How to Handle an Intervention on Stubborn Teens

By Kathryn Hatter
Intervening with a teenager can be a difficult process.
Intervening with a teenager can be a difficult process.

Although "intervention" might sound like a scary word that's full of threats and major events, that doesn't have to be the case, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America's website. If you suspect teen substance use, you have a parental responsibility to act. Even experimental substance use by your teenager requires intervention to prevent risk-taking activities from continuing and possibly escalating. Intervene with a teenager to communicate about risky behavior.

Discuss the problem involving your teen with a spouse or the other parent, if possible. When dealing with a difficult teen problem, an allied front between both parents can be an effective way to present a formidable parental force, advises

Prepare the information and evidence you have that indicates your teenager needs help. For example, if you have found drug paraphernalia or other evidence of illegal or dangerous activity such as empty alcohol bottles, gather it to present to your teenager.

Determine your desired outcome of the intervention. For example, if you want your teenager to receive an evaluation, enter therapy or change schools, make this the goal you move toward as you speak with your teenager. If you have specific house rules and consequences you wish to place in force, formulate these rules so you can communicate them to your teen.

Choose a time when you and your spouse can discuss the issues at length with your teenager. This should be a time when you have privacy and the time to complete the entire conversation without interruptions or distractions. Both parents should sit down with the child to discuss the issues.

Deliver your messages with love and concern -- not anger or confrontation. You might say, "Your mom and I have found some evidence that points to you drinking alcohol and we're very concerned." Strive to remain calm throughout the discussion, even though it’s likely that your teenager will become angry or emotional.

Avoid reacting to your teenager’s emotions because that could make the intervention go badly. It might help if you grant your child "immunity," meaning that you won't punish her if she tells you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If the discussion becomes too heated or someone loses control, take a break to allow people to calm down.

Communicate your desired goal to your teen. Provide the reasons for the goal and the results you hope will occur with this goal, too. Keep the focus on your child's health and well-being. You might say, "We want to make an appointment for you for a substance-abuse evaluation and we want you to cooperate with the recommendations."

Follow-through with the desired plan after concluding the discussion. Make plans to seek an evaluation or therapy for your teenager, if applicable. Institute the new rules and consequences immediately, if needed.


If your teen is especially uncooperative or you believe your teenager might have an addiction, consider hiring a professional interventionist for a formal intervention, advises Hazelden, a drug treatment center. A professional therapist or interventionist can guide the formal intervention toward the desired outcome to help deal with the teenager's addiction.


Never proceed with an intervention when your child is under the influence or you feel strong emotions, warns the Partnership for a Drug Free America website.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.