What to Do When an Intervention Doesn’t Work (A Guide)

Medically Reviewed

In a world struggling with substance abuse, thousands of lives each year are taken too soon as a result of drug or alcohol use disorders. The help these people needed was not provided promptly, or they simply ignored all the signs that led them down this path.

A survey from 2012 released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed how 22.2 million people aged 12 and over were abusing or dependent on the substance. There has been no proof to tell us otherwise if the trends have decreased since that time.

In addition to the above numbers, the same study touches on how more than 23 million people qualified as needing treatment for their substance use disorder, but only a mere 2.5 million received any type of treatment to overcome it. One reason as to why many people do not receive the treatment they need is because they go through failed interventions.

What Is An Intervention?

It’s a long and challenging road to help someone you love, and sometimes, as simple as it sounds, all it takes is a heart-to-heart conversation to jumpstart the road to recovery. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to addiction, the person struggling may see and acknowledge what they are going through, but refuse to make any real changes in their lives. In some cases, they may not see any issue with their current state, and a more focused approach is necessary. It could mean you need to join forces with others and take action – this is known as an intervention.

What warrants an intervention? Some examples include:

  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive eating
  • Street drug abuse
  • Compulsive gambling

While some may be aware of their problem, those struggling with addiction are going to be in denial about their situations and will not seek treatment. While they are familiar with their drug use, they fail to recognize how it’s affecting their lives negatively.

So what exactly is an intervention? According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a carefully planned process that can be done by family or friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional, such as a licensed alcohol or drug counselor known as an interventionist. It will involve a member of your loved one’s faith or others who care about the person dealing with addiction.

During an intervention, all of the individuals involved will gather and confront the person in question about the consequences of their addiction and ask them to accept treatment. They will lay out a bottom line and advise them of what will happen if they do not take their offer of help. Those participating in the intervention will:

  • Provide graphic details of their destructive behaviors and the impact it’s had on loved ones and family members.
  • Offer a treatment plan with clear and concise guidelines for long-term abstinence.
  • Let the person know what the consequences will be if they do not accept the help.

Despite an intervention being put together and having everyone in attendance, there are still reasons as to why they can fail. Let’s take a look at what to do when an intervention doesn’t work, and some reasons why they may not go according to plan.

Why Do Interventions Fail?

Many reasons will contribute to a failed intervention, but some, in particular, can have a substantial effect. Some of these include:

  • Improper planning: An intervention must be conducted in a group setting with those that care about the person in question. Prior to the intervention, the group must adequately plan out each aspect of the event, and they must outline exactly what they want to tell the person. In addition, they must find a treatment center that will admit the person once the intervention is complete. Lastly, you must have a certified interventionist that will lead the preparation and execute the intervention.
  • Focus on the solution and not the problem: Many interventions that fail spend excessive amounts of time focusing on the problem instead of searching for solutions.  It is crucial to be solution-oriented as opposed to dedicating focus on the issue. Friends and family should emphasize the following steps and offer solutions.
  • Offering too many options: An often overlooked flaw involves giving the individual too many choices when they can receive treatment. It should be stressed that treatment must occur now to mitigate the risks of their addiction. The person in question can believe their problem isn’t severe enough to warrant immediate attention and have them stray away from the option. It can push them to continue using drugs and potentially overdose. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that substance abuse treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective.

What To Do If An Intervention Fails?

Falling dominoes stopped by a hand symbolizing an intervention

It’s possible that the drug user will exit the room and not follow the instructions of the interventionist. Unfortunately, it’s a part of reality in drug and alcohol addiction, but you must not give up.

It is possible that the user did not have a connection with the interventionist, in which case you must prepare another intervention. By doing so, it gives you another chance at the user seeing the promised land. As hard as it may be, you must not give up.

You must follow through on the promises you made in the first intervention. If the person in question sees weakness, it will be their leverage in any future interventions. As you know, addiction is a selfish disease that can make even the most innocent people manipulative.

You cannot bargain or make compromises. If you crafted an original set of rules, they must remain unchanged. There cannot be any cracks in your approach that the user will see through.

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