Alcoholism Intervention

An alcoholism intervention is a serious undertaking that must be entered into carefully by family members and friends – and done only in conjunction with counsel from a substance abuse professional.

Confronting the alcoholic with evidence of how his or her drinking has affected loved ones and friends may serve as motivation to seek treatment. Yet, intervention strategies may vary and, if not done properly, can backfire and end up making the alcoholic even more resistant to help.

So what is the right way to conduct an intervention? Start with careful planning, assisted by an experienced professional interventionist that can guide you through the process and facilitate the intervention.


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Planning a Successful Alcoholism Intervention

Follow these steps to plan a successful intervention:

  • Quit making excuses or protecting the alcoholic from the consequences of his or her substance abuse so that he or she can see the full impact of their behavior. Besides, rescuing the alcoholic is not your responsibility.
  • Engage the help of an experienced substance abuse professional. Expert assistance is the key to a successful intervention.
  • Invite friends and family members that care about the alcoholic to participate in the intervention. The interventionist can help you decide whom to invite.
  • With interventions, timing is everything. The immediate aftermath of an alcohol-related problem such as an accident or major dispute is not a good time to talk to an alcoholic about a drinking problem. Make sure he or she is sober, if possible. The interventionist can help you choose the best time and place for the intervention.
  • Write down what you want to say to the alcoholic during the intervention. Writing it down will ensure you remember everything you want to say and will help you stay calm and stick to the subject at hand during the intervention.
  • Give the alcoholic specific examples of how his or her drinking has created problems.
  • Make sure the alcoholic understands what you will do to protect yourself from his or her problems if he or she does not seek assistance and that this action is not intended to punish him or her. This could range from refusing to participate in a social activity with them where alcohol will be served to removing yourself (and children if they are present) from the home. Your stated intentions must not be empty gestures; you must be prepared to follow through on these actions.
  • Research options for treatment in your area in advance so that if the intervention convinces a family member or loved one to seek help, you can quickly arrange an appointment. The interventionist can help you research available treatment options.
  • Ask the alcoholic to seek treatment immediately. Offer to accompany him or her on the initial visit if you are comfortable doing so.
Alcoholism Intervention

If the Alcoholism Intervention Doesn't Work

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, when done properly with the assistance of a qualified trained professional, interventions work at least 90 percent of the time. That means that the alcoholic makes a commitment to seek help and enters into treatment. That’s not a guarantee that he or she will complete treatment or stay sober or never relapse, but it’s a place to start. It’s the place recovery must start, in fact.

Unfortunately, up to 10 percent of interventions don’t achieve the desired results. If your attempt at an alcoholism intervention is not successful, it is crucial that you follow through with any consequences you presented to the alcoholic during the intervention. It is also important that you take whatever steps necessary to protect yourself from the consequences of the alcoholic’s drinking, such as closing a joint bank account to protect your money or going to court to limit the alcoholic’s visitation with children to protect them.

Keep in mind that there are a number of support groups ready to help you through this difficult time. Most communities have Al-Anon meetings for family members of alcoholics, as well as Ala-teen groups designed for children of alcoholics. The purpose of such groups is to help family members understand that it is not their fault that an alcoholic drinks and they must ultimately look after themselves whether or not their loved one gets help. These self-help groups don’t assist in interventions and they don’t have substance abuse professionals on staff, but they can be a valuable resource for family members and friends of alcoholics going through the difficult process of trying to convince a loved one to get help.

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Related Information

Alcohol Addiction Intervention - More information on what an alcoholic intervention is, when it should be used, how it works, who is involved, and cautions to be aware of.

Alcoholism as a Disease - Information on treating alcoholism. See if an intervention is the right strategy for you.

Alcoholism Treatment Option - Intervention tips as recommended from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Helping an Alcoholic - Information on how to help an alcoholic whether they want help or not. Also, what you should do to help yourself.

Dealing With an Alcoholic - Strategies for addressing the problem, and convincing the alcoholic that treatment is necessary. Find out how an alcohol abuse intervention works.

NCAAD - Tips and guidelines for proper alcoholism interventions

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