Alcoholism Intervention and How It Helps Recovery

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 24 , 
| 4 Sources

For friends and family of alcohol-addicted individuals, addressing the addiction through alcoholism intervention is among the most difficult aspects of helping the individual seek treatment.  An alcohol addiction intervention is a process in which the alcoholic is confronted by family members and friends about his drinking. It can motivate someone to seek help for alcohol misuse.

They talk to the alcoholic about his behavior and how the excessive, chronic, and irresponsible drinking has affected him and virtually everyone associated with him. Then, they plead with the person to seek treatment, and lists the consequences for failing to seek treatment.

Interventions aim to benefit both sides. The main focus is helping the family cease from protecting the alcoholic’s feelings and begin considering and thinking about what the family actually needs.

Alcohol abuse interventions are relatively common because one of the most significant factors of alcohol abuse is the individual's failure to realize how out of control he is, he can't admit to others or to himself that he has a problem. This is due to alcoholism denial.

The point of having an alcohol intervention with an alcoholic is to address his drinking problem and lead him to accept the fact that he needs professional help.

What Kind Of Intervention Should You Have?

In case the subject of the intervention is a teenager or in the first stages of alcoholism, an intervention can be as simple as a one on one conversation in which you express your concern to the drinker about his alcohol use - it is not an attack on that person and it doesn't always need to be followed by alcohol addiction rehab.

In cases the drinker is at the more progressive stages of alcoholism, it is recommended to consult with a health-care professional or addiction intervention consultant beforehand. (Read professional alcoholic intervention for more on undertaking this course of action)

An alcoholism intervention usually takes the form of a meeting involving the subject drinker and his family members, co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Each member states in his own words how he is concerned about the drinker's health and how he or she has been personally affected by the drinker's drinking (stress, pain and even violence).

When Is The Right Time To Do An Intervention?

First it's important to stress that you can never be too safe or intervene too early. The sooner you conduct an alcohol addiction intervention, the more pain and danger you will save the drinker in the future.

Early signs of alcoholism can quickly turn into severe alcohol abuse and can lead to accidents, legal trouble and serious health issues.

If your instincts tell you that something is wrong or if you notice signs of alcoholism it's imperative that you have an alcoholism intervention as soon as possible.

In the advanced stages the drinker tends to deny the fact that he has a problem. Thus, a good time for alcohol abuse intervention is right after a crisis occurs for the drinker such as: legal trouble, serious health issues or even when the alcoholic is caught lying about something of consequence.

Following the crisis, the drinker is more likely to be remorseful or to experience guilt which may increase the chances of a successful alcoholism intervention.

alcoholism intervention

When NOT To Do An Alcoholism Intervention

There are some times when you shouldn't attempt the conversation.

Reconsider if:

  • The subject of the intervention is drunk. Your intervention won't be productive - or remembered - if the subject is under the influence. Wait until he or she is sober, and then talk.
  • You're angry. Yelling isn't going to get you anywhere. Come from a place of love and concern, not anger.
  • You aren't prepared. You should know beforehand what you want to say to the drinker and the desired outcome for your alcohol addiction intervention. Come up with a specific purpose for your intervention, and then work towards achieving it.

Ten Tips To Ensure A Successful Intervention

  1. Tell the alcoholic that you are talking with other family members about his drinking problem several days prior to the actual intervention. Thus, when he is finally invited to the discussion, he does not feel "ambushed."
  2. Come from a place of love and concern, not anger. Make sure that you actually have a conversation and not a confrontation.
  3. Keep a cool head and speak calmly instead of yelling - don't get defensive when the drinker makes a remark that feels like a personal attack.
  4. Be direct - say exactly what you want, don't try go around the problem.
  5. Talk without judgment so that the drinker feels he can tell you the true.
  6. Talk about your own memories and mistakes so that the drinker can feel free to talk about his own mistakes.
  7. Focus on the behavior, not the person - The drinker may honestly fear he is disappointing or looking imperfect in his relative eyes. Emphasize again and again to the drinker that his drinking behavior is dangerous but that doesn't mean he is a bad person.
  8. Select the place of the intervention carefully. Choose a "controlled" environment, specifically selected to put the alcoholic in a position in which he is most likely to listen.
  9. Consult with a health-care professional or addiction intervention consultant before attempting the intervention.
  10. Don't be surprised if your appeal to things like children, friends, or even their own life and safety fall on deaf ears. One of the advanced alcoholism symptoms is loss of priority in terms of the things that are really valuable in life.

For more information and advice on acquiring the help and services of a professional interventionist, then take a look at Alcoholic Intervention: Using a professional.

What Are The Risks?

As one health care professional puts it

"There are a fair number of substance abuse treatment centers who have stopped doing these interventions because when the intervention fails, as it sometimes inevitably does, the family can be further torn apart by all the bad feelings about the intervention. Not a small point for a family already on the edge of destruction from having an actively alcoholic member."

Other experts believe that only when the alcoholic reaches out for help on his own is alcohol rehabilitation is possible. It's true that alcoholism intervention may lead the alcoholic to a more receptive state of mind and to accept the fact he needs help.

Nevertheless, when he finally goes to treatment following the intervention, it is more because of the external pressure and less because of a genuine self-decision. This means that, in the future, when the alcoholic encounters difficulties stying in treatment, the mere thought about the intervention, may lead to bitterness, resentment and distrust.

In Conclusion:

Alcoholism intervention has its risks, but when preceded by thorough preparation it has great advantages and may lead the alcoholic to a new way of life.

Remember, when initiating alcoholism intervention, come from a place of love and concern, not anger. Be aware of the fact that it's only the first step in the long path to recovery.

Taking the steps outlined above increases the chances of a successful intervention.

Find the Right Treatment For You!

With a lot of treatment options, therapy, and support groups out there, there is still hope for anyone with alcoholism to recover and be sober for good. If you or your loved one has a problem with and alcohol, please contact a dedicated treatment provider today to know more about the treatment options ideal for you.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Family First Intervention. Alcohol Abuse Intervention Program.

Psych Central. Family Involvement is Important in Substance Abuse Treatment. May 17, 2016.

Psychology Today. Drug and Alcohol Interventions: Do They Work?. August 27, 2014.

Mayo Clinic. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction.

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