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Planning An Intervention On An Adult Child Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

January 23, 2019

Planning and staging an intervention for an adult child is difficult, however, as their parent, you are in a unique position to potentially save their life.

You’ve raised your child to the best of your abilities, watched them succeed in life, and are extremely proud of all they’ve accomplished. Unfortunately, they’ve developed an addiction that is threatening to tear their lives apart. Unfortunately, an intervention may be necessary.

Create The Intervention Team

A successful intervention team needs to be filled with people whom your child loves and respects and who have some influence on his or her decision making. Each needs to be willing to work together positively to make the intervention a success. Try to avoid including people on the team who dislike each other or whom your child dislikes.

People to have on an intervention team include:

  • Family members
  • Sober friends
  • Spouses and children
  • Grandparents
  • Other relatives with whom they are close
  • Doctors
  • Employer

Schedule A Time

Specialists will commonly say that interventions are most successful when the person is sober: their mind will be clearer and their decisions more realistic. Figure out the typical schedule for your adult child and figure out when they use and when they are sober.

Perhaps they go to work sober and only start using when they get home from work. Or perhaps they start to sober up just before bedtime. Schedule the intervention during these periods and during a time when they’re not working, such as a day off during the week or even the weekend.

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Including their employer in this process can help make it easier: hopefully, they’ll be willing to work with your loved one and give them the time off they need to recover.

Now, you need to set it in a comfortable location, such as at home, in a private room at a community center, or a similar place to make it less foreboding. This helps alleviate the tension your loved one is likely to feel during the process.

Create A List Of Talking Points

Before the intervention, everyone needs to create a list of important talking points. These should focus on the negative impact of your child’s addiction. Try to use language like: “I love you and I know you’re a good person, but your addiction has changed you.” It’s important for your child to know that you love them, even if they have caused you severe pain.

Likewise, behavior during an intervention cannot be confrontational: if your child feels attacked or condescended to, the intervention is likely to be a failure. Intervention behavior guidelines include:

  • Gentle speaking tones
  • Loving language
  • Acting supportive and caring
  • Focusing your child on the problems of their addiction

Behavior like this lowers the risk of making them feel isolated, alienated, or attacked. Hopefully, it will compel them to listen to you as honestly as you’ve approached them.

Force A Choice

At the end of the intervention, you need to force a difficult choice on your child. For example, make them choose between going to rehabilitation or getting kicked out of the house. Or you can also discuss potential jail sentences they may face if their drug use continues.

For both you and your adult child, this will be the most emotionally devastating moment. Obviously, you don’t want to force them out of the family. And they don’t want to have to choose between losing something dear to their lives or continuing their addiction.

However, creating an ultimatum forces your child to understand the severity of their addiction and its impact. That understanding should help to inspire them to make the right choice and get the help they need.

Follow Up

Once your child has checked into rehabilitation, you need to follow up on their progress. The process of recovery is complex and it will require a strong, secure, and capable parent guiding them through the process.

A successful intervention often leads to successful rehabilitation, but your child may still struggle. If they relapse, you need to approach their recovery as if you are helping them recover from a sickness.

Remember: only loving, positive, and mature parents can help their adult child recover from addiction. Even if they’re no longer children, you can still serve as an important support system.

Call A Professional

No family should face an intervention on their own: a professional intervention specialist will increase the potential success of your intervention. If you need help finding one, please don’t hesitate to contact us at We will help you find the intervention specialist and rehabilitation center right for your child’s unique addiction needs.

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