Why Intervention May Not Always Be Successful the First Time

Intervention, whereby family and friends confront an alcoholic or drug addict in order to get them to treatment, is an emotionally draining and confrontational undertaking that is not always successful. Even if a competent interventionist has been hired and an appropriate treatment center has been identified, not all interventions will result in admission to a treatment center for recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. Therefore, before embarking on the intervention journey, it is important to set realistic expectations and prepare for the fact that more than one intervention may be necessary to achieve lasting change.

The patient must be ready to acknowledge the problem and want to seek help

To put it bluntly, an intervention will not be successful if the person cannot be convinced to go to treatment. While the need for change may be clearly apparent to everyone around her, keep in mind that her brain has been subjected to toxins that can temporarily (or permanently) reduce her mental abilities even when she is sober.

Intense or long-term ingestion of alcohol or drugs can have a profound affect on the brain of an alcoholic or drug addict. While a normal person can easily see the destructive behavior, connect the behavior to negative consequences, and conclude that stopping the behavior will alleviate the consequences, the addict may not be able to make such elemental connections. Addictive substances can affect reasoning and logic abilities and further destabilize the mental state of a person. She may not be able to see the seriousness of the problem.

It is also possible that the consequences are not dire enough yet encourage change. For instance, if an alcoholic has been able to maintain a job and keep a roof over her head, she may be less likely to acknowledge the seriousness of her situation than if she has been fired due to alcohol-related behavior. Therefore, for some patients, the timing of the intervention may be critical.

Further, addiction means that the person experiences incredibly strong biological cravings for alcohol or drugs. Withdrawal, a painful process during which the body is denied the alcohol or drugs it craves, is often a terrifying prospect. Although most treatment programs will handle withdrawal gently using a medically supervised process called medical detoxification, fear of withdrawal symptoms (or fear of cessation of the feeling association with drinking or taking drugs) can be strong enough to cause a person to acknowledge the need for treatment, yet refuse to go.

Even the most well-known and successful interventionist may not connect with the patient

If you have ever been to psychological therapy, you may know that it is not always easy to find a therapist that fits. Characteristics such as gender, treatment style, personality and social status may attract us to or repel us from a particular therapist.

The relationship between patient and interventionist can be similar to the relationship between patient and therapist. Although the interaction between interventionist and patient is often brief (as opposed to therapy which is long-term), the patient will probably not agree to treatment if she does not feel comfortable enough with the interventionist to trust him. Although a disconnection between patient and interventionist may not have anything to do with the competency or talents of the interventionist, it will have the same effect as using an incompetent or inexperienced interventionist, i.e., a failed intervention.

One major difference between choosing a therapist and choosing an interventionist is that the subject of an intervention is not permitted to make the choice herself. Instead, a family member or friend has taken the choice away from her prior to the start of the intervention. This feeling of being forced to allow a stranger access to an intensely personal situation may overwhelm the intervention regardless of the interventionist. However, selecting an interventionist that the patient can connect with or, more importantly, has already been through what the patient is going through can go along way to encouraging trust between patient and interventionist.

The process of selecting an interventionist should be handled with extreme care. Some of the best interventionists will be former alcoholics or drug addicts who have already walked in the patient’s shoes and can address the addiction-related fears and concerns that family and friends may not even be aware of, never mind be able to address. Since selecting the wrong interventionist can torpedo an otherwise favorable intervention, do not be afraid to explore the personal background and success record of any prospective interventionist.