5 Pitfalls of Interventions and How to Do an Intervention That Works

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

In 2016, the Surgeon general released a report stating that one in every seven Americans will face a substance addiction in their lifetime. 

That same report found that only 10% of people with addictions receive treatment. Treatment offers an opportunity to live a normal life, and it’s an important part of recovery for any addict.

Knowing how to do an intervention can increase the chance of getting a loved one the help that they desperately need. There are five reasons why interventions fail and avoiding these will help make your intervention more successful.

Keep reading to find out what an intervention is and how to do an intervention that works.

What’s An Intervention?

An intervention brings together family and friends of an addict. As a group, they share their concerns about the addict and discuss the effects of their behavior on family and friends. Usually, they itemize a list of consequences that will result from their continued substance abuse.

The purpose of doing this is to change the context in which the addict has been living and operating. The consequences for their continued use following the intervention means that they’ll no longer be enabled to use by the friends and family present.

In this way, interventions are a way of encouraging an addict or alcoholic to admit to their problem and get the treatment they need. They don’t always work, but there are ways to avoid those pitfalls. We’ll discuss those in the next section.

How to Do an Intervention: What to Avoid

Below are the five main reasons why interventions fail. We’ll tell you what to do to avoid these and ensure your intervention goes as well as it can.

1. Disorganization

Organization can make or break an intervention. If you don’t have a clear plan for who is going to speak, what everyone should be saying, and next steps, the overall message of the intervention won’t be clear. Without timeliness, a strategy, and organization, the intervention isn’t focused or effective.

Instead, make sure that everyone involved knows what to talk about, how long they have to speak, and is well prepared for their turn. Have backup plans in case the person decides to walk out of the room. Being prepared for all the possible reactions can help you keep the intervention on track.

If you’re not confident in your ability to properly organize the intervention, you may also consider hiring a professional interventionist. These professional have the experience needed to organize and execute a successful intervention. They’ll also know how to deal with an addict who becomes psychologically unstable or physically dangerous.

2. No Clear Course of Action

Part of being organized is having a clear course of action for after the intervention, especially if the end goal is treatment, which it most often is. There are a few things you want to avoid in this respect.

Don’t give the addict an option for when they have to go to treatment. The goal is to get them to treatment immediately following the intervention. If you allow them to choose when to go, they may think their addiction isn’t bad enough to warrant immediate help.

Don’t give the addict options in terms of what treatment program they’ll go to. An intervention can be confusing and overwhelming. Having them choose where to go will only add to that confusion and sense of overwhelming and could cause them to back out.

Instead, have a residential treatment center lined up. Tell the addict that they have to go to treatment immediately. And if they agree, then they should be taken to the facility straight from the intervention.

While this type of intervention doesn’t give the addict any input, it also takes a lot of the pressure off of them. It also gets them into treatment while emotions are high and the consequences of not receiving treatment are fresh in their mind. 

3. Focusing on the Problem

Members of the intervention should list how the behavior of the addict has negatively affected their life. And of course, this should be shared with the addict. But after that, this is not an environment in which placing blame and focusing solely on the problem is helpful. 

Don’t focus all your time on the past mistakes of the addict. Instead, focus on the solution… which is to get treatment. 

4. Lack of Follow-Through

Each person who shares their experiences with the behavior of the addict should also have a list of consequences should they decide not to seek treatment. These consequences can be anything from no longer lending money to no longer giving the addict a place to live. If the person decides not to go through with treatment, then following through on your list of consequences is important.

5. Giving Up

There is no way to measure whether or not your intervention will be successful. Even if you avoid all of the above and execute the intervention perfectly, the addict in your life may not be ready to admit they have a problem and seek help. But if that’s the case, then don’t give up.

Some people need more time to process the consequences of not seeking treatment. Once they see what life is like in this new context, they may very well change their mind. Others need to get over the shock and anger of intervention before they can see the truth of the matter.

In some cases, a second intervention might be what’s needed to get the addict help. This shouldn’t take place until well after the first intervention, so the addict has time to process and the group has time to rethink their approach.

Do You Know Someone Who Needs Help?

Knowing how to do an intervention can help you avoid the common reasons they fail. These reasons include a lack of commitment in regards to following through on consequences, disorganization, and not having a clear course of action for after the intervention. 

Now that you know what a successful intervention looks like, you may start considering treatment centers. Have a look at our drug addiction services and find out how we can help. 

References:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/11/17/surgeon-general-1-7-us-face-substance-addiction/93993474/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201408/drug-and-alcohol-interventions-do-they-work

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.