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Alcohol Interventions: Process, Types & How to Stage

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Alcoholism can negatively impact every area of a person’s life, including their relationships. An alcohol intervention can be the first step loved ones take to support an individual’s recovery.

When you witness a loved one experiencing an alcohol use disorder, it can feel overwhelming and hopeless. However, interventions provide a way for friends and family to support their loved one and encourage them to seek treatment. With an 80-90% effectiveness rate in the individual seeking treatment after an intervention, this option is worth a try. The key is to obtain professional help to carry out the intervention. 

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What Is Alcohol Intervention?

Alcohol intervention is a carefully planned process designed to help someone struggling with alcohol addiction recognize the extent of their problem. The goal is to encourage them to seek help and enter treatment. It involves the participation of family members, friends and often a professional interventionist.

Alcohol Intervention Process

The alcohol intervention process is a series of steps designed to ensure the intervention is as effective as possible. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Planning stage: This is the initial stage where the need for an intervention is identified. It’s crucial to involve a professional interventionist at this stage to guide the process and ensure it’s done correctly.
  2. Gathering information: Learn about the extent of the loved one’s alcohol misuse and research the condition and treatment programs. This knowledge will be helpful during the intervention.
  3. Forming the intervention team: This team typically includes close family, friends and a professional interventionist. Everyone on the team should be committed to the person’s recovery.
  4. Deciding on specific consequences: If the person refuses to seek help, the team must decide on consequences. These could include limiting contact or withdrawing financial support.
  5. Making notes on what to say: Each team member should prepare what they’ll say. These statements should be nonjudgmental and express concern for the person’s well-being. Be honest about the impact of their actions without blaming or shaming them. Reiterate that you love and care about the individual. 
  6. Holding the intervention meeting: The person is confronted in a non-threatening way. Each team member expresses their concerns and urges the person to seek help.
  7. Following up: After the intervention, it’s important to follow up. If the person has agreed to seek help, assist them in finding a suitable treatment program. If they’ve refused, the agreed-upon consequences should be implemented.

What Is the Role of a Professional Interventionist?

A professional interventionist is a trained expert who guides the intervention process. They help plan the intervention, provide education regarding alcoholism and treatment options, coach team members on what to say and provide support during the intervention meeting. Their expertise can be invaluable in ensuring the intervention is successful.

Types of Alcohol Interventions

There are several types of alcohol interventions, each with its unique approach:

  • Crisis Intervention: This is used when the person’s alcohol use has led to an immediate crisis, like a medical emergency or legal trouble.
  • Brief Intervention: This short, one-on-one intervention focuses on increasing the individual’s insight and awareness about their alcohol use.
  • The Johnson Model: This confrontational model involves a team of people expressing concern about the person’s drinking and urging them to seek help.
  • ARISE: A less confrontational model, ARISE encourages the person to collaborate with their intervention team to find solutions.
  • SMART: This stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It’s a secular program that emphasizes self-reliance and self-empowerment.
  • Family Systemic Intervention: This model involves the entire family and focuses on constructive solutions rather than blame.

Things To Avoid During an Alcohol Intervention

Avoid Coercive Behavior

Coercive behavior involves forcing someone to do something they don’t want. In an intervention, it’s important to avoid this. Instead, encourage open conversation and understanding. Remember, the goal is to help, not to control.

Avoid Shaming

Shaming the person can make them feel attacked and defensive. This can lead to them shutting down and not listening to the expressed concerns. Instead of shaming, focus on showing concern and love.

Avoid Displaying Anger

Anger can escalate the situation and make the person feel attacked. It’s important to stay calm and composed. If you feel anger rising, take a moment to breathe and calm down before continuing.

Avoid Hurtful Comments

Hurtful comments can cause emotional harm and make the person feel attacked. Always speak with kindness and respect. Remember, the goal is to help the person realize they have a problem, not to hurt their feelings.

Avoid Ambushing the Individual

An intervention should not be a surprise attack. The person should be aware that a serious conversation is about to take place. Ambushing them can lead to feelings of betrayal and can damage trust.

An intervention is a delicate process. It’s important to approach it with care, understanding and respect. The goal is to help the person realize they have a problem and encourage them to seek help. It’s not about blaming or shaming them.

Potential Impact of Alcohol Intervention

Successful alcohol interventions are linked to reduced alcohol intake and a lower risk of trauma recidivism. Your loved one may also feel cared for and loved, knowing their support system is concerned for them, leading them to seek treatment. 

Risks involved with interventions include the individual feeling attacked and defensive. Your relationship may become strained. If they refuse to seek treatment, you’ll have to follow through with the decided-on consequences.

Recovery From Alcohol Addiction Is a Phone Call Away

Alcohol addiction can be a challenging journey, not just for the individual struggling but also for their loved ones. Remember, you’re not alone in this. Alcohol interventions can be a powerful tool to help your loved one recognize their problem and take the first step toward recovery.

At The Recovery Village Kansas City, we understand the complexities of addiction and the courage it takes to seek help. Our dedicated team of professionals is committed to providing comprehensive, individualized treatment plans to help you or your loved one overcome addiction. Get in touch with a Recovery Advocate today to start the admissions process.


American Psychological Association. “Johnson Intervention.” 2011. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

ARISE Network. “An Overview of ARISE® Comprehensive Care with Intervention.” 2020. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Association of Intervention Specialists. “Intervention – What is the Success Rate?” April 18, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Association of Intervention Specialists. What is the Family Systemic Model? May 2, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Bennett, M., et al. “Self-management toolkit and delivery strategy for end-of-life pain: the mixed-methods feasibility study: development of the SMART intervention.” Health Technology Assessment, December 2017. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Gentilello, L.M., et al. Alcohol Interventions in a Trauma Center as a Means of Reducing the Risk of Injury Recurrence.” Annals of Surgery, October 1999. Accessed August 16, 2023.

Mattoo, S.K., Prasad, S., & Ghosh, A. “Brief intervention in substance use disorders.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, February 2018. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Roberts, Albert & Nalbo, Rakesh. “The Seven-Stage Crisis Intervention Model: A Systematic Blueprint for Intentional Crisis Response.” May 2020. Accessed August 16, 2023.