When interventions are shown on TV or in movies, it’s for the entertainment of the audience. Common portrayals of interventions often include drama, disorganization, and arguments that are good for viewer ratings. However, these portrayals are not completely realistic and certainly not how you’d want an intervention to occur in real life. If your loved one needs help with substance use disorder (SUD), you want their intervention to go as smoothly as possible. As there are many pitfalls to staging an intervention, it can be helpful to involve a professional in the process.

The Pitfalls of Interventions

Staging an intervention for a loved one with SUD can inform a host of challenges and concerns. Some examples of pitfalls can include:


Without a plan in place for intervention, conflict and arguments are bound to occur. Emotions often run high in interventions, and, without structure, the whole thing can easily collapse into a blame game. An intervention should not be a freeform discussion. Everyone should have a turn to speak and should prepare what they want to say beforehand. You, as the leader of the intervention, should have a clear vision of the flow and message of the intervention from beginning to middle to end. This can be a lot to handle as one person, which is why it may be helpful to involve a professional like a licensed clinician from Family-Centered Services. 

Focusing on the Negative

When too much emphasis is put on the negative during an intervention, it will only discourage your loved one with SUD. While it’s important to discuss the negative effects substance use has had on the family, be sure to talk about the positive things too. For example, acknowledge that this conversation is a great first step towards change. Remind your loved one frequently that you care about them and want to help them live a healthy, happy life. Discuss the positive changes that each person will make to help heal the family. By shifting the focus to the positive, your loved one will feel less ashamed and more capable of overcoming old habits. 

Lack of Following Through

If you do not follow through with your expectations and boundaries, it will not help your loved one with SUD.  Rather, not following through on your words will show them that your threats are empty and that there aren’t consequences to their continued substance use. People with SUD will often continue their dangerous behavior until they no longer have a safety net to fall back on. This safety net can come in the form of lending them money, giving them a place to live, or helping them out of legal trouble. It may seem cruel, but if you lay out consequences for your loved one during the intervention, you need to uphold these expectations, especially if they do not seek treatment. 

Relying on Quantity Over Quality Support

Including too many people in an intervention is a common mistake. Interventions portrayed in the media often show large groups ambushing their family member with an onslaught of emotional accusations. This is not how interventions should go in real life. The more people you have involved, the higher the chance that someone will get too emotional and cross a line. To avoid that, keep the intervention group small and prioritize quality over quantity. The people you choose to be involved should be level-headed and coming from a place of concern, not anger. A small group can also help the target of the intervention feel more comfortable, and, therefore, more willing to be honest. 

Giving Up

Furthermore, giving up after a “failed” intervention can be tempting. It might feel like you put all of this time and effort into helping someone you care about and they threw it away. We get it. We’ve seen those “failed” interventions, but we know that they don’t have to be looked at as failures. Opening the dialogue and being honest with your loved one is a great first step to change. 

Your loved one may just need more time to pass for your words to really sink in. On the other hand, they may need to identify real-life consequences that match your concerns. If the intervention doesn’t have the outcome you hoped, it isn’t your fault. Your loved one will have a much higher chance of making a sustained change to their life if they choose to get treatment themselves. Instead of beating yourself up, take this as an opportunity to evaluate why it didn’t go as planned. This can help you prepare for potentially staging another intervention in the future. 

Involve a Professional and Avoid the Pitfalls

The pitfalls listed above are only a handful of potential problems that could arise during an intervention. Like it or not, you are part of the family unit, which means that you are susceptible to all of the behavioral and emotional issues that your family members experience. In the moment, you could get overwhelmed or frustrated and lose the ability to lead the group. Thus, involving a professional in your intervention can be especially valuable for your loved one’s motivation and willingness to participate in treatment.

Involve a Professional: Addiction Interventionalist

To give your family the best chance at a successful intervention, you may want to involve a professional addiction interventionist. Family-Centered Services has a wonderful team of licensed clinicians who can guide you through the process and lift some of the burdens. We have experience in these situations, and we know how to keep everything on track and moving forward. 

No matter where you’re located in the United States, we want to help your family through the addiction recovery process. Though Family-Centered Services is based out of Washington State, we travel across the country to meet family where they are, when they need it most. Our approach to interventions emphasizes family involvement, education, and a focus on positive change. Everyone has a role to play in the recovery journey, and our team can help you find yours. It’s never too early to get the process started. If your loved one is in need of professional help, don’t wait for them to hit “rock bottom.” Please reach out to Family-Centered Services at (509) 991-5822