Intervention - What is it and When Should I Consider It?

Intervention - What is it and When Should I Consider It?

According to the Encarta Dictionary, intervention is “The act of intervening, especially a deliberate entry into a situation or dispute in order to influence events or prevent undesirable consequences.”

Interventions are being performed countless times each day. When a child is stopped from running into the street in front of a car, someone is performing an intervention. When you spend the evening consoling a friend whose marriage is ending, an intervention is occurring. When your young daughter points out the dangers of smoking and asks you to stop, she is performing an intervention.

Interventions are often attempted with substance abusers by family or friends. In a recent newsletter entitled How To Get Someone To Seek Help, we discussed ways that family and friends can communicate with someone, get him or her to realize that they had a substance abuse problem and that they need help. In some cases, it is the overdose of a friend or an arrest that “intervened” and was the primary reason that the substance abuser agreed to seek help.

However, for a number of reasons it is sometimes necessary to bring in an outside “expert” to help convince the substance abuser that it is time to get help.


When you hire an interventionist, you are hiring someone for their knowledge and experience in getting a substance abuser to realize that they must seek treatment. Many of the successful interventionists with whom we have worked proceed in the following manner when they are contacted by the family/friends of the abuser:

  • The interventionist will gather data about the substance abuser and determine if he or she believes that they can help;
  • A contract will be signed between the family/friends and the interventionist setting forth the obligations of each party;
  • The interventionist instructs the family/friends on how to arrange the meeting with the substance abuser and the role each is to perform;
  • The interventionist meets with the family/friends before the meeting with the substance abuser. During this meeting:
    • The interventionist seeks to have the family/friends realize what they are doing that serves to enable the substance abuser and how these actions are actually harming the substance abuser by allowing this dangerous behavior to continue.
    • If the intervention meeting with the substance abuser has continued for a while and the substance abuser does not agree to seek treatment, the interventionist obtains the agreement of the family/friends to notify the person that they are no longer going to condone or enable their behavior.
    • These steps may include having the substance abuser move out, stop giving money to the substance abuser, cut off contact or stop other ways that they have been enabling the substance abuser.
  • The interventionist works with the family/friends to have an agreed-upon treatment facility selected and payment arranged for, and to have transportation arranged to the facility as soon as possible after the substance abuser agrees to treatment;
  • Because all people change their minds if given time, it is vital that the substance abuser be taken to treatment immediately after obtaining his or her agreement;
  • The intervention meeting occurs and the interventionist communicates to the substance abuser the following:
    • How much the family/friends care for the substance abuser;
    • How much the family/friends want only the best for the substance abuser;
    • The interventionist, who has recovered from a substance abuse problem himself, tells his story and listens to the substance abuser talk about his situation.
  • If at any time in the process, the substance abuser decides that it is time to seek treatment, then the interventionist travels with the substance abuser to the chosen facility as soon as possible;
  • If the substance abuser balks, then the family/friends explain the consequences if the substance abuser does not agree to obtain treatment.

Some interventions have taken place over a few hours and some have taken days. It often depends on the skill of the interventionist and the willingness of the family/friends to stop enabling the substance abuser. It is important that everyone understands that the first intervention may not be successful, but if the substance abuser finds that the family/friends are taking the steps to stop the enabling, then he or she may change their mind. If the substance abuser contacts the family/friends or the interventionist to express willingness to obtain treatment, then it is vital that the person be immediately transported to a treatment facility.


On the internet you will find many people who advertise that they do interventions. They may have nice websites, but all of us have learned that we have to look behind the website to see if someone is really appropriate for us.

Some people have many initials after their names and promote that they have advanced degrees and this makes them the better choice. Others simply advertise that they do interventions. The prices that they charge also vary widely. Some may charge $2,000 plus expenses of travel and others charge $10,000 plus expenses.

We think that selecting an intervention company should be made in the same way that you select any other professional. Here is what we recommend that you ask:

  • Are they licensed by any state to perform interventions (they may not be required to be licensed but many states do require licensing).
  • Do they have insurance in the event that there is a situation that develops while meeting with or accompanying the substance abuser to the treatment facility?
  • Who is going to be doing the intervention and can you speak with him or her?
  • When you speak to the interventionist, ask about their background and decide if you believe that they will be able to effectively communicate with the substance abuser.
  • Do they have any references with whom you can speak? (Because of confidentiality rules they may not be able to provide you with a name of a family but they can give you the names of people at treatment facilities that have worked with them.)
  • If you are still interested at this point, ask to see their contract.
  • Make sure the contract accurately reflects all the assurances made over the telephone.


      Few things are more tragic than watching a friend or family member ruin their lives by abusing a substance. At Novus Medical Detox Center we have helped a number of patients who came to us as a result of a successful intervention by friends and/or family. We have also helped a number of patients who came to us as a result of a successful intervention done by professionals.

      Few things are more exciting than seeing someone leave Novus Medical Detox Center safely withdrawn from OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax, heroin, methadone or psychoactive drugs. The smiles and expressions of gratitude from these patients are presents that we at Novus receive daily. Most important, these patients have successfully taken the first step to regaining their lives. We are delighted that we can help.

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