How to Do an Intervention for an Alcoholic

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intervention for an alcoholic
Alcohol addiction
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
July 22, 2022
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How to Stage an Intervention for an Alcoholic

An alcohol intervention can help friends and family on the road to recovery. An intervention gives you, the concerned friend or family member, an opportunity to confront the alcohol-addicted loved one about the effect of their behaviour on those around them.

Sometimes people experiencing alcohol use disorder may be unwilling to face their alcohol abuse and will avoid treatment. An alcoholism intervention may be necessary to encourage the addicted person to begin a treatment program to address their substance abuse disorder.

The healthcare professionals at The Hader Clinic can help you plan an intervention and guide you through the treatment process for a friend or family member. Contact us for support and a free 60-minute consultation.

What is an intervention for alcoholics?

An alcohol intervention is a carefully planned process that introduces the person struggling with alcohol addiction to a treatment plan to begin immediately. An intervention makes the subject aware of how their behaviour impacts their loved ones.

During an intervention, family members and friends concerned about their loved one’s behaviour join together to persuade the person struggling to start treatment.

How to have an alcohol intervention

An informal intervention involves friends and family holding the person struggling with alcohol use accountable for the consequences of their addiction and asking them to accept treatment.

Informal interventions for alcoholism aren’t always successful. Friends or family who have tried to raise the alcohol abuse in the past will know that it can be challenging to remain calm when talking about addiction.

A formal intervention is where a healthcare professional assists friends and family members with a carefully thought out plan to encourage the person to accept addiction treatment. A social worker or mental health professional can offer support to close friends and family for this conversation.

alcohol intervention

Is intervention the best treatment option?

Alcohol abuse is a progressive condition, so identifying treatment options and seeking support from a professional interventionist can minimise the consequences of alcohol use disorder on the individual and their family and friends. Proactive intervention can stop the addiction from destroying a person’s life. It’s often the best way to ensure the person with the addiction has access to a suitable alcohol treatment provider.

Sometimes interventions occur when family and friends become concerned about the consequences of substance abuse on their loved one’s life. However, interventions don’t need to wait until alcohol use escalates this far. Early intervention can help the alcohol user explore the best treatment for themselves and their family and overcome the addiction before it escalates.

An intervention helps the addicted person and also their friends and family. It’s an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and state the consequences for the addicted person if they choose not to accept help and undergo treatment.

Who should be on the intervention team?

It can be painful to see a loved one suffer from drug addiction or substance abuse, including problematic alcohol use. The planning group for an alcohol use disorder intervention should include friends and family members who can support the intervention process and professional interventionists who can provide guidance and support.

The intervention team should include family and friends who can clearly state the impact of their loved one’s addiction on their relationship and quality of life.  Engaging a professional interventionist can help keep the conversation on track.

An intervention team of friends and family who care deeply, can remain calm and are in a position to provide ongoing support beyond the brief initial intervention is key to the success of subsequent addiction treatment or outpatient rehab.

As part of the intervention team, be sure to care for your health and set clear boundaries about behaviours you will accept and those you will not.

You might also research support groups for those suffering from alcoholism and those affected by another’s addiction.

intervention treatment alcoholism

How to plan an intervention for an alcoholic

Every situation is unique, so understanding your loved one’s addiction before the intervention meeting can help the team and social worker or health professional plan the best approach.

Before staging an intervention, each team member should research and learn about the substance abuse problem to understand how the addictive behaviours affect the person involved.

It also pays to research treatment options for alcohol use disorder. If the person is ready to begin a residential treatment plan, you should be able to recommend a suitable treatment provider you have already researched. Some private health insurance providers will assist with the cost of inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation clinic.

Intervention group members may consult a medical professional, who can recommend a rehabilitation centre or local treatment facility. People suffering from alcohol use disorders often experience poor mental health, so consider treatment providers that assist with the addiction and the psychological aspects of alcohol use.

How to stage an intervention for an alcoholic

The intervention may occur at home or in a therapy office. Consider where the person will feel comfortable. Try to choose a location where the whole group feels safe to express emotion.

Be prepared to discuss potential treatment options. The intervention may end with the subject agreeing to immediate treatment. Alternatively, it could start a conversation about the best next steps to treat the addiction.

The following steps are drawn from the Johnson model for an alcohol intervention.

Steps for an alcohol intervention

  1. Plan the structure of the intervention ahead of time, ideally with an experienced interventionist
  2. The subject may be included in the planning or not — this will depend on the specific circumstances
  3. Decide on the specific consequences for the person if they refuse treatment
  4. Research and be ready to present several treatment avenues
  5. Stage the intervention at an agreed time and place
  6. After the intervention, continue to follow up with the person and support them

A brief intervention makes the person suffering addictive behaviours aware of the consequences of their substance abuse. However, this is only the first step along the path to recovery. Helping someone to overcome addiction or substance use disorder means providing ongoing support.

Continue to encourage reduction or cessation of alcohol intake and provide feedback on the mental, physical and social consequences of the addiction. Strong, ongoing psychosocial support plays an important role in overcoming addiction.

Engaging a treatment provider offering in-house rehabilitation, followed by ongoing in-community support, will aid the recovery process for the addicted person and their friends and family.

steps for an alcohol intervention

How can you help to ensure a successful intervention?

A successful family intervention is well-prepared and accommodates various outcomes tailored to the subject of the intervention. Ask a professional about planning an intervention using a tested model such as the Johnson Model (described above), the feedback, listen, advice, goals and strategies (FLAGS) approach or another effective intervention structure. 

Alcohol intervention outcomes

The actual intervention is only the beginning of the recovery journey for those who abuse alcohol. Connecting the person with a substance use disorder with treatment providers who can address serious mental illness or other contributing factors is key to overcoming addiction.

Discuss practical strategies to reduce drinking and identify risky situations during the intervention. Making lifestyle changes to support addiction recovery is part of a successful intervention outcome.

Do interventions work for alcoholics?

Thoughtfully planned alcohol interventions, with the guidance of a professional interventionist, have a high success rate.

The subject of the intervention is usually grateful for the care and support shown by their family members and friends. Before the intervention, they may have been afraid to seek treatment or unaware of local treatment centres. An intervention brings the unspoken struggle to light. A successful intervention provides access to treatment for the withdrawal phase and can change your loved one’s life.

What if the intervention subject doesn’t agree to treatment?

Someone struggling with alcohol abuse may not agree to the treatment option presented during the intervention — this doesn’t mean the alcohol intervention was unsuccessful.

The important thing is that the person knows that they have support. Starting the conversation about alcohol addiction and demonstrating your willingness to explore treatment with the person struggling with addiction is a step in the right direction.

It may take several interventions before someone struggling with addiction agrees to undergo treatment — building that trust and showing your support will help them face their addiction and seek treatment in their own time.

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