What is an Intervention?

What images come to mind when you think of an intervention? Do you imagine the infamous television show, with cameras following those affected by addiction? Do you think of a time that you decided to approach a loved one with honesty and concern? While these are both types of interventions, a clinical intervention can look a little bit different.

When a group of people orchestrates an attempt to persuade an individual to seek professional help, we call this a clinical intervention. The group may consist of friends, family members, coworkers, or others, and the identified problem issue is causing a self-destructive pattern in the life of the individual. This problem can include severe mental health problems or other challenges that are interfering with the daily functioning of the individual. These might include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Illegal drug dependence
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Prescription drug dependence
  • Sex and process addictions
  • Eating disorders
  • Mental health disorders

Though it can occur quickly, an intervention is a deliberate attempt to convey ideas, emotions, and facts to motivate a loved one to move past ambivalence or fear and consider a real change in their life. Often a person may be unaware or in denial about the extent of their behavior, and they have not considered how their own problems have negatively impacted the lives of others.

Friends and family are often the first people to notice negative patterns in a person’s life, but they frequently second-guess their instincts. They might make hints or suggestions that help is needed, but these are generally met with minimization or denial, especially when a person is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Families also often decide to refrain from intervening until larger problems emerge, such as medical issues, employment difficulties, financial or legal problems, or escalating relationship problems. They might also notice the individual is making frequent excuses for his or her behavior and isolating from others. By this point, denial, depression, and anxiety have tightened their grasp in the life of their loved one.

How Do You Know When To Act?

If you’re not sure when it’s time to make the call and get intervention support, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your loved one isolating or withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed?
  • Do they speak or act as though they don’t care what happens to them?
  • Do they deny or minimize problems in their life?
  • Have they suffered some sort of life setback such as job loss, financial crisis or relationship issue?
  • Is their behavior either secretive or erratic and causing concern?
  • Have they experienced medical complications because of the behavior?
  •  Have they been arrested as a result of their behavior and facing criminal charges?

Preparing For an Intervention

If you have already attempted to intercede in the life of your loved one, and they are continuing the destructive behavior, then you might want to consider taking active steps in preparing for an intervention. Though the process may feel scary or uncomfortable, the benefits of taking positive actions are worth the risk. Choosing to do nothing and hoping for change rarely produces the desired result. The negative behavior or dependence will continue to cause negative aftershocks in the family if nothing changes.

It is my belief that the loved one should be involved in the intervention process and should be encouraged to work on their recovery. Addiction breeds isolation, resentment, denial and despair. This may be the first opportunity for the family to work cohesively as a unit to openly work on resolving these issues. While many families are openly frustrated, hurt and angry, the intervention process provides a safe and effective means to channel these emotions.

During our first conversation, I will consider the facts of the situation and help the caller develop an intervention plan of action. The intervention plan of action is the summary of the intervention assessment, which includes family’s responses and the relevant information. By planning ahead, family members are prepared to convey the crucial information about the impact of the problem behavior and plan to have any and all questions answered.

Planning an intervention also entails exploring potential resources that can help a person move towards recovery. Friends and family can learn about phone support, residential treatment, family education, and counseling options available to them. They can also gather information about sober companion services, drug and alcohol testing and other related services offered on this site.

Intervention preparation and action is a fluid, ongoing plan of action to address and resolve crisis situations that have overwhelmed the loved ones family and friends. Though it’s a key element for recovery, the first intervening conversation is just the first step. The intervention plan is a long-term recovery course of action, where your loved one is an active participant in its development and execution.

Remember, recovery is possible, and an intervention can be a positive turning point in the life of someone who has lost hope and a way forward. What can you do to intervene in the life of your loved one today?


Cliff Koblin specializes in proving mental health interventions in the tri-state New Jersey area. Read testimonials from his partners in this field.

Contact us to learn about intervention services or call (609) 333-1096

Mental Health Interventions

Updated on 2016-07-12T16:51:11+00:00, by Cliff.