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When Should I have an Alcohol Intervention for a Loved One?

If you’ve watched enough TV you’ve probably come across the popular program Intervention. Interventions have been utilized for decades but have become more popular recently through a combination of pop culture, the proliferation of treatment options, and less stigma surrounding alcohol abuse.

Unfortunately watching shows about interventions will not make you an expert. An alcohol intervention is a tough and complex process. Let’s learn more about alcohol intervention including what it is, myths and misconceptions surrounding interventions, when you should have an alcohol intervention for a loved one, and more. Intervention is one of many tools utilized to help people recover but it is by no means a cure-all.

What is an Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is a tool to help both an alcoholic and their loved ones take the first steps in alcohol treatment. An intervention can be planned, or a surprise but the number one goal of an intervention is to get an alcoholic and loved ones together to discuss the issues and find constructive solutions to the problem. The idea behind an intervention is not that everyone is berating an alcoholic about their addiction but showing the sufferer they have allies in their fight against booze and it’s time to get help. It’s positive peer pressure.

Interventions are meant to be productive, positive, and lead to both direct and indirect steps. They are not meant to aggressively confront, complain, or belittle. Common intervention techniques including the sharing of personal stories, reading of letters and letting the alcoholic speak about their relationships. Interventions usually end with an option for direct treatment.

How Bad Does It Have to Be for an Intervention?

The biggest misconception about alcohol intervention is that someone has to be in severe trouble for an intervention. Though traditionally interventions are one of the last steps in urging someone to get help – it doesn’t have to be.  An alcoholic does not need to be on their deathbed, does not need a rap sheet twelves pages long, and does not have to alienate their entire group of friends and family to warrant an intervention.

Someone simply needs to have a problem that their family and friends want to discuss directly with them in order to have an intervention. That is when someone needs an alcohol intervention. If you are scared your grandfather’s drinking is accelerating his health issues or your best friend is becoming a different person, you can let them know through an intervention.

Though someone doesn’t have to be drowning for an intervention, it is often utilized as a last-ditch effort. If you have been urging a loved one to get help for months or years with no success, it may be time to utilize an intervention. If someone is in failing health or experiencing severe issues due to alcohol, it’s best to call a counselor right away.

wife staring at alcoholic man

The Intervention Specialist

If you are going to hold an intervention, you must have an intervention specialist. An intervention specialist is a certified counselor or medical professional who knows how to handle alcohol and drug interventions. You may meet the specialist several times before the intervention to discuss the sufferer, their history of abuse, their personality, and more. An intervention specialist doesn’t just moderate the intervention but sets a plan for before and after the intervention.  

Two Types of Interventions

Johnson Model – The Johnson Model is what most people think of when they think of an alcohol intervention. In the Johnson Model, the alcoholic is not made aware of the intervention until their arrival.

ARISE Model – A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement (ARISE) is a form of intervention in which the alcoholic is invited to participate from the beginning. There are no surprise confrontations or secret meetings with this planned method.  

There is no set data to help confirm which type of intervention is the ‘best.’ Different models work for different alcoholics in different settings through planned interventions have become more popular recently. An intervention specialist can help determine which type of intervention will work best after learning more about the sufferer.

What Not to Do at an Alcohol Intervention

  • Yell at, berate, or otherwise go after the alcoholic with anger. This will only lead to the alcoholic leaving the room and not wanting to deal with the issues at hand.  
  • Do not purposefully try to catch the alcoholic by surprise. This includes directly after work or other stressful times where they may not be emotionally ready.

Many alcoholics are not notified of their intervention beforehand, but planned interventions have become more commonplace. In a planned intervention the alcoholic knows they are being confronted about their issues and can choose, or not choose, to participate. Trying to ‘spring’ an intervention on someone will not end well.

  • Try to hold an informal intervention or one not overseen by an intervention specialist. On the surface interventions are simply a group coming together to discuss issues with a loved one but there are plenty of psychology and nuanced issues at play that must be handled by a specialist.
  • Do not count your chickens before they hatch. Interventions are often the first step in long-term sobriety, but interventions do not always result in quick recovery. Don’t expect an alcoholic to immediately check into rehab or achieve sobriety instantly after an intervention.

If You Believe You Need to Plan an Intervention

If you’re scared a loved one will hurt themselves or others, or if you need to discuss someone’s alcoholism in a controlled, safe, and managed setting, an intervention might be the best step to take. Talk to a licensed intervention specialist to see what you need to do to help a loved one today.

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