Do Alcohol Intervention Programs Work to Help Convince People to Change?

Do Alcohol Intervention Programs Work to Help Convince People to Change?


People email me frequently and ask questions.  One that I get all the time is: Should we do an intervention?  Do intervention programs actually help convince people to change, or are they a waste of time?

My personal opinion is that a large, full scale intervention like you tend to see on television is probably a waste of time in most cases.  Now that is not to say that these things never work, because obviously the sometimes do.  But I would like to point out a few cautionary notes here for you to think about if you are considering a drug or alcohol intervention for someone in your life:

* The intervention can create resentment, and may actually backfire in a way.  The alcoholic may then isolate themselves even more in anger.  It is a part of the risk, maybe not a huge risk, but it could happen.  And in some cases it does.

* Interventions are generally very expensive in cost, and they are also very expensive emotionally, for almost everyone involved.  This would not be a problem at all if interventions worked 100 percent of the time.  But the fact is that most interventions fail, in that even if the alcoholic agrees to get help, the long term outcome of that help is generally a pretty miserable statistic.  For example, do 100 interventions on 100 different alcoholics, then measure how many stay clean and sober for the next 5 years straight.  Definitely less than 10 percent will accomplish this, and probably less than 5 percent will hit these sort of numbers.

The cost is not all that high if they worked 90 percent of the time.  But they are not a magic bullet so in light of the long odds, the cost is actually pretty steep.  It is a bit like betting several thousand dollars on a 42 black at the roulette table.  Big money, long odds.  Sure it is great if it works.  But be realistic about your chances, too.

* I hate to sound so negative, because sometimes interventions do work.  However, my theory is that the intervention that actually worked was not necessary.  Because the person was ready to surrender, and was ready to get sober and finally change their life, my belief is that an informal intervention would have worked just as well.  This is not about money and I am not just trying to convince people to cheap out here.  The fact is that these professional intervention services do not really buy you a magic ticket to success.  I am afraid that most people who are desperate to see their loved one get the help that they need are grasping at straws, hoping that paying some money will get them improved odds.  The odds may improve very slightly, but understand that surrender is an either/or thing.  You are either in a state of complete surrender (that is necessary to get sober) or you are no.  If someone is stuck in denial, it is very rare that an intervention would push them the other way.  And if someone is right on the edge of the decision, then why go to the lengths of organizing and paying for a formal intervention, when you could do a soft approach and simply convince them to go to treatment on your own?

My advice is to call up local rehabs, see what your options are to get someone into treatment, and then push them hard to go to rehab on their own.  You might also organize a family intervention on your own by simply researching intervention guides online.  The professional services do not really add much of a magic touch, if at all.

My 2 cents, but I have lived through it too….