4 Reasons Some Interventions Fail

Each year, millions of people struggle with drug abuse and dependence. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in America alone, approximately 22.2 million people ages 12 and over were either abusing or dependent on a substance. Additionally, more than 23 million people qualified as needing treatment for a substance use problem. Out of all of these people, however, only 2.5 million actually received any type of treatment. One reason that so many people who need substance abuse treatment don’t receive it is because they go through a failed intervention.

Interventions occur when a person’s family or friends are concerned about her substance abuse or dependence and want to help her receive the treatment she desperately needs. Although many interventions are successful, they don’t work every time. These four factors can sometimes come into play and lead to a failed intervention.

1. Inadequate Planning and Organization

Interventions should always be conducted in a group setting with people that care about the person struggling with the drug problem. Before the intervention occurs, the group should plan out each aspect of the event. When one or more of the following steps are ignored, the intervention might lack focus and effectiveness and therefore be more likely to fail:

  • Outline exactly what they want to tell the person: the members of the intervention should make a list of ways that the drug problem has negatively affected the person, her loved ones and other people around her.
  • Find a treatment center that will admit the person as soon as the intervention is over. In order to ensure a successful intervention, the person should have a place to immediately begin treatment once she agrees to get help.
  • Get a professional interventionist to lead the preparation for and execute the actual intervention. Since some people with drug problems also have other problems that make them psychologically unstable or physically dangerous, a trained professional can ensure that the intervention runs smoothly and successfully.

2. Focusing on the Problem Instead of the Solution

Interventions that fail often spend too much time dwelling on the past instead of discussing solutions for the future. Drew W. Edwards states the importance of focusing on the solution, saying that in an intervention, the friends and family should emphasize the immediate next steps towards the solution.

3. Giving Too Many Options

Another flaw in unsuccessful interventions involves giving the person too many choices for how and when to receive treatment. It’s important to emphasize that treatment is needed immediately. Otherwise, the person may continue to think that her problem is not severe, and that she can receive help at some distant date in the future. Additionally, allowing the person to choose from several possible treatment centers can be overwhelming, and this can sometimes cause the person to not choose any of the options and instead stay on the easier path of continuing the drug use. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse clarifies, substance abuse and dependence treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary in order to work, so it can sometimes be effective to choose one treatment option and tell the person that she must go through the treatment or else face serious consequences.

4. Lack of Commitment to the Intervention’s Ultimatums

When the people organizing the intervention develop their specific plan, they should identify the consequences that will occur if the person doesn’t begin treatment. The Mayo Clinic explains that these consequences often relate to relationships with friends and family members, and can include cutting off all contact or financial support.

Get More Information About Failed Interventions

Avoiding the stumbling blocks listed above can help make an intervention more likely to succeed. And even interventions that have failed can still end with the person receiving treatment for their drug problem in the near-future. Contacting a qualified interventionist to discuss the best ways to ensure success can make future interventions much more likely to be effective. If you are thinking about staging an intervention for a loved one, or if you’ve recently been a part of a failed intervention and are wondering what to do next, call us at 615-490-9376.