Family Members and Interventions: Do Interventions Work? 

Substance use disorders are responsible for impacting millions of people each year across the United States. For example, in 2020 alone, 40.3 million people were diagnosed with this condition.1 These millions of people are not the only ones being affected by substance use disorders, but so are their friends, family, and loved ones.

This article will discuss what interventions are, if they are effective, and what are some helpful and unhelpful ways to confront a loved one who needs professional addiction treatment.

How to Recognize Addiction in a Loved One

Mother having hard convo with daughter

It can be difficult to determine if what your loved one is experiencing is addiction or not. There are, however, specific symptoms that are used to define a substance use disorder that a person must meet in order to receive this diagnosis.2 Some of these criteria include the following:2

  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut back use
  • A large amount of time is spent obtaining, using, and recovering from the substance
  • Unable to fulfill and/or maintain roles or responsibilities at work, home, and school due to taking the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance even when doing so is physically hazardous
  • Continuing to use the substance regardless of persistent or recurrent physical and/or psychological problems that result or are exacerbated by use of the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing the substance

Additional criteria used to diagnose an addiction, as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), can be found here.

If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can be helpful to determine a constructive way to get them the care they need. For some, interventions can help.

What Is an Intervention?

The term “intervention”, which literally means to intervene, is used to describe the event in which concerned friends and family of individuals struggling with addiction confront them in an effort to get them to seek help.3

Types of Interventions

There are various types of interventions. Some are more preferred than others, but different approaches may work for different people.

Some of the most common intervention methods include the following:

  • Johnson Model: A social network confronts the person in the presence of a licensed professional. There’s a lot of pre-planning involved with this model.4
  • Family System Model: The family system model of intervention gets all members of the family together (including the individual with the substance use disorder) to communicate their feelings, discuss the impact addiction has had on them, and receive counseling and encouragement. Everyone receives care with this specific model.5
  • Love First Intervention: This type of intervention focuses on utilizing love and concern in a specific manner to help push past denial and get a loved one the help they need for their addiction.6

Additional types of interventions include the Confrontational Model, the Tough Love Model, and ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement). Depending on several factors, one of these interventions can be helpful in getting your loved one the treatment the need.

Do Interventions Work?

Researchers have found that most interventions are largely ineffective.7 Interventions can often have the opposite effect, propelling the person into violence or avoidance.7

The success of an intervention is contingent on a variety of factors, such as the people who are present.8  For example, the people attending the intervention must be important members of the person’s life, such as those who they deem trustworthy and respectable.8 If the intervention group includes family members or friends that the person has troubled relationships with, the chances of success of the intervention drop.8

Confronting a Loved One with Addiction

Support group in session

Confronting a loved one can be done without the need for an intervention. A personal confrontation with someone may be more helpful in getting them resources for treatment, but it must be conducted in an open and honest way. There are specific approaches that should be utilized.  It’s imperative to know the approaches that can cause harm to the person because it could worsen the overall situation.

Watch our full series on “How to Talk to a Family Member with an Addiction.”

Helpful Ways to Confront a Loved One

You, as a family member, have many different methods of confronting your loved one. Some of those ways include the following:9

  • Show compassion. It will help your loved one see that you are genuinely concerned and want to support them.
  • Be open with them. Sharing your personal experiences with addiction and substance misuse can help reduce the shame and guilt the person may feel.
  • Be direct. This can eliminate any confusion about your concerns.
  • Offer resources. Having resources readily available can help the person get into treatment quickly if they are open to it.
  • Use active listening. Listen to what they’re saying, show your understanding, and validate what they’re feeling.

Unhelpful Ways to Confront a Loved One

There are many things you may want to avoid when you approach a loved one with your concerns about their substance misuse. Some of these include the following:

  • Using stigmatizing language. Language can be a huge barrier to treatment. Using language that’s associated with negative connotations about addiction can cause the person to perceive that you’re judging them and can lead to defensiveness. Avoid using words like junkie, addict, alcoholic, drunk, and abuse.10
  • Confronting the person in a public place. Choosing a safe and private location can put the person at ease and show respect for their privacy.9
  • Raising your voice. This behavior can lead to the activation of the person’s fight or flight system, and they might think that you are angry with them and/or become defensive.

Seeking guidance from a professional can help when planning how you are going to confront your loved one. A professional can provide more tips and resources that can assist you with the conversation.

Getting Help for a Substance Use Disorder

Recovery from addiction is possible. At Desert Hope Treatment Center, several levels of care are available including outpatient addiction treatment and inpatient rehab in Las Vegas. If living in a supportive, substance-free community is what you need, Desert Hope also offers sober living at Resolutions in Las Vegas.

Call today to discuss you or your loved one’s specific needs. Our admission navigators can explain the rehab admissions process and what to expect in inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment.

They will assist you with using insurance to pay for rehab in your local area. If paying for rehab is a concern, the admissions team will work with you to help find affordable options.

Quickly verify your insurance by filling out our . Please don’t wait to get the help you deserve.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from Henderson.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Humana or Carelon offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.