social support in addiction recovery

Intervention Workbook

Day 01: Intervention Preparation

Congratulations on Seeking Intervention

We want to welcome you to our intervention handbook and congratulate you on seeking out the tools to step in and intervene for your loved one. Addiction is difficult to deal with and it’s common for families to feel alone and without guidance. In this handbook, you will learn about the intervention process, manipulation tactics, common intervention fears, and putting an end to enabling factors that are allowing your loved one’s drug or alcohol abuse to continue.

The intervention methods employed and outlined in this book are tried and true. Our guide is full of the best intervention practices and tips that are designed to take you through the intervention from beginning to end. We encourage you to go read this guide thoroughly to ensure that you are prepared. Of course, we are always available to answer any additional questions you may have.

Intervention: The Definition

The dictionary definition for intervention is the action or process of intervening in a situation, in an attempt to improve it. For problematic drug and alcohol use, an intervention is a planned event where a group of family and friends will convey a message of love and concern. The message is: we love you, you have a problem, but we have a solution, here’s the help you need.  

Why are we at this point today?

You may be wondering how things have gotten to this point and why this has happened to your family. We want to make it clear that Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) do not discriminate and are an equal opportunity destroyer. In America, there are many out there just like your loved one who is battling drug and alcohol use. Each individual case is different in its progression, and there are many factors which lead to their rapid declines.

If your loved one has family and friends continuing to take part in behaviors that allow substance abuse to continue, they are most likely not going to seek out help for themselves. The most important thing to remember is that moving forward, the goal is to improve the situation. We want to offer your loved one a solution; focusing on why the problem exists or how you got here in the first place is no longer important because it will not produce any results or offer any solutions. Identifying how and where to draw the line in the sand and find a way to save their lives is now the main priority. We can’t erase what’s happened, but we can work together to give your loved one a better future.

Who should participate in the intervention?

The people that should be involved in the intervention are those who have a genuine relationship and strong history with your loved one. Especially any close family and friends that have a positive influence over your loved one. The most powerful people that can be involved are those who knew your loved one long before the addiction began, such as an old teacher, coach, or other family members. Also, consider best friends from childhood or anyone who has lost touch with your loved one over the years because of the substance abuse.

Consider the following for each person your family invites to the intervention:

Before inviting anyone to take part in the intervention, please consider these questions:

  1. Does this person truly care about the wellbeing of your loved one?
  2. Does your loved one respect this person?
  3. Will this person say negative things or create problems during an intervention?
  4. Does this person have a positive influence on your loved one?
  5. Does the person have any leverage that they can use that would be helpful in getting your loved one to agree to go to treatment?
      – Having someone who can agree to stop enabling if your loved one does not go to treatment can help tremendously.
  6. Does this person have the willingness to fully commit and follow through with the plan and put into action the boundaries that will be set if your loved one decides to not go to treatment?
      – For example: If your loved one decides not to go to treatment; can you see this person truly saying no to giving your loved one money or a place to stay?

Is a Substance Use Disorder a Disease?

In spite of the disease or a choice controversy, most medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the America Society of Addiction Medicine define SUDs as a disease. Like commonly recognized medical diseases such as diabetes or cancer, an addiction left untreated will often lead to other mental health disorders, and will become more severe, disabling and life-threatening. A SUDs hijacks the brain’s survival functions and it alters normal brain patterns.

SUDs are chronic, relapsing and characterized by a compulsion to seek drugs and or alcohol regardless of consequences.

The brain releases chemicals or hormones when basic needs are met, such as hunger, thirst, and
sex, which leads us to repeat those behaviors.

Those neurochemicals that are commonly associated with this type of reward/pleasure system in the brain are dopamine, serotonin, and glutamine. The same set of neurochemicals are released with the consumption of alcohol and drugs, creating a sense of pleasure or a change in mood. This is what is known as a reward, or what is commonly referred to as the payoff.

Over time, the continued stimulation of the pleasure center chemicals causes changes to the reward, motivation and memory centers. Once the body and brain become dependent on the payoffs of these chemicals, it becomes necessary to abuse the substances just to feel normal and function properly. Without the substances, the person experiences cravings and an intense desire for the substance and will use despite negative, or even dangerous consequences. The ability to make normal and healthy choices becomes hijacked as interest is lost in other life activities.

Self-care, caring for others, and taking care of responsibilities become less important which leads to relationship strain, financial stress, and or legal problems.

Does this make your loved one a bad person?

Your loved one is not a bad person; the truth is that your loved one is sick. Of course, television and media tend to depict drug users as criminals who are weak and lacking self-control. Remember, addiction affects people from diverse backgrounds and it does not pay attention to social, religious, race, wealth, or other factors. However, there are factors that increase an individual’s risk for developing the disorder like family history, genetics, environment, trauma, and stress. One thing that is common among individuals who are affected by SUDs, is the way that as the disorder progresses, they often find themselves participating in out of character, criminal-like behavior.

The truth is that it’s common for individuals who begin to participate in criminal behavior because they are trying to find a way to acquire drugs and alcohol. In desperation, many turn to stealing, robbing, lying, cheating, and manipulating. As addiction progresses, this can become worse and lead to legal ramifications.

Intervening and ensuring that your loved one gets the treatment that is needed may save him or her from many more years of a continuously damaging disorder. Your loved one is not a bad person; unfortunately, addiction does not give them much of a choice. Your loved one may have no idea that recovery is available and attainable—it’s time to let him or her know that there is a way out.

Substance Use Disorder Indicators

Substance Use Disorder refers to any disorder where an individual is abusing drugs or alcohol. SUDs can range from mild, moderate, to severe disorders.

Please think about each one and write underneath a time or situation where your loved one has displayed one of these pathological behaviors, as these are undeniable indicators of a problem.

Substance Use Disorder Indicators

When an individual uses a substance for a longer period than intended as well as using larger quantities of the substance than intended.

Wanting to reduce the use of the substance but being unsuccessful in the attempts to do so.

Spending excessive amounts of time getting, using, and recovering from substance use.

Having cravings that are so intense and spark a mental obsession, making thoughts about anything else other than using the substance of choice impossible.

Social Impairment:

Social Impairment includes behaviors such as continuing to use despite problems that come up with work, family, school, or other social events and obligations.

    a. Examples of these behaviors are repeated work absences; poor school or work performance; neglecting children; failure to meet household responsibilities.

Continuing to use, regardless of the growing number of interpersonal problems.

    a. Examples of this behavior: fighting with family or losing important friendships and relationships altogether.

Participating in beloved hobbies or other activities lessens or stops altogether.

    a. An example of this would be a hobbyist photographer who no longer goes out to take photos, and pawning or selling their beloved equipment.

Does your loved one participate in risky use?

Continuing to use substances in dangerous situations, such as operating machinery, or driving a vehicle.

Continuing to use substances even though they are experiencing health problems and are worsening their physical condition.

Pharmacological Indicators:

The building up of tolerance. An individual’s tolerance will increase resulting in the need of larger amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effects.

The individual will experience withdrawal if they stop taking the substance. For example, an individual may begin to have the shakes upon abruptly stopping alcohol consumption.

The Behaviors of Addiction: Commonly Used Manipulation Tactics

Manipulation is something that is common for those who are using drugs and alcohol. Your loved one most likely has some manipulation tactics that he or she frequently uses. Your loved one will almost certainly use these tactics to derail the intervention, therefore it’s important to be prepared and to be able to recognize these manipulations.

Denial and Addiction

Addiction and self-deception go hand in hand. Denial is a powerful type of self-deception that can come in many different forms. Being in denial usually means that the person who has a substance abuse problem will refuse to acknowledge the damage that substance use is doing- despite all evidence or consequences. During an intervention, it may be extremely uncomfortable for your loved one to see and hear the consequences. We encourage families to stick to first-hand facts and not opinions when addressing the denial.

What is Denial?

Denial to others: is when your loved one internally comprehends that he or she has an issue with drugs, alcohol, or both; however, upon confrontation, he or she chooses to deny it.

Complete denial: is internal and external denial. Through self-deception, they have been able to rationalize, justify and make excuses to convince themselves that there is no problem.

Another type of denial: is based on the lack of understanding of what having a problem with addiction really looks like. For example, your loved one may believe that he or she does not have a problem because they have not found themselves homeless, on the streets. Your loved one may have a stereotype or an idea of what an addict is, and because he or she does not meet the criteria of this stereotype, there is not really a problem.

Blatant Lies

Believing these lies can help drug use continue.

Common Examples of blatant lies:

  • “I can stop using drugs/alcohol whenever I feel like it.
  • “I need drugs/alcohol to cope with my issues.”
  • “I’m nothing like ______________.” (comparison to someone else who is a worse off.
  • “My addiction doesn’t affect others.”
  • “I have nothing else to live for, I might as well keep using.”
  • “I can’t have fun without drugs/alcohol.”

During an intervention, these lies may come up, and it’s important to know and identify them so that you can respond with love and truth.

Ask Yourself: What kind of lies does your loved one believe surrounding his or her addiction?

Imposing Guilt & Shame

Guilt is a common manipulation tactic used to make you feel at fault. If your loved one knows that you feel guilty, he or she will often play off of the guilt and manipulate you. A guilt tactic could be something as simple as, “you’re the reason I’m like this because you did or didn’t do X, Y, and Z”. You can imagine all of the scenarios that could fill in the blanks and addicts tend to get very creative with this tactic.

What makes this even more difficult in the sense of a parent and child, is that no parent is perfect and once a son or daughter begins showing signs of drug and or alcohol abuse, parents often tend to internalize the situation and blame themselves. If you have felt guilty yourself or felt as if you failed as a parent, you may have unwittingly continued to enable your loved one by not allowing him or her to feel any consequences.

It’s important to understand that no matter what has happened in the past, you are not responsible. Do not be roped into feeling guilty, because this is a method for your loved one to control you and continue to use drugs and alcohol. If your loved one attempts to impose guilt or shame on you during the intervention; you have to harden yourself and not let any comments affect you.

Consider: Can you think of any way that your loved one has imposed guilt upon you, or something that he or she has said to place blame on you?

Professional Victimization

Your loved one may also play what is called the professional victim during the intervention. Your loved one may say things like, “Do you know how hard this is on me?” or, “I’m the one who’s hurting here!” When your loved one does this, it’s an attempt to get you to feel sympathetic and back off. Recognizing this when it happens is important so that you and the others at the intervention don’t feed into it and is crucial for the success of the intervention.

Ask yourself: In what kind of ways has your loved one made him or herself out to be the victim?

Sympathy Ploy

Sympathy ploys are one of the most common manipulation tactics that are used in interventions; sympathy ploys are also a way to get you to back off for fear of causing your loved one emotional pain. Your loved one will expect you to lean in and pat his or her shoulder, give a hug, and consolation—but you should do not this. Your loved one must understand that this is not judgment, but an objective look at the truths of his or her substance use.

  • Fine, I know, I’m always the bad guy here. I am a disappointment. Are you happy?
  • Yeah, I know, I’m a horrible person and I cause nothing but problems

Ask Yourself: What type of things does your loved one say to gain sympathy?


Justification is another tactic you should know. Your loved one most likely has already put a lot of effort and thought into justifying addicted behaviors to themselves. You can bet that they will try and justify their actions during the intervention. The unreasonable, chaotic, and irrational behaviors that come along with addiction cannot continue unless your loved one finds ways to justify them.

To be justified, actions must be true, right, merited, and valid. As time goes on, your loved one will drastically alter his or her own thoughts so that the actions seem just. Your loved one must do this to avoid feeling cognitive dissonance, or inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. Without intervention, your loved one’s thinking will worsen – eventually, they may be completely out of touch with reality.

Frequently Used Justifications:

Frequently Used Justifications:
  • “Life without drugs and/or alcohol is boring. It is not possible to enjoy life without the use of drugs and/or alcohol.”
  • “As a person who has experienced trauma, I need drugs and/or alcohol to numb the pain.”
  • “As a person who has experienced trauma, I need drugs and/or alcohol to numb the pain.”
  • “I use drugs because I am intelligent and creative. Many famous artists and musicians have used to drugs to enhance their creativity.”
  • “Being high helps me cope better with life.”
  • “Drugs and/or alcohol help me cope with my insomnia.”
  • “I am able to be more social and normal when using drugs and/or alcohol”
  • “The drugs I use help me concentrate better on work and school”.
  • “My Dad/Mom used drugs, so that’s why I do too”

Justifications can keep your loved one in a cycle of substance abuse that never ends. As time goes on,
your loved one may even use their justification to commit criminal activities.

Consider: What type of justifications does your loved one make regarding his or her substance abuse?

Diversion and Distraction

It’s harder to hit a moving target; therefore your loved one may attempt to jump around and change the subject frequently. During the intervention, your loved one may try and throw the conversation way out into left field by bringing up someone else’s drug use or how unfair he or she is being treated. It’s very important to recognize this during the intervention because it will be in everyone’s best interest to shut it down immediately and get back to the topic at hand.

When you talk to your loved one about their drug or alcohol abuse now, in what way does your loved one attempt to divert or distract from the situation?


Rationalization is all about the excuses; your loved one may present all types of excuses for the harmful behavior that he or she has been participating in. It can be especially effective because some of these reasons can make sense; the problem here is that if your loved one can even persuade you of his or her rationalization, you might back off and stay in a state of enabling. Rationalization is a manipulation tactic that most individuals use because, like justification, it also helps quiet the conscience.

What are some ways that your loved one rationalizes drug and/or alcohol abuse?

Acting Oblivious (Selective Inattention)

Acting oblivious—or selective inattention—seems much like denial at first glance, but this tactic is a little different. It’s playing dumb and ignoring anything that might distract him or her from pursuing the agenda to get drunk or high. Your loved one may begin to act aloof and completely ignore the pleas of others to get help.

“Offering of Hope”

During an intervention, your loved one may offer you hope. An offering of hope is a manipulation tactic that your loved one may use in hopes to stop the intervention process. Your loved one may seem sincere, with everything under control, but the truth of the matter is that your loved one has little to no control over drug or alcohol abuse. They will only be offering you false hope. Let’s be real, hope is the thing you want most in this situation, and they know it.

Offering of Hope Examples:

  • “I will quit tomorrow.”
  • “I don’t really need treatment; I can do this on my own.”
  • “I have already figured out a plan to stop.”
  • “I’ll go to outpatient treatment.”
  • “You can drug test me anytime you want!”
  • “I just need to do x, y, and z.”

Your loved one will continue to promise you that everything is going to be okay. Offering hope is essentially your loved one telling you what you want to hear in order to get out of the intervention as quickly as possible. They may even believe the hope that he or she is offering is genuine.

Placating Family

Placating is all about diffusing the situation. Instead of being in denial, your loved one will agree with everyone and admit to having a problem. The truth is, this is just another manipulation tactic. If the result is not your loved agreeing to treatment, then the goal has not been reached.

Examples of Placating Family:

  • “You know, you’re right, I do have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol”
  • “I know I’m an alcoholic”
  • “I know I need treatment, you’re right, but……”

Isolating and Manipulating the Enabler

If your loved one feels backed into a corner, he or she may request to speak to the primary enabler in private. Your loved one wants to pick out and isolate the one who will cave and give in because it is impossible to manipulate the entire group, especially the interventionist. Prepare for this by identifying who that person would be so that you can prepare this person to hold their ground beforehand.

If your loved one was to pull someone to the side during the intervention, who would it be?


Your loved one may attempt to discredit the goal of the intervention. He or she may say something like, “my friend went to rehab six times and it never worked for her,” or, “You’ve never walked through my shoes, so you can’t tell me anything; you don’t understand.”

What are some of the ways that your loved one may discredit treatment, or recovery?


Enabling is the term that is used to describe actions that are done to enable a person to continue to abuse substances without consequences. In almost every situation involving drugs and alcohol, there are enablers.

Enabling allows the addiction to progress and worsen over time. Physical enabling is the easiest to identify, while emotional and psychological enabling could take some reflection and thought.

Physical Enabling

  • Money – Consistently giving money to your loved one for any story they come up with. Allowing them to borrow or have money which ends up going towards the use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Cellphones – Purchasing your loved one a cellphone and paying the bill, knowing that your loved one is using the cellphone to purchase drugs and alcohol.
  • Cars – If your loved one is using your car or has a car that you are paying for in some way including payments, insurance, or repairs, then you are enabling.
  • Food – If your loved one is spending all his or her money on drugs, they will look to you to have their other needs met—including food. If you are purchasing his or her food, it can be considered enabling.

  • Place to live – Giving your loved one a place to live while they are in active addiction can do more harm than good. Your loved one will most likely use your home as a safe place to continue to abuse substances. What you may not realize is that this puts you and other family members at risk. We understand that many families simply cannot bear the idea of kicking their loved ones out onto the street, but sometimes that is what is necessary to get your loved one to hit bottom and accept help.
  • Bailing out of Jail – Drug and alcohol abuse left unchecked usually results in legal trouble at some point. If you bail your loved one out of jail, then you are sheltering him or her from the consequences of their addiction.
  • Lawyers & Fines – Families also step in and cover the expenses for legal representation and fines in legal
    situations. Once again, if you are paying for your loved one’s lawyer and jail fines, you are sheltering him or her from the consequences and prolonging the addiction.
  • Giving them Jobs – If you are providing your loved one with a job, paycheck, or even giving him or her odd jobs
    around your home in exchange for money, this is considered enabling.
  • Watching children or pets – If you have found yourself becoming the primary caregiver of your loved one’s
    children and pets, then you are making his or her life easier in terms of continuing the addiction.

In what ways do you or others physically enable your loved one?

Emotional & Psychological Enabling: What is it?

Emotional and Psychological Enabling is essentially being there for your loved one while he or she is in active addiction, in a way that hurts more then it helps. Your loved one may not see the need to change if there is always a shoulder to cry on, someone to make him or her feel better or having someone always there.

Always being there & Always Answering Calls – Once again, this is about you being the person that they run to, the shoulder they cry on, or the person who always picks up the phone when they need someone to talk to.

Arguing Back & Forth – When you loved one calls, texts, or comes to see you, you engage with him or her in arguments and feed into behaviors. Your loved one always knows that you are there for him or her to talk to or argue with.

Answering calls from jail – When your loved one calls you from jail, or other bad situations, you are always there to pick up the phone.

Offering of hope – When your loved one offers you hope and you go along with it and encourage them, you are essentially telling your loved one that they are OK, and they do not need immediate help. Your loved one will not feel the necessity to get real help and will continue to make promises and offer you hope.

Allowing yourself to feel guilt – Allowing your loved one to guilt trip you is a form of emotional and psychological enabling. Remember, your loved one’s addiction has nothing to do with what you did or did not do, so do not let him or her use anything against you.

In what ways have you or others enabled your loved one?

No Longer Enabling: Making the Right Choice

The truth is that dealing with a loved one who is in active addiction is not easy. Hopefully, now that you and your family have learned about enabling, you can make the choice to stop and draw some firm boundaries. Of course, we recognize that the choice is up to you and your family.

We want to help you and your family understand what is healthy, and what is not in these situations. We want you to know what’s going to help and what’s going to hurt the chances of your loved making it into treatment.

Experience tells us that the longer an addict is physically, emotionally, or psychologically enabled, the longer he or she can go on in active addiction.

By enabling your loved one, you are providing the same comfort and avoidance that he or she seeks with drugs and alcohol.

Letter Writing Guide: Why Letters?

Letters are a vital tool in interventions. Back and forth discussion will not be fruitful in getting the message across, because those who are in active addiction can often be relentless in their manipulation tactics. Your loved one may not truly pay attention to what is being said, and only wait for a chance to respond and defend his or her position. When you read your letter to your loved one, it minimizes interruptions and gives you a clear way to express what your observations, requests, and boundaries are.

9 Tips for crafting your Letter

  1. Say what is in your heart and be compassionate.
  2. Keep it concise and to the point.
  3. Express understanding of addiction as a disorder, not a moral failure.
  4. Refrain from critical, judgmental, or shaming remarks.
  5. Keep it positive, with optimism that they can get better.
  6. Keep a hold on emotions and remain firm.
  7. Speak of the treatment being offered like a gift, instead of a punishment.
  8. Comment on how your loved one’s private choices affect others.
  9. Avoid calling your loved one labeling names such as, “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “junkie.””


Part One: Conveying your message of love

The opening of the letter should be heartfelt, honest, and full of love. You can open with how much your loved one means to you and perhaps mention a fond memory or loving story you share. It also helps to mention things that you admire about your loved one. Generally, anything positive that you would like to say in this opening is fine, as long as it’s sincere.

“My dearest John, I love you so much. You have always been a joy to have as a son, so bright, so loving, and kind. I remember when you were growing up and we used to go on trips to the lake each summer? Sometimes I wish we could go back to those days when things were simpler, and you were happy.”

Part Two: Acknowledging the Problem & its Effect

The second part of the letter is to compassionately acknowledge that there is a problem. After acknowledging the problem, convey exactly how the problem is having an effect on his or her life. Give factual examples of recent events that cannot be disputed.


John, I can see that your use of alcohol is causing significant damage in your life. Just last month, you lost your job after you went to jail for your second DUI. Every day I see you; your drinking is getting worse and you are having to drink more to keep yourself from withdrawal. You spend days up in your room away from the rest of the family. Your children miss being with you and now hardly ever see you due to your drinking.

Part Three: How You Have Been Affected

The third part of the letter addresses how you have been affected by your loved one’s alcohol/drug use. Try to give several examples of the ways in which you have been personally harmed. You can also illustrate the ripple effect of how your loved one’s problem is affecting the entire family unit.

Your drinking has affected me too, I have a hard time seeing you like this. You have lied to me about the extent of your problem and I feel like our relationship will be broken if things get any worse. I stay up late at night, worried about you. The stress over your addiction is affecting my performance at work and your mother and I’s relationship.

Part Four: Asking Your Loved One to Get Help

This part of the letter should be kept very simple and straight forward.

We are all here today because we love you and want to see you get better. Will you accept the help that is being offered today?

Boundaries & Finite Decisions: A Reflection

Anyone who is participating in the intervention should personally reflect on the ways in which they are enabling your loved one’s use. It’s also time to consider what they are willing to stop doing if your loved one refuses treatment and the boundaries they can set for themselves until your loved one completes treatment. These boundaries will be put into place to stop you and other loved one’s from continuing to experience the chaos and turmoil of your loved one’s addiction.

Making the firm decision to stop certain enabling behaviors be the extra push that your loved one needs to realize that they need help, and that things will no longer continue to be the way they once were. The hope is that your loved one will surrender and accept the gift of treatment.

Boundary List

The boundary list will help your loved one understand that if he or she walks out of the intervention refusing help, everything will change. After the above reflection, each person should take turns writing the enabling behaviors they will no longer take part in and the boundaries they will create in a signed boundary list like this one below.


  • Anna will no longer allow John to live in her home.
  • The entire family will no longer give financial assistance to John.
  • Anna will no longer allow John to be around his chilren.
  • John is no longer invited to family events until he accepts help.
  • We will no longer answer our phones for John.
  • Dad agrees to take John out out of the family will.
  • Mom and Dad agree that you can no longer work at the office until he accepts help and completes treatment.

Holding Each Other Accountable: What does it look like?

Holding each other accountable means that once the boundary list is created and signed, each person will do his or her best to hold the other person accountable by addressing any issues as they come up. For example, if a family member agrees to no longer allow your loved one to use their vehicle, and they continue to do so, it would be up to you to hold them accountable.

It’s good to remind family that if they continue to enable your loved one, they lower his or her chances of seeking help. Everyone is taking this situation on as a team with a common goal, and the best teams hold each other accountable.

Ultimately, it’s Up to You

In the end, it is up to you, your friends, and family to make sure that you follow through with the boundary list. If days, weeks, and months down the line, your family begins to go back on those promises, it sends the message to your loved one that things will continue to be the way they always have been and that he or she will be able to comfortably continue in their addiction. Make a promise to yourself that you will no longer be a part of the problem, but instead, you will be a part of the solution.

The Intervention day

The Intervention Process:

Why we are here today (Read Letters)

    When the intervention begins, it should always start calmly, with emotions kept in check. The interventionist will open and state why we are here today. or alcohol abuse to continue.

Let the interventionist do the talking

    It’s important to remember to follow the lead of the interventionist and allow him or her to do the talking. No two interventions are alike, so it’s important to follow the lead of the interventionist who will know what direction to take with your loved one’s unique personality, history, and circumstances.

Assess reactions, Handle Objections, & Refusals

    The interventionist will direct each person to read their letters, as well as respond to any manipulation tactics or objections that arise. Boundary lists are to be brought up only after each person has said everything that they have to say, and there is still refusal. It is best to wait for the cue of the interventionists first.


When and Where are we going to intervene?

Together with the interventionist, you will decide where it is best to intervene on your loved one and at what time. We recommend a private, formal, and neutral setting. We understand that many times this is not possible. Discuss with your interventionist to come up with the best plan.

Brainstorming: Where and when do you feel it is best to hold the intervention?

Layout: Where Should Everyone Sit?

The intervention plan is usually having everyone seated in a circle. Close family should sit nearest to your loved one, followed by friends. We recommend that the most emotional family members should sit close to your loved one and read their letters. It’s very important for the interventionist to sit across from your loved one or in a seat that makes it easy to direct the intervention.

Objection Handling: 1,000 Reasons

When your loved one is being asked to go to treatment, he or she is likely to find 1,000 reasons why he or she is unable to go. During the intervention preparation, it is important to take into consideration all the things that will need to be handled when your loved one goes to treatment such as work, school, home upkeep, and rent.

It will be easier to handle the objections if you have thought them out and created a plan beforehand. Your loved one needs to feel secure that every aspect of his or her life will be taken care of during treatment.

Work – Your loved one may say he or she can’t go to treatment because of work. To handle this objection, remind your loved one that if he or she doesn’t get help there is a real possibility that their substance abuse will be the end of his or her career anyway. Getting treatment could ensure that they keep the job or career in the long term. Even if your loved one loses his or her job because they must go to treatment, it’s better than permanently losing their life to the progressing addiction.

Children – To handle this objection, it’s best to plan for the care of children while your loved one goes to treatment and do so before the intervention takes place. You want to have a plan in place to handle this objection and give the message that everything is covered—including the care of the children. It’s important to emphasize that your loved one’s drug and alcohol use is affecting the relationship with his or her children and if it continues it’s a real possibility that he or she may lose custody all together. Making a stable plan for the wellbeing of children is very important before going through with the intervention.

Husband/Wife/Significant Other – The way to handle this objection depends on the situation. It may be that your loved one’s significant other also wants your loved one to go to treatment. In this case, the objection is easily handled. In some circumstances, the spouse or significant other is also participating in substance abuse with your loved one. If this is the case, it’s important to emphasize the fact that they both need time away from each other to get help. If it’s possible to intervene and arrange treatment for the spouse or significant other as well, then that is the best course of action to take.

Interventions on only one person who is using with a significant other have a high likelihood of failure if the significant other is not included in the offer of treatment.

Pets – If your loved one has pets to care for, it’s best to plan beforehand who will take care of the pets. It can be family or friend, but hopefully, someone that your loved one can trust. It’s a loving gesture to ensure that your loved one’s pet is taken care of.

Court – If the court is involved for pending charges or sentencing, please discuss this with the interventionist so that you can come up with a plan to notify the courts. That way if this objection comes up, you can let them know that we have them covered.

House/Apartment Upkeep – If your loved one has a home or an apartment that needs to be upkept while he or she is in treatment, it is best to designate someone in the family to take on that responsibility.

Rent/Mortgage – Each situation is different. If you can help your loved one by covering his or her rent while a treatment program is completed, this is the best option. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, please speak with the interventionist so that you can come up with an alternative plan and a way to address this objection with your loved one.

Travel – Your loved one may be apprehensive about travel. The interventionist at that point, could explain the benefits of traveling out of the state for getting help and let your loved one know that his or her air travel is covered and taken care of, and that he or she will be accompanied by the interventionist for the entire trip.

Bargaining for a lower level of care – If your loved one begins to bargain and use any of the reasons listed above to attempt to get a lower level of care, such as outpatient treatment, it’s important to have someone speak up and say, “We have spoken to the professionals, and have confirmed that this is the level of care that you need in order to be successful, and this is the help that is being offered.” It should be made clear that there is no room for negotiating.

Reaction Handling (What-if Scenarios)

  • Immediately Walk Out – Before the intervention, it’s best to assign one person to follow behind your loved one if he or she decides to walk out. It must be someone that your loved one respects and has a good relationship with that can best persuade him or her to come back into the room.
  • Get mad – No matter how upset your loved one gets; family and friends should stay right where they are to continue expressing their love. It’s very important that no one reacts to your loved one’s anger and keep reminding him or her that you all are there to offer the gift of treatment.
  • Shut down – If your loved one shuts down during an intervention and doesn’t want to respond or speak; each person must go on reading letters one by one. If your loved one stays silent while you are offering treatment and does not give an answer after several requests, automatically go on to reading the Boundary Lists. Just remember to follow the lead of the interventionist.
  • Cry– Seeing your loved one cry can easily kick in the instinct to offer consolation. In this case, it’s best to not intervene too much if your loved one begins crying. Of course, it’s natural to feel sympathetic for your loved one, but in this situation, it’s best to not openly display sympathy that could later be taken advantage of.
  • Anger or Rage – Do not react to any displays of aggression or acts of violence. If your loved one begins to get angry, or go into a rage, it’s important for everyone to stay calm. Your loved one may feel that they have been lied to, betrayed, and some will feel plotted against. You can calmly let your loved one know that you are doing this out of love. It’s important for every person who is involved in the intervention to understand that reacting to your loved one’s anger is going to harm, not help, the situation.
  • Talk About Self Harm – Your loved one may threaten to harm themselves during the intervention; they may say
    something alluding to suicide such as, “It’s okay, I won’t be a problem for you anymore,” or something more direct like “It would be better if I just ended it all.” Suicidal threats can certainly be serious, but they can also be bluffs. Even if you feel that your loved one is bluffing or trying to manipulate the situation, suicidal threats must always be taken seriously, because unfortunately, those who have substance use disorders are at a higher risk for suicide.

If your loved one threatens suicide during the intervention, help must be sought immediately and your loved one must be evaluated by a psychiatric professional. Fear of your loved one committing suicide is not a good reason to back down on an intervention.

The truth is, your loved one’s life is in danger each time they abuse drugs or alcohol. If you think about it, substance abuse can be considered a slow suicide in and of itself.

While Your Loved One is in Treatment

When your loved one finally agrees to accept help, you will be relieved and ready to support your loved one in their treatment. Here are some things to take into consideration when it comes to supporting your loved one’s treatment in a healthy way.

The Objectives of Early Treatment

  • Medically supervised detox
  • Introduction to individual, group, and other forms of therapy
  • Assessments and subsequent one-on-one therapy sessions with a therapist
  • Allow your loved one to adjust to the therapeutic environment
  • Begin to instill new coping skills

If you decide to stay in contact with your loved one in the beginning of treatment, we recommend that you keep contact to a minimum. During early treatment, your loved one is adjusting to the treatment facility—the focus should be primarily on his or her treatment.

Be Prepared to Say No

When you speak to your loved one on the phone, be prepared. Your loved one may begin to cry and beg to leave. Your loved one will promise he or she is better and does not need to be in treatment anymore or will complain about the treatment center. You must be prepared to remain firm and remind your loved one of the boundary list that will be put into effect if treatment is not completed. If your loved one leaves the treatment center against medical advice, it would be just as if he or she refused treatment during the intervention. At this point, you would enforce the boundary list.

Phone Calls

Your loved one will be able to make a certain number of phone calls a day, depending on the current length of his or her stay in treatment. Some treatment centers do not allow their patients to have contact with anyone for 7 days or more in order to ensure that they are focusing on their treatment.

Sending Your Loved One Mail

Most treatment centers accept mail for their patients. Be sure to check with the treatment center and find out what is and isn’t allowed to be sent to your loved one. Only send items that are on the approved list. If you live out of the area of the treatment center, this can be a very helpful way to send clothes, shoes, books, or hygiene products to your loved one.

Sending Your Loved One Money

More than likely, the treatment center will be a cashless environment. A cashless environment lessens the chances of a patient being able to leave the treatment center and use money to purchase drugs or alcohol. Some treatment centers offer the option of purchasing gift cards to be used on weekend trips to the store.

If your loved one has money, your loved one should use his or her own funds while in treatment. If you choose to help your loved one by adding funds to a gift card, contact the treatment center office, or purchase a gift card through the website. It’s important for your loved one to have funds to purchase necessities during scheduled shopping trips.

Visiting Your Loved One in Treatment or Taking Your Loved One on Pass

After some time, you will be able to visit or take your loved one on passes. Only you can decide if you would like to do so. Of course, your loved one’s therapist must approve visitations and passes beforehand. Therapists will take into consideration how your loved one is progressing in treatment and assess the risk of relapse on pass. For visitation, it would be helpful for you to find out if your loved one wants to be visited; often, individuals who are early on in treatment should be spending the first couple of weeks alone, adjusting to the environment and focusing on getting better.

Participating in Family Therapy

While your loved one is in treatment, it’s important to show that you are willing to be a part of the treatment and recovery process. In fact, playing a supportive role by attending family therapy sessions (via phone or in person) can help pave the way for your loved one to have a more successful recovery. Of course, your loved one’s recovery doesn’t solely depend upon your participation, but studies have shown that it helps as it can help restore the damage that has been done to your relationship.

Family therapy is a way to begin healing and communicating in a healthy and productive manner.If you choose not to participate in family therapy, we recommend seeking out a support group foryourself such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

After Treatment

After your loved one finishes treatment, he or she begins on the next step to building a new life. The building of this new life is called recovery. You may have many concerns about your loved one and wonder if he or she will be able to apply what was learned in treatment. If your loved one has been to treatment numerous times, you may be expecting the worst but hoping for the best. The best thing you can do is continue to be supportive and keep an eye on your loved one’s progress.

Graduating Treatment Does Not Equal Completed Recovery

Treatment is just one of the first steps on the path to recovery. When a person graduates a treatment center, he or she is truly put to the test. Your loved one will need continued follow-up care after treatment. Your loved one may have follow-up outpatient visits or programs to attend. They can also seek out a support group themselves by joining 12-step groups, church programs, or other recovery-related activities. Your loved one should try to seek out a supportive community to continue to learn and adopt healthy habits.


It’s good to remain hopeful and optimistic that your loved one will find long-lasting recovery. Unfortunately, relapse can happen to anyone in recovery, especially those in the beginning stages. Some will work diligently to get back on track and identify the pitfall that leads them to that moment of relapse. Others may start using within days or weeks, and get right back to where they were before they went to treatment, picking up where they left off without making an attempt to stop. If your loved one relapses and does not reevaluate his or her life by getting back into recovery and seeking out help, it’s imperative that family and friends begin to put the Boundary List that was created during intervention into action.

We Are Here to Support You

Thank you for taking the time to read and complete this workbook. If you’re looking for an interventionist to help you find a good plan for your loved one, please call our helpline.

Have an addiction specialist help you.
Find the treatment you deserve!