Alcohol interventions: 7 principles of a successful intervention for alcohol abuse

Not all alcohol interventions are successful. We outline the basic steps of alcohol interventions as well as 7 principles to ensure that an alcohol intervention can go well.

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An alcohol intervention is a process in which an alcoholic’s loved ones gather together to confront him or her in an effort to persuade them to quit drinking. The ultimate goal of most alcohol interventions is to make alcoholics realize that they have a problem and that they must stop drinking. To successfully accomplish this, a group of loved ones must make it clear that that they care for and respect the alcoholic and are only concerned about their wellbeing.

Steps of a successful alcohol intervention

Planning and executing an alcohol intervention is a long and difficult process. Although the actual intervention will usually only last a short time, alcohol interventions should be thought of as long-term processes, not one-time events. The basic steps of a successful alcohol intervention are listed below.

1. Meet with a professional alcohol intervention specialist.

An alcohol intervention specialist can be invaluable to anyone interested in staging an intervention with a loved one who is an alcoholic. These professionals include licensed counselors and psychotherapists and can help loved ones better understand addiction and plan the intervention.

2. Decide on the time and place for the intervention.

The best time for an intervention should be when it will catch the alcoholic off-guard, since this will give them little time to make excuses for and justify their drinking. An intervention can take place nearly anywhere that offers privacy. This can include a loved one’s home or even the alcoholic’s own home.

3. Plan what will be said during the intervention.

Planning what will be said during the actual intervention is one step of a successful alcohol intervention that should not be overlooked. Each member of the group should decide beforehand what they will say to the alcoholic. They should gather facts about the alcoholic’s drinking and behavior and include how this has had an effect on the alcoholic and everyone around him or her. Some individuals find it helpful to write down what they wish to say.

4. Execute the intervention.

To execute the actual intervention, the group must make sure that the alcoholic shows up at the agreed upon time and place. The intervention specialist or members of the group will then persuade the alcoholic to sit and listen to what is being said. Each member of the group will then take turns saying or reading why they believe that the alcoholic needs alcohol addiction treatment. An intervention typically ends with the group giving the alcoholic a choice to either quit drinking or face some consequences, such as removing emotional or financial support.

5. Follow up after an intervention.

After an intervention, an alcoholic has a choice to make – either stop drinking or face the consequences that his or her loved ones have made clear at the end of the intervention. An intervention specialist should be ready to give the alcoholic information about alcohol treatment and even arrange treatment in a suitable alcohol treatment program. If an alcoholic refuses to quit drinking, the loved ones must follow through with their ultimatum. They should also consider seeking counseling themselves, since this can better prepare them for dealing with an alcoholic.

7 principles of a successful intervention for alcohol abuse

Not all alcohol interventions are successful. Some may fail simply because the alcoholic is not ready for treatment. Others, however, may fail because they were not planned or executed properly.

The list below outlines 7 principles of a successful intervention for alcohol abuse.

1. Meet with an intervention specialist – Never try to stage an intervention yourself. Instead, seek advice and guidance from an experienced intervention specialist. Take the time to interview several intervention specialists to find out which one suits your situation the best.

2. Plan ahead – Planning is one of the most important principles of a successful intervention for alcohol abuse. Every detail of the intervention should be planned, from the time and place to what will be said during the intervention.

3. Choose the right people to participate in the intervention – One of the most important steps of a successful intervention for alcohol abuse is deciding who will be present during the process. It’s important to choose a small, intimate group of people that the alcoholic cares for and respects. Each member of the group should also care for the alcoholic and be able to look at the situation objectively.

4. Choose the right time for the intervention – It’s important to catch an alcoholic by surprise with an intervention. However, by timing the intervention shortly after drinking has caused a major problem in an alcoholic’s life can put the group at an advantage. An alcoholic will usually be more willing to realize that they have a drinking problem and seek treatment at a low point in their life, such as after getting a DUI.

5. Speak with respect and love, not anger – Emotional or angry outbursts during an intervention for alcohol abuse are typically counterproductive. They only manage to make alcoholics more defensive and angry themselves. Instead, members of the group should remain as composed as possible and speak calmly as they present factual information.

6. Follow through – One of the biggest reasons that alcohol interventions fail is that loved ones do not follow through with the consequences that they presented at the end of the intervention. Ultimately, an alcoholic must put an end to their enabling behavior for an alcoholic to realize that they need help. This means that they must stop making excuses for the alcoholic and stop bailing him or her out of the problems they caused themselves by drinking. If this means that the alcoholic must sit in jail for a weekend or lose their job because of their drinking, then so be it.

7. Take care of yourself – An intervention for alcohol abuse is an intense and stressful process. Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it won’t. If your alcohol intervention has failed, you must realize that you can’t force an alcoholic to change. They must be ready and willing to change themselves. Instead, focus on taking care of your own mental health throughout this difficult process. Consider seeking counseling or joining a support group for loved ones of alcoholics.

Intervention for alcohol abuse questions

Staging a successful intervention is stressful, confusing, and even a little frightening for some. When trying to plan a successful intervention for alcohol abuse, questions are inevitable. To better help you understand the intervention process, we’re here to help. Leave any questions or concerns you might have about interventions, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Reference Sources: MAYO Clinic: Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
AIS: What is an Interventionist? Choosing an Interventionist
AISCB: Code of ethics for board registered interventionists
AIS: What an Interventionist is not?
AIS: Why a Board Registered Interventionist?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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