5 Key Reasons Behind Failed Interventions

5 Key Reasons Behind Failed Interventions

For anyone going through a tough time, having friends and family that care can be life-changing. Therapists are often approached by individuals who are concerned about a person they know. Perhaps they suffer from an addiction of some kind, and the path they are on is dangerous. Or they may have already hurt people close to them, and immediate change is of the essence. 

The good news is that interventions, when done properly, can be quite successful. Data from the Association of Intervention Specialists shows that the success rate is between 80% and 90%.

However, regardless of why an intervention is done, it needs to be handled in the right way. In this article, we will explore why interventions can fail to learn how we can handle them correctly.

1. Lack of Proper Planning

An intervention is an extremely delicate process. The margin for error is slim, and if it is handled carelessly, the valuable opportunity is lost. What does poor planning look like? Well, if the goals and objectives of the intervention are vague, that is already a bad start. 

Sometimes, an intervention may not even be the right choice. How do you know when it is time for an intervention? According to the Canadian Centre for Addictions, a common sign is a denial of an evident problem. Lying, manipulation, and reckless behavior are also common signs. These are tricky behaviors to deal with for friends and family, especially when compounded by an addiction or a problem. 

Thus, interventions should be assisted and handled with professional guidance and supervision. There are likely to be blind spots and sensitive areas that even the most concerned friends overlook. This is why hiring an interventionist can be particularly useful. You will almost always want the help of a trained therapist.

They can give you pointers and tips that will prove invaluable once the intervention process begins. 

Poor planning can also manifest in the form of emotional unpreparedness. Interventions can be unpredictable in many ways. If the person is resistant to change, you may find them responding with hostility and even violence. Other times, they may break down and seem inconsolable. If those handling the intervention have little experience in such situations, things can get out of control. 

2. Inadequate or Ineffective Communication

At its heart, an intervention represents an earnest act of reaching out to someone in need. Solid communication is the foundation for any successful intervention. However, misunderstandings are common and can ruin the entire process. There is a chance that the person may feel targeted and singled out, which in turn makes them defensive. 

Once their guard is up, you will have to deal with the challenging process of communicating that your intentions are sincere. Conveying that you are concerned for them and want to help before it is too late is easier said than done. 

Some might believe that an intervention requires every close friend and family member to be present. However, in certain situations, success is more likely when only a few trusted individuals make contact. This discernment requires a good understanding of how the person is likely to react to an intervention. 

3. Resistance to Change

Perhaps the biggest challenge to an intervention is the concerned individual’s attitude and perception of the issue. They might believe that there is nothing wrong with the way things are. Other times, they might have become dependent on something that is at the root of everything. 

Drugs, alcohol, anger issues, and addictions of any kind need to be viewed in the right context. They are often related to deeper issues that need to be resolved first. Individuals will keep resisting true change and transformation until the underlying problem is resolved. 

These underlying issues could include personal battles with loneliness, depression, and other serious mental health issues. If you suspect this to be the case, a key step in the intervention would be connecting them with a qualified specialist. 

4. Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes, people believe that an intervention will create a 180-degree change in the person’s life. If the person battles a drug addiction, they might hope that an intervention would completely cure them within a week. However, this is not a realistic picture of what usually happens. 

An intervention is a good start, but it is just the start. True change requires a concerted effort from the concerned individual, friends and family, and professionals. Thus, try not to get disappointed by relapses and backsliding. They are not ideal, but they are often a part of the recovery process. 

Similarly, ensure that the concerned individual also understands this aspect. They should also remember to set realistic goals that will motivate them toward bigger ones. The last thing you want is for them to feel like the process of change is too difficult and overwhelming. 

Even with access to the best help, few people manage to make it out of their crisis in one smooth ride. Recovery is a bumpy road, but as long as the path is maintained, the final goal will be reached. 

5. Lack of Follow-up and Ongoing Support

Even if you manage to avoid each of the pitfalls mentioned above, you should remember that follow-up is critical. If the initial stages of the intervention seem successful, do not relax just yet. 

Withdrawal can strike suddenly and at the worst of times. A lack of ongoing support can cause them to quickly fall back to old patterns. Accountability, motivation, and coping strategies will thus become essential for a successful intervention. They help maintain the initial momentum that the intervention started. 

Failure to follow up and provide continuous support can also lead to incomplete healing. The last thing you want is to create more unresolved problems due to partial recovery. As a concerned friend or family member, your ability to monitor for signs of stagnation and backsliding will be key. 


Interventions are helpful for any number of reasons. It could be for an addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other substances. It could even help people recognize their attitudinal and behavioral dysfunctions. Regardless of why an intervention is performed, it needs to be conducted with the utmost care. 

The potential for simple mistakes that derail the entire process is easily made. Once again, this is why the guidance of a professional therapist will be critical for success. An intervention is not something to rush into. Instead, take your time and ensure you have planned out every possible contingency. 

About our Author Michelle Landeros, LMFT license# 115130
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT

Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.

Last updated: November 29, 2023