What Is an Alcohol Intervention and How Do They Work?

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 06/06/2023

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Updated 06/06/2023

You may have heard the term “intervention” before, whether it’s referencing the reality TV show or used casually among friends when they want to tell a loved one something important. The most important thing to know about an alcohol intervention is that it should not be something casual.

An intervention is a tool used to help those suffering from an alcohol or drug addiction, and it can be the doorway to a new life for someone in need.

What Is an Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is a planned meeting generally arranged by family, friends and loved ones of someone with an alcohol addiction or dependence. By the time family and friends feel compelled to conduct an intervention, a person’s addiction has affected their life and the lives of their loved ones in a negative way. The intervention offers an opportunity to discuss concerns regarding the person’s health and well-being. During the intervention, the goal is to get your friend or family member to attend a detox or addiction treatment program or, at the very least, see a doctor or a therapist about their alcohol issues.

During an intervention, you’ll have the chance to express your concerns about the alcohol issues of your loved one. You’ll be asking them to accept that they have an issue with alcohol and need to address this issue with treatment. Not only can you talk about the negative impact their addiction has had on your life, but you can also suggest a course of action for treatment and present your loved one with a set of personal consequences (often called a bottom line) if they choose not to get help.

The most important thing to remember is that your friend or family member is in pain and needs help if they want to live and get well. The intervention’s ultimate goal should be to help them get the help they require and deserve. Through treatment, your loved one will learn how to live a life free from alcohol and drugs.

How Does an Intervention Work?

The Johnson Model, one of the most common forms of intervention, provides strong guidelines for conducting an intervention. There are several steps involved. First, you’ll need to plan out the intervention.


Interventions require careful thought and planning beforehand. The plans need to be in sync with your loved one’s needs and circumstances. What you tell them, how you get them there, and how to approach them are all unique. It’s important that there is a scheduled time when you want the intervention to start and end, an order in which the intervention attendees will speak and what they will say. The thought of planning something so important can be overwhelming — that’s why we recommend you get help from an intervention team or a trained mental health professional.

Intervention Team

You’ll need to think about who should be at the intervention. You should invite the closest people in the life of the person who needs help. This normally includes parents, adolescent or adult children, best friends, close family members and significant others.

It’s generally helpful to seek out an interventionist or other trained professional such as a social worker or addiction counselor. These professionals typically have experience with organizing and leading interventions. A professional of this caliber can also help you deal with issues that may arise, such as if your loved one wants to leave the intervention or gets upset about being confronted.

Intervention Content

You’ll need to research the disease of addiction to make sure that everyone who attends the intervention is informed. You’ll also need to research addiction treatment centers so that you have options ready to offer your loved one. You can have arrangements and travel plans ready to ease the process after your loved one makes a decision.

Each person who attends the intervention should have a letter or notes detailing concrete examples of how the person’s addiction has affected their life and expressing their love and support. If you decide to work with a professional, such as a social worker or addiction counselor, they may help with making travel arrangements. They will also spend time educating the family about the disease of addiction, especially if they are following the Johnson model.

Intervention Schedule

After your loved one arrives at the meeting, each person will read their letter and express their concerns. Then the offer of treatment will be presented, and they will be asked to accept this offer on the spot. Your bottom-line consequences will be given, so your loved one knows what to expect if they don’t accept this offer. It’s important not to give a consequence unless you are prepared to follow through.

If your travel plans are organized, and your loved one agrees to treatment, they will go to treatment as soon as the intervention is over or the following day.

If they choose not to accept treatment, the intervention attendees should be prepared to uphold their bottom lines. For example, you may tell your loved one you will no longer allow them to stay at your house or borrow money if they do not seek treatment. This is an important part of an intervention because family members and loved ones must avoid engaging in enabling behaviors that make it comfortable for the person to continue drinking.

In some cases, your loved one may not be ready to accept responsibility for their addiction and take steps to get help. It’s important to stay patient and show your support. If they decide not to accept help at the intervention, they may have more information and options for help should they choose to seek it down the road. Interventions are an excellent way to show your loved ones you care and help them start their journey to recovery.

If your loved one is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. Our evidence-based treatment programs and compassionate staff offer personalized treatment plans that can meet your loved one’s unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about our rehab center and discuss the next steps


Law, Jerry L. “Intervention: The First Step to Recovery from Addiction.” March 31, 2017. Accessed July 29, 2021.


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