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Whether or not you’ve participated in an intervention, we all know vaguely what they entail. Loved one’s gathered around someone suffering from addiction, telling them their addiction has impacted their lives and offering them help. Although well-intentioned, is there actually any evidence that interventions like this work?

The intervention process relies on the preparation of its participants. This means that almost certainly, if the intervention is messy or hostile, that it will not result in any real change. This blog post will discuss what an intervention is and if they really offer the results they aim to.

What is an Intervention?

It is common that those suffering from addiction may have trouble seeing the ways their addiction negatively impacts the ones around them. An intervention is an organized attempt to confront an addicted loved one and highlight the ways in which their drinking, drug use, or addiction-related behavior has affected the ones around them. An intervention offers the addict’s family, friends, and colleagues an opportunity to tell the person how their misuse of drugs and/or alcohol has been detrimental to their lives. Often, interventions are overseen by a mental health professional or interventionists whose job is to direct or mediate the intervention. At the end of the intervention, the addict usually either agrees or declines to go to treatment. 

The intervention’s success hinges on the preparation of the participants. It is essential that each participant speaks from a place of no judgment, prepares what they are going to say in advance, and does not make the addict feel attacked or threatened. The intervention’s ultimate goal is to get the addict to accept help, so remembering to remain kind and non-confrontational is essential.

Ways Interventions Can Go Wrong

It is very unlikely an intervention will make the addiction worse or cause any psychological trauma. It is more likely, however, that the invention can cause serious strain on the relationships between the participants and the addict. Some addicts respond to inventions with anger and upset, while others may just refuse to go to treatment. Those who refuse to go to treatment are often cut off by the loved ones present for the intervention. This means that they are denied money, shelter, or whatever else by their loved ones if they refuse to seek help.

Another way the intervention can be ineffective is if it does not go to plan or if the intervention is planned poorly. It is easy for the intervention to be derailed if there is not a mental health professional involved to mediate. If the intervention is run by only loved ones, it is likely that it will become very emotionally charged and not productive. Mental health professionals can help ensure the intervention stays calm, rational, and helpful. Moreover, they offer an objective perspective that can help keep emotions at bay. 

How Effective Are Interventions?

When implemented properly, interventions can be very effective in helping those experiencing addiction receive the help they need. Interventions can reduce the harm associated with drug and alcohol misuse, can improve the health and social function of the individual, can help reduce the risk behaviors, and can prevent the addiction from progressing further. A study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse stated that people who were confronted about their alcohol misuse were more likely to enter rehab and remain abstinent than those who were not confronted. That being said, the success of an intervention depends on the individual. Some people respond better to interventions than others, so you must consider the person’s unique circumstances before deciding on intervening. 

There is no way to definitively say that interventions work as it is so subjective. If you are considering conducting an intervention, however, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure the intervention goes as smoothly as possible. This can be done by considering the individual’s circumstances and possible reaction to the confrontation, discussing the potential intervention with a mental health professional, and acknowledging the fact that the intervention may end poorly. The bottom line is interventions are always a risk and there is no way to guarantee it will end well.

Addiction Treatment at NuView Treatment Center

If you have a loved one that you believe needs help addressing their addiction, NuView Treatment Center can help. NuView, which is based in West Los Angeles, offers outpatient addiction treatment that is designed to give clients the tools they need to recover. The evidence-based treatment programs available at NuView can help clients address the underlying issues, such as mental health disorders and interpersonal problems, that are motivating their addiction. NuView’s highly trained staff offers each client an individualized treatment program that can help them develop self-care practices and coping mechanisms to live a happy and sober life.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside


Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson


Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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