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Use of Intervention in Substance Abuse

answered 12:50 AM EST, Fri November 18, 2011
After watching a lot of the show intervention on A and E I can see that bringing in an interventionist has a lot of value, but when I looked into it for our family situation I was surprised to learn how expensive they are, especially since there are traveling expenses that would need to be bundled in to get to us. (no one local performs this service).

We are trying to get my brother to agree to get some help for his drinking. He has always resisted any attempts but he has a new baby son now and my parents say they are now willing to stop his financial support unless he goes along with getting some help. This is something they were not willing to do before. These 2 things together make me believe that we have a pretty good shot of having him agree to get the help that he so obviously needs.

We have a certain amount of money available that should be enough to get him into a 1 month program that has a 2 month residential follow up program. This program was recommended to us by our doctor. If we spend several thousands on an interventionist we will have more difficulty paying for the treatment.

But then again, if we cannot convince him to go at all, then savings the interventionist money doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Is it worth it to pay for the professional help or are we best trying it out on our own?

Delisted Expert Says...

Let me see if I understand the exact nature of your brother’s alcoholism:

  1. Your brother does not recognize that he has an addiction problem.
  2. His family recognizes that he is alcoholic, and wants him to go into treatment even though the brother/son does not agree.
  3. You think your brother and family could benefit by use of a private interventionist even though your family does not have enough money to pay for your brother’s intervention and treatment.
  4. Your father is willing to stop giving your brother, with a new child, any more financial support unless he agrees to go into alcohol rehabilitation or treatment.

Your question is concerned about whether it would be valuable to use an interventionist or handle this situation as a family without professional intervention. I would like to offer you several points which, hopefully, will help you make the best decision about your desire for your brother’s treatment and sobriety.

  1. Your brother remains in denial about the exact nature or severity of his alcoholism.
  2. Your brother does not agree with his family that he has an alcohol problem.
  3. Your father is willing to cut off financial support for your brother as a way to entice him into going into treatment against his will.
  4. You have the support of your doctor who has recommended treatment for your brother.
  5. You have found a treatment center and program which sounds adequate for your brother’s treatment.
  6. You believe that the use of a private interventionist would increase the likelihood of your brother’s agreement to go into treatment.

As for background info, I used to do interventions in a major medical center so I do know how they work and what is involved. Let me share the following:

  1. Interventions do not guarantee the success of getting someone into alcohol rehab
  2. It can take weeks to months to appropriately organize an intervention.
  3. In an intervention, you want every stakeholder to be there and to be prepared to confront your brother’s alcoholism from their knowledge and experience of his drinking, its effects on the stakeholder, the family, and the alcoholic.
  4. The idea of an intervention is to “raise the bottom” for the alcoholic so that many of the end stage consequences of alcoholism can be avoided; for example, the loss of his family or health.
  5. The central feature of an intervention is that you care about the alcoholic and want him to stop the destructiveness of his alcoholism so you can get him back as the brother you know him to be.
  6. You have as many family members, friends, professionals, neighbors, employers, in-laws, etc., as possible in the intervention to give your brother feedback and “break through his wall of denial.”
  7. You can not threaten the alcoholic but you can make clear what consequences he can expect from others if he doesn’t adequately address his drinking problem.

The main problem is that your brother drinks but doesn’t recognize or admit he is an alcoholic. Your brother doesn’t see that he is getting ready to lose his family or their support. Whatever is done must be done in a loving manner, or else your brother will be defensive and potentially uncooperative.

You may want to see if there are any drug and alcohol counselors in your area which provide intervention services. This may provide you with some reduction of costs.

If you cannot afford an interventionist, you may want to use someone to serve as a guide for the intervention. Ideally, it would be someone who won’t be intimidated or back down but someone that your brother truly respects. Doctors, ministers, former coaches and teachers have been able to be effective in this capacity. Whatever you do, it is important that it is well organized and that there is a plan to take your brother for admission for treatment immediately after the intervention. If you cannot afford an interventionist, then your choice is to find the best person to lead and organize the interventionist and the parties involved.

Some websites which you may find useful are:




Additionally, some treatment centers will provide intervention services at no additional cost to the family. Have you checked into this?

I hope this information has been helpful to you in moving you closer to who, where, when, and to what extent your family and you are prepared to do an intervention for your brother. He can recover but needs someone to believe that he can. Please let me know if I can be of further service to you.


Best of Luck to your family, brother, and you,

John O’Neal, Ed.S, LPC

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Page last updated Nov 30, 2011

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