What Could Go Wrong During an Intervention?

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Addiction is a serious condition that requires treatment to overcome. Millions of people in the United States struggle with substance abuse and addiction each year without getting the help they need. They may not recognize the need for treatment, may be afraid that they can’t pay for it, or might be too deep into their addiction that they need to have someone else take charge of getting them into treatment.

If you have someone in your life who lives with an addiction, you understand that watching them struggle can be devastating. You may feel frustrated, sad, angry, or helpless. Most people want to help someone who is living with addiction but may not know where to begin.

Interventions are a common way for concerned friends and family members to convey support to someone living with addiction. There are many forms of interventions, but generally, they involve friends and family members getting together to talk to their loved ones about their addiction and to encourage them to seek treatment immediately. A carefully planned intervention is an effective tool that can be used to encourage people to seek the addiction treatment they require. However, even a good intervention can fail.

Understanding the most common problems during an intervention can help you prepare to stage one for someone you love and avoid having an intervention gone wrong.

Your Loved One is Intoxicated

One of the most common problems during an intervention is having your loved one show up to it intoxicated. As you might imagine, this is relatively common. People who require treatment for addiction are often not in control of their substance use and it may be difficult to find a time when they are not intoxicated. However, it is important to avoid holding an intervention for someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People who are intoxicated are more likely to react with anger, refuse treatment, and become violent.

Someone who is intoxicated can’t process the emotions or information contained in an intervention. The result? An exhausted intervention team and an intervention gone wrong. To avoid this, plan the intervention to take place when it is less likely that your loved one will be intoxicated, such as early in the morning or during the workday. Having a professional interventionist can help determine if it is safe to proceed with the intervention or if it needs to be postponed.

Your Loved One Reacts Badly

Interventions are supposed to be calm events, but one of the most common problems during an intervention is the person having a bad reaction. This may be anger, refusal to listen, leaving, or even reacting with violence.

A negative reaction usually means that the person refuses treatment. It is very important to stay focused and calm and to avoid giving in. Carry out the consequences you and your intervention team decided on during the planning stage. Do not make “deals” with your loved one, such as agreeing to let them do therapy instead of treatment.

A professional interventionist can help your team prepare and practice for a negative reaction ahead of time. Getting professional intervention help is especially important if your loved one has:

  • A history of violent behavior
  • An intense or longtime addiction
  • Mental health issues
  • Multiple addictions
  • Co-occurring disorders

Remember, the goal is to get your loved one into treatment. While they may have a negative reaction initially, they may agree to go to treatment after facing the consequences you’ve decided upon. Getting professional support can help you and your team avoid an intervention gone wrong.

The Intervention Loses Focus

As you can probably imagine, an intervention can be an intense and emotional experience–both for the person living with addiction and their loved ones. If the person has a negative reaction, the friends and family may feel attacked and become defensive. Even without anger or defensiveness, an intervention can quickly dissolve into an emotional event and people may stray from their prepared statements.

It is important to stay focused to avoid an intervention gone wrong. The only goal of an intervention is to get your loved one to agree to go into treatment. Family healing and unburdening can happen in family therapy. Your loved one must feel physically and emotionally safe. This sense of safety may be threatened if they perceive that they have caused sadness or anger.

A professional can help de-escalate heightened emotions and keep the intervention on the right track.

Learn More About How to Avoid Problems During an Intervention at New Jersey Addiction Interventions

If you or someone you love requires substance abuse treatment, support in recovery, or help to stage a successful intervention, please reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Interventions. We offer programs and support to people who live with addiction and their communities.

If you need addiction treatment, don’t wait another day. Take the first step towards your new, healthy life by calling today.

Medically Reviewed: September 27, 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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