How to Conduct an Intervention



Alcohol and drug abuse is a problem close to everyone. Chances are there is someone in your family or circle of close friends that is either and alcoholic or has a drug addiction. It is important to realize that drug abuse might include both illegal drugs and/or prescription drugs. It is estimated that one out of every ten persons who drink alcohol are or will become an alcoholic. Whereas this blog is not intended to explain the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction it is intended to be a help to those who are considering an intervention as a way to help a loved one. Help is available for the victim and his or her family.

Not every intervention is the same as we are dealing with a complex problem and it requires certain skills to discern which specific direction should be taken with an intervention. However, there are six basic steps to an intervention.

Six Basic Steps of an Intervention (The Johnson Model):

Step 1: Make a list of meaningful persons other than yourself who surround the chemically dependent person.

Step 2: Form the intervention team.

Step 3: Make written lists of specific incidents or conditions related to the victim’s drinking or drug use that legitimatize your concern.

Step 4: Find out about treatment options in your area and make arrangements.

Step 5: Rehearse the intervention.

a. Designate a chairperson.
b. Go over each item on the written list that team members have prepared.
c. Determine the order in which team members will read their lists during the intervention.
d. Choose someone to play the role of the chemically dependent person during the rehearsals.
e. Determine the responses that team members will make to the chemically dependent person.
f. Conduct the rehearsals (two or more if needed.

Step 6: Conduct the intervention.
Remember that the goal of any intervention should be to obtain a commitment from the victim to receive the help the intervention team has arranged.

Principles of Intervention:
1. Meaningful persons in the life of the chemically dependent person are involved.
2. All of the meaningful persons write down specific data about the events and behaviors involving the dependent person’s chemical use which legitimatize their concern.
3. All the meaningful persons tell the dependent person how they feel about what has been happening in their lives, and they do it in a nonjudgmental way.
4. The victim is offered specific choices – this treatment center, or that hospital.

Sample intervention introduction when the victim arrives:
“______________________ (the name of the chemically dependent person), we’re all here because we care about you and want to help. This is going to be difficult for you and for us, but one of the requests I have to start out with is that you give us the chance to talk and promise to listen, however hard that may be. We know it’s not going to be easy for the next little while… Would you help us by just listening?”

Professional help should be sought if any of the following apply:
– The chemically dependent person has a history of mental illness;
– His or her behavior has been violent, abusive, or extremely erratic;
– He or she has been profoundly depressed for a period of time; or
– You suspect polydrug abuse but lack sufficient information or eyewitness accounts of the victim’s actual usage.
Hope this helps those who are considering an intervention as a way of getting help for their loved one. The most important thing when dealing with any intervention is to seek God’s will and direction. We serve a prayer answering God and He is able to help when others say it is hopeless.

For additional information on how to conduct an intervention you might want to order the following book:

Johnson, Vernon E. Intervention: How to help someone who doesn’t want help. Minneapolis, Minnesota: The Johnson Institute, 1986.


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