What is an Alcohol Abuse Intervention?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 02 August 2019
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An alcohol abuse intervention is a procedure in which several family members, friends and acquaintances gather and confront an alcoholic with the consequences of his behavior. This is normally done with help from an expert in substance abuse counseling, and it is usually carefully planned. Ultimately, the goal of an intervention is usually to get the alcoholic into a treatment program of some kind. The success rate of alcohol abuse intervention techniques can vary depending on the timing, and the way in which individuals confront the alcoholic.

Planning is considered important, because if an alcohol abuse intervention fails, the individual may become angry and bitter about the experience. Some alcoholics simply don’t respond well to criticism, and they may never forgive their loved ones for confronting them so openly. In some cases, families have been torn apart by failed interventions. Due to the risks involved, interventions are generally reserved for last-ditch attempts after milder techniques have failed.

The participants in an alcohol abuse intervention will usually tell the alcoholic all the different ways that his addiction has affected the lives of those around him. In most cases, the idea is to create a sense of remorse for bad behavior and generate a motivation for change. Generally, this is done very gently, to avoid creating feelings of bitterness or alienation. A professional counselor is usually on-hand to moderate the proceedings and make sure things are handled correctly.


Some experts think it’s very important to wait for the right moment before conducting an alcohol abuse intervention. In general, these experts advocate waiting until some major event has happened in the alcoholic’s life, like a car accident or a divorce. The idea is to find a moment when the alcoholic can clearly see how his behavior is generating negative consequences. This can potentially create a frame of mind in which an alcoholic might be more open to change than he would normally be, and this can be very crucial for a successful intervention. Some experts actually think that interventions are pointless unless the timing is handled very carefully.

In the past, interventions were often handled in a way that would surprise the alcoholic, but that has generally fallen out of favor. Many alcoholics responded to surprise interventions with a negative attitude, and even when they went into treatment, the lingering anger would sometimes make it more difficult for them to recover. The newer method involves letting the alcoholic know something in advance. He may be told outright about the intervention, or he may only have hints that family members are seeking some kind of counseling for him. With the newer approach, there is generally less bitterness, so the success rate has improved.



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