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The Role of an Addiction Intervention Specialist

The role of an addiction intervention specialist is to run an event tailored toward getting a person struggling with drug abuse into treatment. They will gather a group of that person’s loved ones and close associates, prepping the intervention team on how to best confront the person about their drug abuse and maximize the chance of them getting help.

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What Is an Addiction Intervention Specialist?

An addiction intervention specialist, or interventionist, is a social worker who helps people struggling with addiction get into treatment. One of their main jobs is preparing a group of people who are important to the individual for an intervention

In this event, the team will confront the individual about their struggles and the fact they need help in a guided process. The goal is healthy dialogue that maximizes the person’s chance of getting the help they need.[1] When performed well, interventions can motivate someone to enter addiction treatment.[2] 

How Do Intervention Specialists Work & Operate?

While the specifics of their approach can vary, an interventionist has studied addiction and its treatment, learning the evidence-based ways to get people into recovery. While they may be able to serve in other treatment roles, their primary goal is getting people into treatment rather than providing the regular addiction treatment a person will be given once they enter into treatment.[3] 

An interventionist will work with important people in the subject’s life, like their family members, friends, and colleagues, aiming to recruit these individuals for an intervention. This event will involve the people making prepared statements meant to highlight why the individual needs help and trying to convince them of why that help is so necessary. 

One of the most important jobs of an interventionist is to keep this event productive.[3] While things may get emotional, the goal is always to get the individual into treatment. It is not intended to air grievances, argue, or address relationship issues. 

What Issues Are & Aren’t Addressed in This Event?

As mentioned in the previous section, the goal of an intervention event is solely to get a person into treatment. A person can’t typically be forced into addiction treatment. Even if they could be, treatment is almost always more effective when a person consents to that treatment.[4] 

The interventionist will help members recruited for the event write statements about why the individual needs help. These intervention letters will often highlight specific instances where the person’s drug abuse did harm. The statements shouldn’t come off as overly hostile or unfair. The core should be an expression of love and a desire to help.

Even if a person has other problems, these problems won’t typically be addressed in an intervention. It isn’t a time for belittling a person regardless of how angry one might be about their past behavior. In essence, the point should be to maximize the chances that a person can get the help they need by listening to an expert’s guidance. Anything else, if necessary at all, should come later.

Differences Between Addiction Intervention Specialist vs. Therapist

There is overlap between an addiction intervention specialist’s abilities and those of an addiction treatment therapist. Both will have a deep understanding of addiction treatment, and in some cases, one individual might be able to serve either role. The main difference between these roles is the overall goal.

An interventionist has what is primarily a short-term goal: to get a person into treatment. This is a major, essential step in the recovery process, and for many people, it can be one of the most difficult. 

Denial is common in addiction, and people may refuse treatment that they need. Getting a person to admit they have a serious problem with drugs and to seek help for that problem can be a complex, challenging task. These specialists focus on making it as easy and effective as possible for both the person struggling with addiction and their families.  

Therapists have a more long-term goal: to treat a person’s addiction (and other related mental health issues). It’s their job to help individuals understand their own addiction and how to change the way they think to better resist drug abuse and improve their overall quality of life. The end goal of this type of therapy is typically sustained drug abstinence, reducing the risk of relapse and increasing the likelihood of long-term recovery.[5] 

Things to Consider When Finding an Addiction Intervention Specialist

There are a few things to consider when looking for an addiction intervention specialist, such as these:


Interventions should typically be in-person events. Both the location of the event and an interventionist’s location need to be considered when planning. You also want to consider the location of the treatment program that the person will ideally enter directly following the intervention.

Interventionists will often travel more than other treatment professionals as necessary, but having them do so usually adds to the cost, especially if they need to fly to you. The actual location of the intervention event may or may not have costs associated with it as well, such as if the space needs to be rented.


Professionally run interventions can vary widely in cost. They often cost at least several thousand dollars, and some may cost $10,000 or more. As discussed in our next point, cost isn’t always an indicator of quality. Make sure to look at a variety of options and see what might be available in your budget.


Fundamentally, the quality of an addiction interventionist’s services are more or less the most important element to consider. The better the professional and the event they are able to run, the more likely a person is to enter into treatment. 

While different people have different needs, you can often roughly gauge the quality of a professional by their online reputation and by asking them questions about their services. Just keep in mind the potential bias of your sources. If talking to a professional or using their site, there will naturally be a bias in their favor when getting any information from those sources. 


Because the cost of an intervention can sometimes be high, it’s worth seeing if you can get an interventionist specialist’s services covered by insurance. To find this information, talk to both the insurance provider and the professional you’re considering. While it may not always be possible to get coverage, doing so has the potential to save you thousands of dollars.

Updated May 7, 2024
  1. What is an intervention specialist? Accessed April 30, 2024.
  2. What is an intervention? Association of Intervention Specialists. Published April 13, 2022. Accessed April 30, 2024.
  3. Mattoo SK, Prasad S, Ghosh A. Brief intervention in substance use disorders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018;60(8):466.
  4. Bazazi AR. Commentary on Rafful et al . (2018): Unpacking involuntary interventions for people who use drugs. Addiction. 2018;113(6):1064-1065.
  5. Menon J, Kandasamy A. Relapse prevention. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018;60(4):473-478.
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