A Guide to Staging an Intervention

All loved ones of people suffering from an addiction will be very much aware of the power and influence of addiction. They will be mindful of the conflict, damage, and unhappiness it creates for not just the individual themselves but everyone around them. It can be devastating watching a loved one struggle with addiction, giving feelings of complete hopelessness, helplessness and complete desperation.

You may feel as if you have no control and can do nothing to change the situation, but don’t give up! You can help your loved one. Staging an intervention can help your loved one, if carried out efficiently and at the right time. In this blog, we are giving a guide to help you stage an intervention giving you the best possible chance of a successful outcome.


The chances are you have had many conversations with your loved one, telling them they need help in relation to their addiction. However, when it comes to addiction, the person with the problem struggles to see it and acknowledge it themselves.  You may have tried to address the problem when you’re frustrated, angry, sad, calm or fearful and it doesn’t change anything because they don’t see the negative effects their addictive behaviour has on themselves or others. They may have made many promises to stop but were unable to follow through. It can leave you feeling helpless or frantic.

An intervention is a structured, well-organised conversation between a person suffering with an addiction and a loved one. The purpose of an intervention is to conquer the individual’s denial about their addiction, so they can identify the damage they are causing to both themselves and their loved ones. They allow loved ones reach out to the person suffering from addiction in an effort to help them start their recovery journey.


Taking a different approach to your loved one suffering from an addiction through a planned, prepared and focused intervention can increase your chances of a positive outcome. An approach where people who care about and are closest to the person struggling with addiction join forces to take compassionate and decisive action to motivate them to seek or accept help.


There are some practicalities that need to be in place prior to the intervention. Careful planning, often with the help of addiction services or other professional support is important. Remember there really is no perfect way to do an intervention. You can only do the best you can.

  1. Decide who will be involved – It is essential to carefully choose the people you want to participate in the intervention with you. The people involved need to be stable and have a good relationship with the individual. Select people that will be helpful and encouraging rather than emotional or negative.
  2. Understanding Addiction – It is important everyone staging the intervention understands addiction as a chronic brain condition and what chemical dependency is. Untreated addiction is not a habit or a lack of will power. It is a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal condition.
  3. Appoint a chairperson – This person will guide the process, explain to the addicted person what is happening, keep the time and remain aware of the main points to be addressed and close the intervention.
  4. Decide on the format – It is important to agree in advance how long the intervention will be and who will speak first, second or third and so on. You can also read a letter instead of speaking. It is best to aim for 20 to 30 minutes in total for the intervention.
  5. Decide on the outcome – You need to decide in advance what you would like the addicted person to do. Whilst counselling can be a supportive process towards recovery, be aware that the addicted person may choose this to get you off their back. If they are in a chronic state, residential treatment is the best option. Have the details and contact information of a treatment centre or addiction counsellor ready to give to them.


  1. It is important that everyone speaks or reads from their own experience using “I” statements. Acknowledge the person’s good points, how it has been for you to witness their addiction and decline, how you feel about it, how much you care about them and your wish to support them to get the help they need.
  2. Don’t bring up too many incidents of their addictive behaviour. Focus more on what it has been like for you and how you can no longer support them to continue in addiction.
  3. Be prepared to respond to all possible objections and statements from the individual. One example of a common response is “I can control it” or “I can do this myself”. This means they are resisting treatment. A good response to this is “if it’s not a problem why do you need to control it?”. People who are addicted cannot solve the problem themselves. Remember addiction is beyond will power or control.

Another common response from the individual suffering from addiction “I’ve stayed off it for a week/month/lent”. Do not let this persuade you, it is what happens when they are active that is important, the negative consequences on themselves and others every time they use.


  1. Make sure that everyone is seated and calm
  2. Invite your loved one suffering from addiction to the conversation. We recommend saying something along the lines of: “We would like to have a short chat with you. Is this a good time?” or “would you join us for a short conversation, we’re not here to have a row with you”.
  3. The chairperson asks the first person to speak or read a letter, followed by the next person and so on in the agreed order.
  4. It is important to stay calm and it is okay to get emotional, but any aggression raised voices or anger will make them defensive and likely to shut down.
  5. Listen to their views and encourage them to talk about how things are for them – show your appreciation for their cooperation.


  1. Once the last person has spoken, the chairperson can restate the family’s commitment to help and support the person and give them the contact details they need to book an assessment. It is important they agree to act immediately.
  2. If the person is not ready to accept help please acknowledge and reassure yourself that you have done all you can, the next move is now up to them. Contact family support at Tabor Group 021 488 7110 yourself regardless of their decision.
  3. Even though they may not accept help, the situation is not hopeless as family support can help you to set boundaries to support your addicted family member but not their addiction or lifestyle making it more likely that they will seek help themselves.


Don’t expect immediate results from the intervention. Nobody knows the amount of conversations you will need to have with your loved one before they accept that they need help. Some people might only be one, but others will be multiple conversations over time. The important thing is to never give up on your loved one no matter what as addiction treatment does work!


Our Family Support Programme is designed to help concerned persons of the individual with substance use disorder. It has been our experience that when a family is affected by addiction, the entire family can benefit from support. Our Family Support Programme includes education, one-to-one support, peer support groups, telephone support, intervention advice and more. To contact the Family Support Programme, call us on 021 488 7110.