Keys to a Successful Alcohol Intervention

Keys to a Successful Alcohol Intervention

An intervention for a person with alcoholism is a way to gather loved ones together to confront the person with the end goal to get the person to quit drinking. Learn about the keys to a successful intervention for a loved one with alcoholism.


The planning and execution of an intervention can be long and challenging but the actual intervention itself will be relatively short. Interventions are often thought of as long-term processes, not one-time events. The basic steps are as follows:

  • Meet with an alcohol prevention specialist. A specialist will help stage an intervention in a manner that supports all parties involved. Licensed counselors and therapists can help everyone understand and plan the intervention.
  • Decide on a time and place. The best time to host an intervention is when it catches the person struggling with alcoholism off guard. Privacy is key and usually a loved one’s home is the best place.
  • Plan what will be said. Planning takes careful consideration, particularly around words. Each member of the group will decide what to say ahead of time, gather facts about the drinking behavior and effect on those around that individual. Some people write it down to make it easier to remember
  • Execution is key. The group must make sure the person with alcohol problems shows up at the agreed upon time and place. The intervention specialist will start having people in the circle read why the loved one needs help and end it with giving the person a choice to quit drinking or face consequences (removal of financial, emotional support).
  • Follow-up. The person will make a choice to stop drinking or face consequences. A specialist can provide information on possible treatment options or pre-arrange suitable treatment options ahead of time. If the person refuses to quit drinking, the loved ones must follow through on the ultimatum.

Principles for Success

There are seven principles outlined for a successful intervention. Interventions can fail for many reasons but the following principles can help family members be more successful:

  1. Meet with an intervention specialist. Do not try to stage one without support.
  2. Plan ahead including time, place and what will be said during intervention.
  3. Choose the right people to participate. The most successful interventions include a small, intimate group of people about whom the person with alcoholism cares and respects.
  4. Choose the right time. Timing is critical and the intervention must come as a surprise to the person who drinks.
  5. Speak out of love, not anger. Emotional outbursts can harm the outcome of the intervention.
  6. Follow through with stated ultimatums including putting an end to enabling behavior. Only then will the person recognize the need for help.
  7. Self care is important. Interventions can be stressful. It is best to have realistic expectations but practice self care throughout the process and be willing to change personal behavior through counseling or supportive services.

Staging a successful intervention can be confusing and stressful. If you are trying to plan an intervention for a loved one, the Villa has resources and tools to provide support for a loved one with alcoholism.