Interventions are such a recognized act in the psychological and health industry, that people even end up on TV for them.

But whether your personal intervention for a loved one is televised or not, it’s important to know exactly how to go about it. Interventions are all about love and resolution, and going about them in the wrong way can sometimes have adverse effects. 

When you’re trying to save a person’s life, the last thing you want to do is to force them further down the path they’re already on! 

Today, we’re going to show you the most common intervention mistakes that people make so you can avoid them. 

1. Starting Interventions Spontaneously

Whether it’s your brother, mother, wife, child, or friend, it hurts to see them suffering from addiction. It can be a slow and painful process, and watching their life (and body) waste away right before your eyes is indescribable. 

Sometimes, this struggle becomes so hard to endure, that we want to “fix” them right away as fast as we possibly can. This means you might skip a lot of important intervention steps and jump straight into the deep end right away. 

But a spontaneous and unplanned drug intervention is more likely to go south than a preplanned one. 

You don’t want to wait too long, but that doesn’t mean you need to jump in unprepared. We’ll cover some more of these in more detail in a minute, but here are some examples of criteria that needs to be thought out:

  • Where will you hold the intervention? 
  • Who will attend the intervention? 
  • Who will lead the intervention? 
  • How will people speak and act during the intervention? 
  • What are the plans of action for the one being intervened? 

You need to have at least some kind of general answer to these questions and an outline to follow.

2. Choosing Members At Random

As we said in mistake number one, you need to be careful about who attends the intervention. 

You want to choose people who are meaningful to the one being intervened for but also aren’t enablers. For example, if your loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, you probably shouldn’t invite their constant drinking buddy. 

But the members should be important, relative to the situation. Your old penpal from third grade who heard your sister is having a drinking problem isn’t the best choice, no matter how noble their intentions may be. 

3. Being Overly Aggressive

One thing that you have to understand is that confrontation is inevitable in an intervention. That’s not an excuse to be overly aggressive or condemning toward the person, though. 

Successful interventions, especially a family intervention, needs to come from a place of love and understanding. You (and the friends and family involved) need to find a way to make it clear that you’re not intervening to punish the addicted individual. 

Addiction is a complicated disease, and even though it may affect other’s lives in a negative way, it’s important to understand how it works. Addiction can have long-lasting and powerful effects on an individual.

The more those involved in the intervention understand its complicated nature, the more they may be able to remain calm during the confrontation. 

4. Intervening When the Person is Not Sober

An addiction intervention absolutely needs to be performed when the person is sober. 

This also ties into the first mistake in that you need to plan the intervention well. You need to find the perfect time when you know for sure that they aren’t drunk, high, etc. 

If the person isn’t sober, then they may react harshly to the intervention. On the other hand, they may not even be able to process what’s going on in the first place. 

5. Waiting Too Long

In the beginning, we said that it was a mistake to jump into an intervention too fast without planning. 

While that is true, you also need to not wait too long. It’s difficult to understand how to stage an intervention, but the longer you wait, the worse the situation may become. 

This isn’t the time to wait around for your loved one to hit the lowest of lows in their life. 

6. Not Having a Clear Resolution

Telling a loved one (in a loving way) that they have an addiction or a problem is important, but not having a solution isn’t helpful. The other half of the equation is to have a clear and concise course of action. 

There are many ways to proceed, but one of the most successful resolutions for addiction is inpatient rehabilitation. There may be other options available to you all, but the point is that you need to have these courses of action firmly identified. 

Have everything you need in hand at the intervention, such as paperwork or literature for rehabilitation programs. 

7. Negotiating the Solution

Many people with addictions will try to negotiate or resist when confronted with an intervention. 

It’s a natural reaction, and you shouldn’t look down on them for it, but it’s important to not negotiate. This is why having a clear plan for a resolution is so important. 

If the loved one resists and says they’ll clean themselves up in their own, you need to insist that the chosen course of action is the only solution. 

If they try to negotiate outpatient rehabilitation when you have already determined inpatient is the best way, don’t give in. This is also another reason why it’s so important to consult with a professional who can guide you based on your circumstances. 

Avoiding a Bad Intervention

When someone suffers from addiction, it can feel like a hopeless situation with no clear way out. That’s why it’s so important for friends and family to understand how an intervention can help turn the tide in their life. 

Staging an intervention is tricky, though, and there are some common mistakes that people make that can sometimes have the opposite intended effect. Hopefully, based on some of these examples, you’ll know what to do in an intervention for a loved one. 

If you know someone who is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, contact us right away for professional counseling!


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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