5 of the Most Damaging Addiction Intervention Mistakes
Denial is almost universal among alcoholics and drug addicts. Ultimately their defensiveness and unwillingness to face the truth about their substance use makes recovery impossible, and when nothing else works, many families decide to stage an intervention.
An intervention is no picnic. It is a highly stressful event for organizers, participants and addicts alike. But that doesn’t doom an intervention to failure. If an intervention is thoughtfully planned and carefully executed, the chances of a positive outcome are quite good.
Nevertheless, success is far from guaranteed. Here are five serious errors that can undermine an intervention and make a scary situation even worse.
- Going into it without a solid plan.
An intervention is serious business and should be treated as such. You may not know exactly what everyone will say, but you should make sure each participant is on the same page and that your collective presentation is cohesive, consistent and well-coordinated.
To be effective, an intervention must be solution-oriented. You should focus not on the past but on the future, as you encourage your loved one to accept help from experienced addiction treatment specialists who can offer practical wisdom and proven healing remedies.
Assuming your loved one is willing to listen, you should provide specific information about the rehab facility you would like them to visit: its location, its preferred treatment methods, the length of its inpatient programs and the types of aftercare services that will be available after initial treatment is concluded.
A detailed plan of action should make a positive impression on your loved one and make them more willing to consider the inpatient rehab option.
- Letting your negative emotions get the best of you.
Interventions are designed to do one thing and one thing only: to persuade the person with the substance use problem to seek and accept professional help for their addiction. It may surprise you to hear this, since it contradicts popular belief, but an intervention is not the time to air grievances, settle personal scores or make the addict or alcoholic feel guilty or ashamed.
Love and compassion must guide your words and actions. You’ll have a chance to express your anger, disappointment and sense of betrayal later, when your loved one is more committed to recovery and is feeling stable and brave enough to begin making amends for past misbehavior.
A matter-of-fact approach and a nonjudgmental attitude are always preferable during an intervention. If you can avoid the temptation to make the intervention about you instead of the addict, you’ll have a much better chance of producing a favorable outcome.
- Negotiating terms with the addict or alcoholic.
Under no circumstances should you negotiate with an addict or alcoholic during an intervention. If you give in you’re just enabling their denial and putting them at greater risk for a catastrophic outcome.
An intervention is not a bargaining session. If your friend or family member tries to convince you they can handle their substance abuse problem on their own, or asks for a few weeks to get their affairs in order before starting rehab, you should stand firm and insist they get into treatment now, before it is too late.
Addiction is a life-threatening condition, and without expert professional treatment services the chances of recovery are slim — and the likelihood of premature death is dramatically enhanced.
- Not vetting the list of participants sufficiently to eliminate the risk of interpersonal conflict.
During an intervention the room should be filled with empathy, affection and concern. Those with whom your loved one has strained relations or ongoing trust issues shouldn’t be invited to participate, even if they mean well and are genuinely interested in repairing their fractured relationships.
No one should be present who makes your loved one feel uncomfortable or anxious. Another mistake is to include anyone who, for whatever reason, is not 100% on board with the intervention. Their ambivalence will inevitably show through, which can cause conflict and anger and encourage the addict to pursue a “divide and conquer” strategy to disrupt the proceedings.
The situation will be difficult and stressful enough without adding these types of interpersonal complications. An intervention is not a soap opera and shouldn’t be allowed to devolve into one.
- Holding the intervention without the assistance of an experienced intervention specialist.
Try to make a go of it without a trained expert and you’ll be walking a tightrope without a net, hoping you don’t make a fatal mistake. You won’t know what to do if and when the intervention takes a wrong turn, and if the person you’re trying to help reacts badly, you may poison the well for good.
An intervention specialist can warn you about the pitfalls that undermine interventions and offer practical tips and strategies that can help you break through the wall of denial your loved one will erect. Your specialist will act as your team leader during the intervention itself, keeping everyone focused, hopeful and optimistic. As the intervention unfolds, they will use their skills as a counselor to defuse tensions before they get out of hand.
No matter how benevolent your intentions, interventions are uncertain affairs with unpredictable outcomes. An intervention specialist won’t guarantee success but will improve your chances of obtaining it immensely.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.