Thinking About an Intervention? How to Know When It's Time

Written by Jeff Schmerker

First Step: Make a Plan—and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Addictions damage the lives of addicts and those around them. Those looking for help may quickly learn that simply talking to the addict does not get the results that are needed. For many, the next step is an intervention.
An intervention can be successful in getting addicts to admit they need help, but don’t be fooled by TV shows – they are also complicated and can even be risky. Here’s what you need to know about an intervention if you are thinking one could help in your situation.

Signs That It Is Time for an Intervention

When have things gone too far? Here are some tipping points.

  • Secretive behaviors
  • Health effects
  • Increased tolerance
  • Changes in appearance
  • Effects on family and finances
  • Legal trouble
  • Feelings among other members of the family or social group that action is needed

Types of Interventions

There are four key types of interventions – consultation with a professional can help you sort out which one is right for you.

  • One-on-one: This may work if the issue is new and not severe.
  • Classic intervention: Like what you see on TV.
  • Family system: This may be needed if multiple family members are hooked on the same substance.
  • Effects on family and finances
  • Crisis interventions: The scare of actually dying can help an addict see her situation with greater clarity.

First Step: Make a Plan

An intervention should not be an ad hoc assembly – before holding one you need to know exactly what problems you want to address and be able to say them without anger spilling out. You should also have a treatment plan ready to go and a plan of action – AKA, an ultimatum – if the addict refuses help.
You may wish to have a doctor or interventionist involved in the planning and even present at the meeting. For help in finding a qualified professional near you, search for providers at

MORE: 6 Things You Need to Know About Confidentiality in Addiction Treatment

Reality Check: What the Intervention Can (and Should) Convey

While uncomfortable, a significant benefit of an intervention is its opportunity to display in real-time the problems caused by addiction. An addict’s friends and family can stress how the drug dependency:

  • Has become a serious threat
  • Is a medical disorder
  • Needs immediate treatment in a partial hospitalization program, inpatient rehab, or some other form of drug and alcohol rehab setting
  • Has worsened to the point that relationships at home, work, and elsewhere will change if the addict refuses to get help

What is the Best Time to Hold an Intervention?

The dynamics of drug abuse means that while no time will ever be perfect, those participating in the intervention should strive to line up a handful of variables. Chief among those is that everyone is physically available to confront the addict. This is unlikely to be the first time that treatment has been suggested, but it likely will be the first time treatment has been demanded by so many people simultaneously. Other points to line up:

Most addiction counselors agree that the friends and family of the addict should not worry about holding the intervention “too soon.” Early treatment is always recommended because less severe addictions are easier to treat and the patient may have better outcomes, including fewer relapses and the possibility of a quicker return to sobriety after a relapse.
Experts also agree that if an intervention does not end with a person agreeing to immediate drug rehab and medical detox treatment, the intervention can still create positive momentum in the addict’s life.

For help finding an intervention counselor or a treatment facility, visit or call (888) 842-5501.

I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE NOWConsidering Recovery? Talk to a Treatment Specialist: 888-844-3455Response time about 1 min | Response rate 100%
Who Answers?
Buprenorphine Doctors

Who Answers this Call?

This phone line is answered by Compass Hotline, which is sponsored by Compass Detox, our drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility sponsor.

To discover alternative addiction treatment options, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Locator the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol Treatment Navigator.