5 Things You Shouldn’t Say During an Intervention

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Drug and alcohol interventions are typically emotional and difficult for all parties involved. Oftentimes, interventions are long processes, as family members and friends may be speaking about years of substance abuse-related issues. However, it is important for loved ones of an addict to remember why they are hosting an intervention. Rather than allowing emotions to take over through anger and frustration, family and friends should remain supportive, loving, and caring throughout the intervention process. In other words, there are certain things that should never be said during an intervention.

While the effects of addiction may cause loved ones to become frustrated, outraged, and hurt, behaving in such a manner will only make matters worse. Interventions require careful planning and preparation. This planning must include learning what to say and what not to say during an intervention. Instead of communicating with hostility, take a calm and thoughtful approach. This helps the recovering individual to notice that they have supportive friends and family to help them throughout their recovery process.

Here are 5 things you should never say during an intervention.

#1. Leave Your Anger and Frustration at the Door

Typically, individuals who are being confronted during an intervention are already anticipating being met with anger and frustration. Oftentimes, this is what causes addicts and alcoholics to be weary of interventions. Once they sense their loved ones are angry, they will become defensive and closed off.

Instead, approach the addicted individual with compassion and support. It is important to describe your frustrations with how their substance abuse affected you without condemning them for their mistakes. Interventions are not intended to be a place for loved ones to vent frustration and anger. If the individual being confronted becomes defensive, you should continue to resist the urge to respond in frustration.

#2. Refrain From Using Derogatory Terms

Sometimes, loved ones of addicts are unaware of the way their words affect them. With that being said, you must avoid using derogatory names and terms during the intervention. Calling someone a name, such as “junkie” or “crackhead”, only dehumanizes them and causes them to become more angry and hostile. The entire purpose of an intervention is to get your loved one the help they need. Therefore, refraining from using hurtful words will improve your chances of getting your loved one into a professional addiction treatment program.

#3. Do Not Bring Up Their Failures

Individuals suffering from substance abuse do not need to be reminded of their failures. Oftentimes, their failures are a guiding force behind the cycle of addition they have been stuck in. With that being said, bringing up their failures will only exacerbate the problem even further. For example, avoid mentioning negative events such as a lost job, failed marriage, or loss of custody of a child.

Instead, focus on how their substance abuse caused them to act out of character. In doing so, you will place the blame on the disease of addiction itself, rather than your suffering loved one. Thankfully, professional interventionists are tactful in planning what to say, how you should say it, and what to avoid mentioning all together. This allows your loved one to realize that their substance abuse is causing all sorts of misfortune in their lives, hopefully leading them to attend professional drug and alcohol rehab.

#4. Stop Accepting Excuses

Sometimes, individuals receiving an intervention require strict boundaries to persuade them to attend addiction treatment. They may make excuses such as, “I’ll go later, or tomorrow,” or “I can’t leave my kids or my pets.” Plans should be arranged before the intervention begins to help family members and friends to establish a bottom line and stick to it.

For example, let’s say your loved one stated that they will not go to treatment because they can’t leave their pets. The intervention team was probably already aware of the possibility of this person making this excuse. As a result, the loved ones of this individual may explain that it isn’t fair to their pet for them to behave in such a manner. A family member may have also agreed to foster the pet until the individual is finished with treatment.

#5. Do Not Make Them Feel Weak or Worthless

Science has proven that addiction is a disease. While your loved one might have made the initial choice to take their first drink or drug, substance use disorder is formed through changes in the brain caused by the addiction. This makes it almost impossible for individuals to beat addiction on their own.

Keeping this in mind, making a person to feel weak or worthless in an intervention just causes them to become defensive. Additionally, this could cause lingering feelings of worthlessness even after recovery. Instead, focus on how the person will overcome their addiction, how you and the rest of the family will support them, and why rehab and recovery is the only solution to having a happy, sober life.

What You Should Say During an Intervention

If you’re planning on holding an intervention on your own or with the help of a professional interventionist, make sure to include these important phrases:

  • “I love you.”
  • “I believe in you.”
  • “Addiction is a disease that you can recover from.”
  • “Professional addiction treatment works.”
  • “I’m here for you.”

At New Jersey Interventions, we work with families and friends to carefully plan the most effective drug and alcohol interventions possible. By working with one of our professional interventionists, you and your family will become educated on addiction, your loved one’s substance abuse patterns, drug and alcohol detox, and addiction treatment. Additionally, we help the individual suffering from addiction find a treatment center that is suited perfectly to their needs. Contact us today for more information on professional drug and alcohol interventions.

Medically Reviewed: October 26, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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