6 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Staging an Intervention

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Addiction is a difficult disease to beat. While an individual may want to get sober, they may not have the tools they need to be successful. However, with support from loved ones and a carefully crafted treatment plan, individuals might have the motivation they need to get started.[1] This is where an intervention would help immensely.

An intervention is defined as an event or “meeting” used to help a loved one accept treatment for their substance abuse. You might have seen interventions on television shows or in movies, but most of the time these interventions are extremely dramatized. Rather than being a drama-filled confrontation between family members, real interventions typically involve a carefully thought-out conversation stemming from love and concern. This is because the emotional appeal of your loved ones being worried for your safety tends to work more efficiently than a “tough love” approach.

Intervention is a careful process and there are certain mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Here are the top 6 most common mistakes to avoid when staging an addiction intervention for your loved one.

1. Not Being Prepared

Oftentimes, when you notice that your loved one is dealing with substance abuse issues, you may want to begin an impromptu, unplanned intervention. However, calling out your loved one for their addiction without any preparation can quickly go south. With emotions running high, you and your loved one would likely get into a fight, pushing them farther away from you in the process.

Because interventions are most successful when performed lovingly and calmly, it is important to prepare. To do so, you should gather your thoughts and emotions ahead of time and even consider writing out your appeal. In fact, the most common intervention model (The Johnson Model) instructs loved ones to write down their concerns for their loved ones and list examples of harmful behaviors caused by their addiction.[1]

Additionally, it is vital for everyone involved in the intervention to be educated on the disease of addiction. If you do not understand the why’s and how’s of your loved one’s addiction, you can’t help them. Empathy is a powerful tool that will help you to understand your loved one’s emotions during the intervention. By understanding their emotions, you can help to regulate them and keep the conversation healthy and positive at the same time.

2. Staging the Intervention at the Wrong Time

Timing is everything when it comes to staging an intervention. Individuals struggling with addiction often suffer from emotional outbursts, mood swings, and complete shutdowns when something stressful happens at the wrong time. If you decide to stage your intervention during a low point in your loved one’s addiction, it may backfire.

For example, you should NOT stage an intervention if:

  • Your loved one is currently under the influence of a substance
  • The addicted individual is busy at school or work
  • Your loved one is currently dealing with a breakup, death of a friend or family member, or any other traumatic life event
  • The person is dealing with something else that would distract them from the intervention

Before confronting your loved one, ask yourself if it is the right time for an intervention.

3. Not Utilizing Professional Help

Sometimes, people choose to stage an intervention without professional help. While it is possible to be done without an expert by conducting research and preparing extensively, attempting to do so could be more damaging than helpful. Interventions are more successful when a professional interventionist is involved.[2]

By using a professional interventionist like New Jersey Interventions, you can rest assured that you avoid all of the most common mistakes made while staging an intervention.

4. Enabling or Attacking the Addicted Individual

Each individual staging the intervention will speak their mind, point out damaging behavior, and set boundaries for the addicted individual to follow. However, this should never be done offensively. If the individual feels attacked by their loved ones, more often than not, they will walk out of the intervention and cut off contact for some time. This may only worsen their addiction. Instead of being angry and defensive, try to sound empathetic, loving, and genuinely concerned.

While remaining calm and loving, remember that you cannot defend the addict either. During an intervention, you want to stop any enabling behaviors that you have displayed in the past. Defending the addict’s behavior will only make them feel as if what they have been doing was not that big of a deal. In their mind, this only gives them the “okay” to continue their substance abuse. In other words, make sure not to attack the individual, but remain strong in your convictions and boundaries.

5. Not Offering a Treatment Plan

When you decide to stage an intervention, the main goal is to get your loved one into addiction treatment. With that being said, one of the most important aspects of staging an intervention is planning and setting up a treatment plan for them to follow.

Oftentimes, the idea of putting in the work to get into a rehab program is a daunting task for an addicted individual. A lot of planning and work goes into getting a spot at a substance abuse facility. By having this set up before you confront your loved one, you take away a large amount of stress your loved one associates with getting sober.

6. Giving Up After the Intervention

Unfortunately, not every intervention will be successful–even if you avoid all of the common mistakes made during interventions. Sometimes it takes a long time for individuals struggling with addiction to take that first step. Additionally, some individuals may become angry and lash out during an intervention, causing strain and frustration for their family members.

However, it is important not to give up on your loved ones. When family members begin to give up on their loved ones, they will take notice of that. As a result, they will lack the emotional support they need, sometimes causing them to become even more hopeless. Also, they may put distance between themselves and their loved ones because they believe that no one cares.

Instead of giving up, allow your addicted family member some time to reflect. You can always try again once you think your loved one is ready to try again.

Avoid Making The Most Common Intervention Mistakes With New Jersey Addiction Intervention

Here at New Jersey Interventions, our team specializes in interventions of all kinds. We’ll help you plan the intervention, keep it constructive, and connect your loved ones with the help they need.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction and needs substance abuse treatment, contact New Jersey Interventions today. 


  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1066480719871968
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8727057/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6760425/

Medically Reviewed: August 9, 2021

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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