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Interventions help loved ones overcome addiction, but they aren’t always easy to plan. Here’s how to avoid common intervention mistakes.


Interventions are a common approach for helping a loved one overcome addiction. They are helpful for a myriad of concerns such as drug abuse, alcohol addiction, and even eating disorders. However, people may not realize that real-life interventions are quite different from those displayed in the media, and this can lead to some common intervention mistakes. 

An intervention is an event used to help a loved one seek treatment for harmful behaviors. Not every intervention relies on the drama of confrontation like an episode of Dr. Phil. Many interventions on television do not portray an accurate representation of what these conversations should look like. Interventions should be conducted in a structured manner that stems from love and genuine concern.

While most interventions are heavy with emotion, it is never acceptable to rant about your opinions and expect the individual to sit and listen. When loved ones lead this conversation with earnest worry and love, as opposed to the “tough love” confrontational approach, there is a better chance that an individual will consider seeking help. 

Now that you know that television doesn’t provide the greatest examples, here are a few intervention mistakes to avoid:

Going in Unprepared

An intervention should not be considered a spur-the-moment kind of event. When these conversations go unplanned, discussions can turn to arguments quickly. Emotions run high which can lead to accusing behaviors and overall discomfort for anyone involved. Interventions are the most successful in a calm and loving environment. Difficult conversations that stem from raw emotion have the potential to do more harm than good.

Avoid this common intervention mistake by take time to gather your thoughts and emotions beforehand. Addressing written concerns in a group setting is considered the Classic Intervention Model (or the Johnson Model). Loved ones will write down their concerns and address examples of harmful behaviors. Written thoughts show that you have taken the time to assess your loved one’s behaviors and have deemed them as unsafe. This method offers structure to the conversation and shows that you are serious about their condition. For more intervention examples, visit our Intervention article under Resources.

Understanding addiction can be another helpful way to prepare for an intervention. Research different behaviors of substance abuse before addressing any concerns. Empathy can provide a sense of balance during an intervention and will help you understand your loved one’s emotions throughout the conversation. Consider if there’s a psychological disorder that accompanies their addiction. Underlying mental conditions can make addiction even more difficult to recover from if they go untreated. In the end, doing some research on addiction and organizing your thoughts will add a sense of structure to any intervention.


Failing to Consider Outside Help

While addressing someone with addiction may seem like a daunting task, know that you are not alone. According to a government study, it is estimated that 8.7 million children in the United States aged seventeen or younger live in a household with at least one parent who suffers from a substance use disorder. Addiction is no stranger to the U.S., and neither is an addiction intervention.

Keep your intervention calm and reassuring with a professional at your side. Sprout Health considers this type of intervention the ARISE method. A professional interventionist guides you through steps in addressing your genuine concerns for your loved one’s addiction. These professionals provide a third-party opinion to maintain balance within the conversation. Often an intervention can backfire, but the presence of a professional can offer hope for future efforts. Professional interventionists know what to expect when dealing with a drug abuse intervention, and their guidance is sure to provide a sense of ease for most members present.


Including Too Many People

Involving a large group is one of the most common intervention mistakes. Due to the misconceptions of interventions aired in movies and television, some people believe that interventions are an open venting session. Reasons for an intervention—such as addiction or eating disorders—are sure to add heightened emotions to any conversations. When loved ones are tasked to convince an individual to seek help for their harmful habits, their emotions may overwhelm them. Now, imagine this with a whole room of emotional loved ones.

To keep the individual from feeling overwhelmed, keep the intervention to a small group of friends and family. The more people involved in the intervention, the greater the chance that someone will step too far and cause the individual to lash out. Often, those who suffer from substance abuse have already accepted their behavior as a part of their daily lives. There’s a good chance they won’t acknowledge the problem and react negatively from fear or embarrassment. If you stage an intervention with more people than necessary, there’s a good chance the individual will retreat instead of contributing to the conversation.

Overall, its best for both the individual with the addiction and those who are trying to help if the intervention remains within a small group. There is a better chance for effective communication and a sense of stability throughout this difficult conversation. However, always consider seeking a professional, a sure way to avoid intervention mistakes. There is always room for a professional interventionist. 


Giving Up

Not every intervention will be successful. Sometimes there are underlying conditions that keep individuals from believing they need help; other times they are completely in denial. Either way, there is the possibility that the intervention you arranged won’t go exactly as planned. Don’t take it personally if an intervention falls through. Take a step back and evaluate the course of the addiction intervention. Was it unsuccessful because your loved one appeared under the influence? Did they storm out of the room because someone lashed out from frustration? Perhaps you hadn’t considered consulting a professional interventionist.

While it’s good to step back and assess an intervention, sometimes everything can go smoothly and you still don’t receive the reaction you were hoping for. Ultimately, it is your loved one’s decision to seek treatment. The only way they will recover from an addiction is if they are willing to make an effort. Dragging them to a facility against their wishes will not benefit anybody. It is best to accept their desires and stand by for support if they ever wish to accept it. Expressing your concern for their well-being is a step in the right direction. That said, giving up completely is a common intervention mistake. Take some time and try again when you feel your loved one may be ready to accept treatment.

Have questions about addiction recovery?
Call us at 855-430-9426 to speak with a recovery specialist.


Stopping Support at the Intervention

The road to addiction recovery can be a long and lonely journey, but it’s always possible with the aid and support of family and friends. Some people feel their job is complete once their loved one is admitted into a treatment facility, but this is actually a common intervention mistake. Your loved one will need a strong support system now more than ever. Receiving treatment is only the beginning for recovery, and most of the trials of relapse rely heavily on your loved one’s behaviors once they return home from receiving treatment.

Relapse often occurs when the individual is exposed to old habits back in their familiar area. At home, recovering addicts can run into old acquaintances and locations that will trigger the need to resort back to their old ways. As a family or friend, you can help by guiding them away from these old habits and steering them toward healthier coping mechanisms.

Community plays a large part in recovery. Those attempting to battle addiction will rely heavily on those around them to keep their actions in line. According to SAMHSA, the return of a recovering addict provides added stress on a household, and the individual will rely on the support of their social network to keep from resorting back to old habits. Stress is a large contributor to relapse, so helping your loved one learn to manage stress could be a great place to start. Also, introduce them to new hobbies to distract them from their old substance abuse habits. Proper treatment coupled with ongoing care are the best ways to ensure your loved one stays on the road to recovery.


Starting Your Own Intervention

An intervention is a way to express your concerns for a loved one exhibiting harmful behaviors such as substance abuse or eating disorders. It is an organized way to address thoughts and examples of addictive habits so the individual will consider seeking treatment. Every intervention is different and should be tailored to each unique situation, but always remember these conversations should be stemmed from concern and love. Follow the guidance above to avoid common intervention mistakes:

Do not walk into an intervention with the hopes of a “tough love” confrontation. Keep your thoughts and emotions in check to avoid overwhelming your loved one. Prepare what you’d like to say before the intervention. Consider contacting a professional interventionist to add a third-party mediator. But most important, share your support for your loved one. An intervention can be the first step in a long road to recovery, but your loved one could use your help every step of the way.

If you have any general questions, SAMHSA is a great place to start to learn more about substance abuse and addictions. If you’d like more resources concerning interventions, call us today to speak with a specialist.

Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.