What to Do if Your Loved One Reacts Badly to an Intervention

Get started on your road to recovery. Reach out today

Addiction affects not only those who live with it but the people around them too. If you love someone who struggles with substance abuse or addiction, you understand the pain, heartbreak, frustration, and anxiety that surrounds this condition. It can be extremely challenging to watch someone you love as they move through the disease of addiction.

It can also be challenging to know how to help. Many people want to reach out to their loved one to offer help, but they may not be sure of what they should offer or how to bring up the subject of addiction without pushing them away. In this case, many people decide to stage an intervention.

An intervention is a planned event that usually involves concerned loved ones gathering together to express concern and offer help to a loved one who lives with addiction. A carefully planned intervention can be an effective first step towards getting their loved one the help they need.

However, even the most carefully planned intervention can fail or be met with a poor reaction. Despite your preparation and good intentions, your loved one may react badly and refuse to hear what you are saying. It is important to prepare for this possibility and to know what to do if your loved one reacts badly during an intervention.

What Happens During an Intervention?

There are several different types of intervention. Generally, an intervention involves a group of people presenting information about how the addiction has affected them to their loved one and asking them to start an addiction treatment program right away.

The steps of a classic intervention include:

  • Deciding who will be present
  • Choosing a time and place that allows for privacy
  • Finding an appropriate addiction treatment program to offer
  • Deciding what will happen if the person refuses treatment
  • Holding the intervention
  • Following through on consequences or helping your loved one get started in treatment
  • Follow up and support for all involved

Hiring a professional intervention specialist can ensure your intervention has the best chance of being effective. Professional interventionists can provide counseling to the people involved and help you prepare and practice before the intervention.

Reasons Someone Might React Badly During an Intervention

Addiction can be a highly emotional subject. The people involved in the intervention may have feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, frustration, or helplessness. Each intervention is its own unique event with a variety of people involved. The fact that everyone is human and will have their own reactions means that each intervention has the potential to veer off track. It also means that the person with addiction may have a bad reaction.

Some common reasons someone might react badly during an intervention include:

  • The person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the intervention
  • They become defensive, angry, or even aggressive
  • The people staging the intervention become too emotional
  • The person leaves or refuses to listen

Allowing some time for the person to recover from the initial shock of being part of an intervention might make it more likely that they will participate in it. Hiring a professional interventionist can also help you navigate what to do if your loved one has a bad reaction.

What Should I Do If My Loved One Has a Bad Reaction During an Intervention?

The first and most important thing to remember if your loved one reacts badly during an intervention is that it is not about you. Addiction is a serious condition and people may have physical or emotional issues that prevent them from engaging in the intervention. Your loved one may be in denial or may react out of embarrassment or shame. Do not take it personally, and do not take it as a sign that you should give up.

Instead, try to learn from this intervention and plan for what will come next. Consider the following steps:

  • Check-in with the other intervention participants
  • Practice good self-care: rest, surround yourself with support, and protect your mental and physical health by eating and sleeping regularly
  • Stay calm and consider starting therapy
  • Set and hold healthy boundaries
  • Don’t negotiate with your loved one–for example, don’t allow them to simply go to therapy when they need a full addiction treatment program
  • Use what you learned to plan another intervention, if appropriate

The most important thing you can do is to learn from the first intervention and think about what to do next time. Ask yourself: Were there people there who weren’t helpful? Would a different time or place be a better choice? Would professional support be helpful?

Don’t give up on your loved one. Get the help and support you need to be able to keep trying to get them the life-saving treatment they need.

Get Professional Help With Interventions Today

If someone you love requires addiction treatment or you want support at any stage of addiction recovery, reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Intervention. We offer intervention support programs designed to empower people to overcome their addiction.

Don’t wait another day for the treatment or support you need. Call now to speak to one of our compassionate staff members.

Medically Reviewed: October 12, 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.

0 replies on “What to Do if Your Loved One Reacts Badly to an Intervention”