What Happens if an Intervention Doesn’t Work?

Interventions can be incredibly helpful tools in the process of addiction recovery. According to UNT, “An intervention presents your loved one with a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse and can motivate someone to seek or accept help.”

While interventions have been known to be successful for helping an individual realize that they need to make a change and seek treatment for their addiction, what happens if an intervention doesn’t work?

Interventions May Be Unsuccessful.

These things do happen; sometimes, an intervention may not work, or even backfire heavily, and it is important for the individuals associated with it to be aware of this possibility.

  • Your loved one may refuse treatment outright, refuse to admit that they have a problem, or become extremely angry or upset, leading to dangerous circumstances.
  • Your loved one may seem that they understand what you and the other individuals at the intervention are trying to say. They may even agree to attend treatment. However, they could reveal later that they had no intention of doing so. Drug addicts have a “tendency to manipulate,” according to the St. Paul Police Department, and their readiness to change may turn out to be another instance of manipulation.
  • Unfortunately, other individuals involved in the intervention could cause issues. This is why it is so important to choose the attendees carefully and to discuss with them how important their words will be (and how they should select them with care). As stated by the UNT, it is important not to include anyone who “may not be able to limit what he or she says to what you agreed on during the planning meeting” or who is known for their emotional or combative nature.
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While it is important to stay positive about your loved one’s intervention, there is a possibility that it could go wrong. This may be caused by one or more of the reasons above or a different reason entirely. That is why you should have two plans for your intervention follow-up: one to be used if it works and one to be used if it doesn’t.

Immediate Response to an Unsuccessful Intervention

Intervention Doesn't Work

Know that even if an intervention is unsuccessful you can help your loved one!

Your immediate response should not be to give up. Just because a particular intervention does not go exactly the way you planned does not mean it was a failure or that it was pointless. Just like someone who goes through recovery and stumbles or relapses, you must try again to help your loved one realize that they should seek help for their addiction.

If your loved one is not receptive to the intervention immediately, here are some ways in which you should respond.

  • Remind your loved one that certain consequences were discussed in the event that they do not seek help or attend treatment in the way they have been asked. Before the intervention, each person is supposed to discuss and agree upon a set of consequences that are meant to be implemented in exactly this case. This is why those involved with an intervention should “not threaten a consequence unless [they] are ready to follow through with it.”
  • Make sure these consequences are explicitly clear to the individual.
  • Follow through with the consequences you have set, and make sure the others involved in the intervention also follow through with theirs. This is the only way to make your loved one realize you are serious if they refuse to seek help after the intervention.

If your loved one seems receptive at first and then later shows that they have no intention of following through with your rules, make sure you follow the same consequences that you set previously. Make it clear to the individual that you are doing so because they lied when you asked them to seek help. Then, it may be time to seek professional help on your own.

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Professional Help after an Unsuccessful Intervention

Many people choose to have a professional interventionist present at their meeting. This can be extremely helpful, especially if they have never staged a meeting like this before. “Consulting an addiction professional, such as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, social psychologist, psychiatrist, or interventionist, can help you organize an effective intervention.”

If you did not do so the first time around, you may want to consult one of these individuals after the unsuccessful intervention. The professional you talk to may suggest that you plan another intervention with their help or give you tips on how to enforce your consequences more strongly. However, there are other ways in which a professional could help you in this instance.

If you are a family member of the addict, you may be able ensure that the individual attends treatment, even if it is involuntary on their part. This is no one’s ideal way, and it can be very painful. However, according to the NIDA, “sanctions or enticements from family, employment settings, and/or the criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment interventions.” Therefore, your loved one does not need to voluntarily commit to treatment in order to still receive the benefits of it.

When to Consider Getting a Drug Intervention Specialist

Not the End

Everyone hopes that their intervention plan will work out and that their loved one will realize that they are in need of some kind of professional treatment. The reality is that many individuals do not come to terms with their problem as the result of their loved ones explaining their feelings about it. Even more unfortunately, many individuals do not realize for years that they need help, and by that time, it can be very difficult to mend those relationships.

However, one unsuccessful intervention is not the end. You can still do many things to help your loved one realize that they are in need of treatment. By staging an intervention, you are letting them know that you will no longer be an enabler, and whether or not they respond positively, you have taken a positive step in supporting their eventual recovery. Now, you must continue down the same path in order to show them you are serious.

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