One of the most pernicious myths about addiction is that someone with a substance use disorder has to hit “rock bottom” before she can decide to change. However, in 2017, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses and more than 88,000 people died of alcohol-related causes. Those people died before they hit rock bottom. If you have a loved one struggling with a substance use disorder, you can’t wait for her to hit rock bottom. The first course of action should always be to express your concerns in a non-judgmental way, listening to what your loved one has to say and trying to understand. However, you may reach a point where nothing else has worked and your loved one’s behavior is clearly out of control. You may need to consider staging an intervention.

An intervention is simply when someone’s family and close friends confront her about her substance use and ask her to enter treatment. People with substance use disorders are experts at defending their behavior with denial and rationalizations, to the point where they might even fool themselves. An intervention is a way to overcome that resistance and get your loved one into treatment. Here are some essential elements of an effective intervention.


Four Elements Of An Effective Intervention


Expert guidance

When staging an intervention, it’s essential to have expert guidance. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, an intervention is a tricky situation with high stakes. Most people will have had no prior experience with an intervention but an intervention specialist will have participated in dozens or even hundreds of interventions. Intervention specialists have special training and can help make decisions about timing, approach, and which intervention method to use.

An intervention specialist doesn’t only facilitate the actual intervention, but also organizes the preparation, which is even essential to effective intervention. The intervention specialist makes sure everyone knows the plan, runs the rehearsal, and gives feedback on the intervention team’s letters to their loved one.

Finally, the intervention specialist is an objective mediator. The intervention comes from a place of love, but it’s still a confrontation. Imagine your closest friends and relatives getting together to tell you something you really don’t want to hear. Tensions and resentments can easily flare up and get out of control, which only makes matters worse. As an objective observer, the intervention specialist can calm things down and make sure the discussion remains productive.



Most of the work of an intervention takes place before the intervention itself. The intervention specialist will meet with the intervention team, i.e., the friends and family, and gather information about the person’s history and addiction. They will work together to figure out the best approach and the right time to stage the intervention. The intervention specialist will host a workshop or rehearsal before the intervention. Everyone on the intervention team needs to participate in this workshop. This is a time to go through possible objections to treatment and discuss solutions. It’s also a time to go over how the intervention will unfold, especially the order in which people will speak. This a time when team members can get feedback on their letters to their loved ones. The rehearsal is important and it may take longer than the actual intervention.

The preparation is not only for the intervention itself, but also having a plan ready if the person agrees to enter treatment. That means the intervention team needs to have already selected a treatment program and booked a spot by the time of the intervention. Since there are nearly 14,000 addiction treatment centers in the US alone, this can be a confusing process. We can also help families find an appropriate treatment program for their loved one, book a spot, and even arrange transportation.


Clear evidence, presented with love

The intervention itself is about presenting compelling evidence that the person does have a problem that requires treatment and presenting the person with the treatment plan. By the time you present your letter in the actual intervention, you will have already spend quite a bit of time getting it right. This might have entailed multiple revisions with feedback from the intervention specialist. Generally speaking, an intervention letter should begin with clear statement of concern. This should be sincere and compassionate and not judgmental.

The letter should also contain several examples of how the person’s substance use has affected her and others. These examples should be as specific as possible, using dates, if you can remember them. They may be statements like, “On March third, you fell down the stairs while drunk and we had to take you to the hospital at 3 a.m.,” or “On April tenth, you missed a job interview because you were hungover in bed.” This is not a time for accusations or condemnations; just state the facts.

People with substance use disorders often have selective memories and they often try to frame the consequences of their substance use in less troubling ways, but hearing multiple specific examples from several different people detailing how their substance use has hurt them eventually overcomes this resistance.


Having everything ready

The intervention ends with the intervention team asking the person to enter treatment. This needs to happen right away, else there’s a good chance she will change her mind. That means the intervention team needs to have already packed her bags, booked a spot at a treatment center, and made travel arrangements. Once she agrees to treatment, she will go from the intervention room to the treatment center. We can also help with the travel arrangements and transportation, to make sure your loved one gets safely to treatment right after the intervention.

Hired Power is a transitional service offering individualized addiction recovery assistance from crisis intervention to the first year of recovery and beyond. Some of our services include getting clients into detox and treatment, finding an appropriate treatment center for a client’s specific needs, helping clients transition from treatment to daily living, providing mentorship, sober assistance, and other services. Explore our website or call us at 800-910-9299 for more information.