Why Do an Intervention? The Risks Involved


By Kia Wakefield

For years, people have interrupted the life of someone they love by making them aware of a destructive behavior that is taking place. It was only until recently that the method of trying to move someone off the path of destruction had a technical name attached to it: intervention.

Families that watch their loved ones destroy themselves with an addiction, most commonly a substance abuse addiction, often feel helpless, angry and desperate. Most addictions are severe, and efforts to help alleviate the problem often fail. The intervention, in many cases, is the last resort when nothing else has worked. People conduct interventions because they want to see change.

Interventions have become increasingly formal and orderly. There are normally several people involved in the intervention that have mentally and emotionally prepared to approach a person about their addictive behavior. The intervention is a time for loved ones to tell the person with the addiction exactly how they feel and compel the person in a respectful way to change his or her behavior.

According to Creative Interventions for Troubled Children, interventions can be used on a person of any age. Troubled teens and youth are given interventions when their social and academic life is suffering because of behavioral problems and psychological issues. Childhood is often filled with many troubles, which is why interventions are not limited to those over the age of 18.

On the cover of the book Intervention, How to Help Someone Who Doest Want Help, by Vernon E. Johnson, there is a picture of five individuals maneuvering themselves into the literal head of a man. The image illustrates the idea that freeing someone from an addiction requires a new control of thoughts. Loved ones who want health and restoration for that person guide these thoughts. A mind change must occur by the addicted person for the intervention to truly work.

Not every intervention will work. In addition to this reality, interventions are not without risk. There are times when an intervention could completely backfire and cause a person to progress further into their addiction.

An Intervention of One

There is more risk involved when an intervention involves only one person who wants to elicit the change. The more people that are present to support the notion that change is needed, the more likely an individual is to realize that there is truly a problem.

An intervention that involves only one person won’t necessarily be ineffective, but there is an increased possibility that the person being approached may simply remain in a state of denial about how destructive their behavior truly is.

When there are multiple people, validation of the problem increases. What may be difficult to digest from the perspective of one may be easier to understand when there are corresponding perspectives all telling the same story.

Risk of Defensiveness

People involved in destructive behavior are often in denial and have a tendency to be extremely defensive. Because they feel their behavior is a safe-haven for them, they may feel as if what they are doing is justified and the person attempting to eliminate this “safe haven” is an enemy rather than a friend.

It isn’t just the person with the addiction who may take a hostile attitude of defense. The people involved in the intervention may experience a flurry of emotions, such as frustration and anger. If these emotions are not handled properly and constructively, there is a risk that the intervention can take a serious toll on the relationship. The goal of an intervention is not to destroy a relationship, but to build a relationship by finding solutions to the addiction.

Getting Professional Input

Because there isn’t any “right way” to have an intervention, there is always a risk involved. Sometimes groups may find that they need professional guidance or help when conducting an intervention. This is especially true when the people involved don’t know how to approach the person in a way that will be conducive to change.

People conduct an intervention because nothing else has worked. When an intervention is done right, change happens. This change works as a positive force to break addictions and bind those involved closer together.

There is always the possibility that an individual could feel as if the people conducting the intervention are attacking them emotionally or mentally. In these cases, the intervention could completely backfire and instead of preventing destructive behavior, the relationships of all involved suffer. Although this is a risk, the individual conducting the intervention must determine if the risk of the destructive behavior outweighs the risk of an intervention. For most people, this is an easy question to answer.