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Alcohol and Mental Health

Alcoholic Intervention Program: What Is It? How Should You Do It?

December 31, 2023
19 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 31, 2023
19 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 31, 2023
19 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 31, 2023
19 min read
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Reframe Content Team
December 31, 2023
19 min read

If you’ve ever wondered whether a loved one has a drinking problem, chances are they probably do. But no matter how obvious it may be, it can be difficult to know what to do about it or how you can help them. Do you just keep ignoring it? Try talking to them? Or stage an intervention? 

Holding an alcohol intervention may seem drastic, but it might be just the thing your loved one needs to get healthier — and happier. 

In this post, we’ll explore what an alcohol intervention is and how to do one effectively. We’ll also look at treatment options for those of us struggling with alcohol misuse. Let’s get started!

What Is an Alcoholic Intervention? 

Simply put, an alcoholic intervention is a structured meeting organized by family or friends of a person with alcohol misuse. The goal of the meeting is to encourage the person to seek help or treatment for their alcohol misuse by pointing out concerns related to their current drinking patterns. For instance, family or friends might comment on how drinking seems to have taken a toll on their health or caused them to neglect their daily responsibilities. 

Alcoholic interventions can be effective because they force the drinker to look at how their own behavior and actions have affected those closest to them. In other words, it can help them broaden their perspective. And seeing how many people they’ve affected — and how deeply — can give them the motivation they need to make a change. 

It’s worth noting that while interventions can be planned solely by family members and friends, they can be more effective when organized in conjunction with a doctor or another health care professional, such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. In fact, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says that 90% of people agree to get help when an intervention is conducted by a trained interventionist. 

How To Do an Alcohol Intervention 

So how do you actually do an alcohol intervention? Typically, an alcohol intervention unfolds in the following 8 steps: 

  1. Make a plan. Successful interventions require thoughtful planning. This is why it’s helpful to have the support, resources, and guidance of a counselor, psychologist, social worker or doctor. These qualified professionals can help develop a plan that specifically addresses our loved one’s circumstances and needs.

  2. Form the intervention team. It’s important to determine who will be part of the intervention. This often includes 4-6 close friends or family members, people who genuinely care about the person with alcohol misuse. The goal is to have a team of people to support and encourage the individual on their road to recovery. Don’t include anyone your loved one doesn’t like or those who might not be able to follow the agreed upon plan.

  3. Decide on consequences. Once you have an intervention team in place, it’s time to think about the specific consequences that you will present to the person struggling with alcohol misuse if they refuse treatment. The consequences should reflect how serious the intervention team is about their loved one getting help. Such consequences could include asking them to move out, losing visitation rights with children, or taking away their car.

  4. Determine what will be said. Each member of the intervention team should plan what they’re going to say ahead of time. The goal is to share concerns, feelings or examples about how the person’s drinking has affected them. Try using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For instance, you might say something like, “It was upsetting for me to see…” or “I’m worried about…” rather than “You have a drinking problem.” When the time of the intervention comes, it’s important to stick to your script.

  5. Choose a treatment plan. Part of an intervention includes presenting treatment options for the person to recover. This might include in-patient or out-patient rehab, attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), or going to therapy. A trained professional can help you determine which might be the best course of action for your loved one. It’s important to do your homework here and be specific by having names of rehab centers, AA locations, therapists, etc.

  6. Choose a time and place. The intervention team should agree on a time and place, preferably somewhere the individual feels comfortable and safe. Bringing them somewhere unfamiliar can raise their suspicion and immediately put them on the defensive. Once the time and place has been decided, it’s important not to tell the individual. When the day arrives, they will be brought to the location where the intervention team awaits.

  7. Schedule and hold the intervention. With all of the above steps completed, it’s time to actually hold the intervention. Every person on the intervention team will have a chance to share their rehearsed message. It’s important to each take a turn and not all speak at once. At the end, the person will be presented with a treatment plan and the predetermined consequences should they reject it.

  8. Follow up. This is one of the most overlooked steps, but it’s incredibly important. Once your loved one has agreed to get help, it’s important to walk with them every step of the way so they stay in treatment and don’t slip up. This might include offering to go with them to AA meetings, driving them to rehab, or even attending therapy with them. Knowing they have loved ones’ support and encouragement can make a world of difference. 

The intervention’s success depends on the planning that goes into it. Doing one haphazardly can only make things worse (planning doesn’t guarantee success, but not planning almost guarantees failure). At the end of the day, it’s worth taking the time to plan carefully and use the guidance of a trained professional.  

What To Keep in Mind During an Alcoholic Intervention 

Holding an alcoholic intervention can be a difficult, emotional experience. Here are 3 ways to protect yourself:

  1. Don’t take things personally. Depending on their personality and situation, your loved one might get angry, deny, or push back at what you’re saying. They might even try to blame you for their behavior. Try not to get offended or take things personally. Keep the focus on them, and remember they’re probably not their best self. You’re trying to help them, but they might need time and space to come to terms with what you’re saying and start to see the problem for themselves. 

  2. Don’t criticize or lecture. Try not to lecture or criticize your loved one, as this could cause them to become defensive and much less willing to hear what you’re saying. Avoid stigmatizing words like “addict” or “alcoholic,” as these can make them feel attacked. Again, focus on your concerns using “I” statements, and express them with compassion and love. 

  3. Don’t blame yourself. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s drinking problem. You’re not responsible for their behavior, and you can’t make them change. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to watch, you can’t make them stop drinking. The choice is theirs and theirs alone. 

How To Know When To Do an Alcoholic Intervention

Sadly, for many people, drinking is an ordinary part of life. Alcohol’s effects vary widely from person to person, so it’s not always easy to tell if someone’s alcohol intake has crossed the line from responsible, social drinking to alcohol misuse. 

While there’s no specific amount of alcohol that indicates someone is struggling with alcohol, certain signs indicate that they might need help. Here are 4 of them: 

  1. Inability to control their drinking. Someone struggling with alcohol misuse cannot control their drinking. Alcohol becomes the center of their world. So if our loved one can’t leave their drink unfinished, or if they seem unable to reduce their alcohol consumption, they most likely are misusing alcohol.
  2. Their drinking has increased. A telltale sign that someone is struggling with alcohol is an increase in the amount they’re consuming. For instance, maybe our loved one started out having one drink a day, but now they’ve increased to several daily drinks. Or perhaps they’re drinking at odd times of the day. Changes in alcohol consumption patterns are also indicators of a larger problem.

  3. Their personal and professional life is suffering. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to an inability to focus or a loss of interest in activities we previously enjoyed. Our loved one may be misusing alcohol if their drinking impedes their ability to fulfill daily responsibilities at home, work, or school, or if they’ve lost their motivation and productivity. 
  4. They deny or lie about how much they’re drinking. Oftentimes, friends and family members can recognize the signs of alcohol misuse before the person struggling does. If someone has already raised concerns about our loved one’s drinking and they become defensive or deny they have a problem, this likely means they need help. 

The bottom line? Educating ourselves on the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse is an important first step in helping a loved one. The more we know, the easier it is to spot problematic behaviors or patterns. Early intervention can help prevent the further deterioration of our loved one’s health, relationships, and well-being.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse

As we’ve learned, part of the process of intervention is presenting a clear treatment plan with options. With that in mind, here are some of the most common treatment options for those struggling with alcohol misuse: 

  • Attend a 12-step program or other support group. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most common treatment options for alcohol misuse. Support groups like this are beneficial because they’ll allow your loved one to spend time with others facing similar problems. They also provide advice on staying sober and help reduce any sense of isolation they might be experiencing. Studies show that the social connections provided by these groups can help people build confidence in their ability to avoid alcohol in social situations and to maintain their sobriety. (Reframe’s community forum can be a great place to start!)
  • Behavioral treatments. Individual, group, and/or family therapy can help your loved one identify the root cause of their alcohol misuse, repair damaged relationships, develop skills to stop or reduce their drinking, and learn to deal with the drinking triggers that might cause them to relapse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a particularly effective tool, and it’s one of the many types of therapy for alcohol misuse
  • Residential treatment or “rehab” facilities. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers provide intensive treatment for alcohol misuse. Choosing which one largely depends on the severity of your loved one’s condition. Inpatient facilities are more intensive; they require people to stay at a special facility for 30 to 90 days to receive treatment such as detox, therapy, and medication. During outpatient treatment, your loved one would attend set rehab appointments during the week but still reside at home. 

A trained professional or healthcare provider can help us determine which treatment option is best for our loved one. In severe cases, our loved one might have to go through detox or utilize medications to reduce alcohol cravings under the supervision of a medical provider. 

The Bottom Line

An alcoholic intervention can be a powerful way to help someone struggling with alcohol misuse. But it’s incredibly important to plan diligently and carefully to maximize its effectiveness. It’s best to have the support and guidance of a trained professional, who can help us determine how to approach our loved one, what to say, and what treatment options and consequences we present during the intervention. 

If you want to stop drinking, but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people quit alcohol and build healthier, happier lives. 

Summary FAQs

1. What is an alcoholic intervention? 

An alcoholic intervention is a structured meeting organized by family or friends of an individual with alcohol misuse to help them see how their drinking has become problematic.

2. What is the goal of an alcoholic intervention?

The goal of an alcoholic intervention is to encourage the individual to seek help or treatment for their alcohol misuse.

3. How do you do an alcohol intervention? 

To conduct a successful intervention, careful planning and communication are key. Assemble an intervention team, choose the right time and place, express concerns with "I" statements, provide specific examples of the impact of their drinking, present a clear treatment plan, and follow up. The key is to strike a balance between expressing concern and offering support without pressure.

4. What should you keep in mind during an alcoholic intervention?

Holding an alcoholic intervention can be a difficult, emotional experience. Try not to take things personally, avoid criticizing or lecturing, and don’t blame yourself for a loved one’s drinking problems.

5. What are signs that someone might need an alcohol intervention? 

Someone might need an alcohol intervention if they have an inability to control their drinking, the amount of alcohol they consume has increased, their personal and professional life are suffering, and they deny or lie about how much they're drinking. 

6. What treatment options are available for alcohol misuse?

Common treatment options for alcohol misuse include attending a 12-step or other support group, participating in behavioral therapy, or going to an in-patient or out-patient rehab facility.

Say Goodbye to Alcohol With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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