest to the addicted individual the opportunity to share how the addiction has negatively impacted their lives and to compel the person to accept immediate help and treatment.2 While interventions are typically well-planned and rehearsed, in some cases, an emergency intervention may be needed to get an addicted loved one into immediate treatment.

The Role of an Interventionist

Dr. Louise Stanger, an interventionist with over 35 years of experience helping families heal from trauma, addiction and other mental health issues, describes intervention as “an invitation to change.”3 Trained interventionists work with family members, intervention team members and treatment facilities to design the best possible intervention for the addicted loved one. They help team members rehearse what each person will say, determine the best time and place for the meeting and find appropriate treatment for the addicted loved one.

But that’s not all interventionists do. Dr. Stanger and others like her work to understand the origins of addiction within a family. Learning about the family’s history from each person impacted by the addiction allows the interventionist to understand the various dynamics at play and how resilient the people involved are.

Dr. Stanger says that more than 90 percent of helping someone who’s struggling with addiction is helping the family. Over time, family members learn how to take care of themselves emotionally, physically and spiritually. She builds bridges to the treatment process for family members and helps them begin to look at behaviors of their own that need changing as their loved one in treatment changes. The important thing to remember is that the road to recovery is a process that involves both the person struggling and those who love her.4Stanger, Coones, Plant, Westinghouse

Hear more insight from Dr. Stanger and three other treatment professionals in this special “Intervention Roundtable” episode of the Recovery Unscripted podcast.

Planning an Intervention

Planning an intervention takes courage, but knowing that your loved one is in need of help and being willing to do what it takes to get that help is the most important step. Your interventionist will work with you to determine the best people for your team and how to enlist their help. Once the team is established, each member writes down exactly what they want to say to their loved one during the meeting and rehearses sharing their letters. Planning in this way allows those involved to learn to express their feelings with their addicted loved one without emotion and judgment.5 Sharing the facts of how the addiction has impacted their lives lets their loved one see the outcomes of her destructive behaviors and her need for treatment.

The goal of any intervention is to get a loved one into treatment, and at the end of the meeting, team members let their loved one know that treatment is the only viable option. Having a treatment program picked out for your loved one and transportation organized ahead of time makes taking that final step easier for everyone involved.

Just keep in mind that an intervention may be planned and canceled multiple times due to your loved one’s state of mind. This is normal because of the unpredictable nature of the disease.

Finding Help for Addiction

If your loved one struggles with addiction and you feel an intervention is needed, we’re here to help. Call our helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about intervention services and treatment options. You are not alone. Call us now.


1 Wilcox, Stephen. “Intervention – Tips and Guidelines.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, July 25, 2015.

2Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, July 20, 2017.

3Professional Interventionist | Your Family Can Learn To Thrive Together.”, Accessed March 15, 2018.

4 Foundations Recovery Network. “#42: Intervention Roundtable with Louise Stanger, Sara Counes, Phil Plant and Arthur Westinghouse.” Recovery Unscripted, November 1, 2017.

510 Tips on Holding an Intervention.” Intervention Support, Accessed March 15, 2018.

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Dear Friends,

On November 10, 2018, the Woolsey Fire destroyed The Canyon at Peace Park’s treatment facility. At this time, The Canyon at Peace Park is not accepting patients for any services. We arranged for the safe and seamless discharge or transition of all patients when we were forced to evacuate due to the fire.

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