3 Ways Interventions Get Off Track and How to Prevent Each One

Mother planning intervention

Poor Planning

Poor planning is one of the major ways an intervention can go off the rails. Prevent this by working out each major part of the intervention.

Some of the basics are as follows:

  • Decide which key members will be involved in the intervention. It is vital to success to determine who will be involved.
  • Decide when and where. Pick a location for the intervention that will have the least amount of distractions. Work out the best possible timing so that you will have the addict’s full attention and no interruptions
  • Predict possible objections and problems from the addict towards getting help. Working out how to overcome the objections and problems that the addict will come up with, and then going over this with all the parties involved in the intervention is key to success.
  • Plan out what communication each person will be giving. The family needs to decide what ultimatums they are comfortable delivering, and work out who will be saying those things so that the conversation with the addict stays on point.

If these key items are not planned out and gone over the chance for success is slim to none.

Not Insisting On Change

Mother talks to the son

To be successful, the family must be committed to delivering what can be called the bottom line: The bottom line is what they are going to do differently if that person doesn’t accept help. When a family member waivers on the bottom line interventions often become more difficult than they need to be.

The following scenario illustrates the problem:

Billy isn’t ready for help because he fears what might happen if he quits. He has grown physically dependent on them and the thought of living without them is scary. During the intervention, Billy’s Mom has decided that if Billy doesn’t accept help, Billy can no longer live at her house. This is Billy’s Mom’s bottom line. It’s not about punishing the addict, it’s about ensuring that a firm boundary has been created and that the dysfunctional behavior of allowing an addict to continue using stops. The real bottom line is the insistence that a loved one gets help.

During the intervention, Billy becomes upset, refuses help and pleads with his Mom. He promises he will change and that the drug use will stop.

Nothing is more painful than this moment for a family member. This is the point in the intervention where the bottom line must hold. Anything that does not result in the addict going to rehab is a broken bottom line. Allowing the addict a second chance or questioning whether or not the person will change on their own seems to be the caring thing to do. Unfortunately, a seeming show of love can have dire consequences.

The message that Mom is delivering to Billy is not, “Oh I love you so much, Billy.” It’s, “Billy, you are not capable of getting this help, you’re not really capable of doing something different, so I’m gonna keep taking care of you and help you through this. When you’re ready mommy’s still gonna be here.”

Mom in this scenario isn’t taking accountability for her participation in the cycle of her son’s or daughter’s addiction.

Wrong Participants In the Intervention

Intervention argument - wrong participants

It’s important to not have participants in the intervention who aren’t able to regulate their emotions or have a drug problem themselves. Participants should not be there to just make the person wrong or bring up family dynamics from the past. In scenarios where it’s a family member or key terminal in the person’s life, it’s okay to tell the person they can’t attend. Instruct them to write a letter and let them know you will be happy to read the letter for them.

Sometimes estranged family members want to come back into the picture and be a part of the intervention. Although this is admirable, an intervention is not the place to try and heal old wounds. Individual sessions would be more appropriate for something like that.

Falling into this category (wrong participants) are people that want to hire an interventionist but still want to run the show. If the show they were running was running smoothly (which it is not), they wouldn’t have reached out to a professional in the first place. A professional knows the guidelines that must be followed in order to get the intended result—getting the addicted person to accept treatment and arrive for treatment.


Fabian Padro

Narconon Ojai, the premier Narconon center in the United States, is led by Fabian Padro, AS, RADT. After starting a career in International Business and earning an Associates Degree, Fabian changed course and has now dedicated his life to helping those trapped in the downward spiral of addiction.