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Resource | Lessons Learned

Preparing for an Intervention

There is never an easy time to stage an intervention for a loved one. At its core, an intervention is designed to help your family member, spouse, partner, friend, or even a colleague agree to seek treatment. In this three part Lessons Learned, we asked family members and people in long term recovery to share what they’ve learned from their personal experience with interventions.





  • Hope is not a strategy, but it is an important element of strategy for both those who are substance-dependent and for their loved ones.
  • For the former, a person facing an intervention needs hope that it will work, so giving your loved one hope for recovery has to be an element of the intervention itself.
  • Regarding the latter, you cannot simply hope your loved one will get better on his or her own, that a particular incident will be a wake-up call for the person to escape addiction. If the person is in danger, you should act before tragedy strikes, just as you would throw a line to someone in a pool who is drowning. The difference is that the person probably may or may not feel they are drowning, so you will need to be firm.
  • For a teenager or someone in their early twenties suffering from their first big setback from drugs or alcohol, it’s really hard to know how soon to pull the alarm. As a parent, if your “gut” tells you the problem is big, don’t second guess that!


  • Learn as much as you can about the science of addiction. Read everything you can, talk to other people, and get in touch with addiction specialists. There is probably more to this than you think, including the behaviors of those who are dependent, and the dangers associated with both dependency and recovery.
  • Make sure you have a treatment facility in mind for the follow-on after the intervention. If you need help with this, see the SAFE Treatment Locator.
  • It’s important to understand which of three paths – prescription pain relievers prescribed by a doctor or dentist; self-medication for a mental health challenge; or social activity – led your loved one into substance dependency. Trauma is not-infrequently associated with these pathways. Even though physiologically they are the same, each pathway is different and needs to be treated differently.
  • Dependency can often stem from a combination of these pathways. Someone fighting anxiety or depression who has an injury or dental procedure treated with opioids can become dependent because the pain killers initially mitigate the anxiety or depression. Try to understand – and empathize with – the path your loved one is on so that you can seek the right kind of help, especially with any underlying mental health issues.


  • Get professional help for the actual intervention . . . self-help solutions alone may not be enough. Paid interventionists are available for help. Reach out to those that are experienced in the industry or may have some certification as an interventionist. People who use a professional are usually very glad they did.
  • If finances are a concern, reputable interventionists may be able to work with you on a scaled payment or make a local referral.  If you are part of a self-help group, ask for references.  Your county or behavioral health services can be a good source for low cost or free intervention services.
  • Interview several people to determine who will seem to resonate best with you and your loved one. Ask questions about their process. How does it start? How are you different from others?

Part 2:   What to Expect During An Intervention

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