What’s an Intervention?

Edited by Beth Durling

Last updated August 27, 2020

Alcoholism and drug abuse are widespread public health problems affecting millions of people. Sadly, the impacts of addiction aren’t limited to those with substance abuse problems. An individual’s family, friends, romantic partner, children, job, and community can end up suffering as a result of their substance abuse.

When those closest to an addict feel as though the problem is out of control, they begin weighing various options getting help. If other attempts have failed or your loved one is in denial about their substance abuse, you might be considering an intervention. But what’s an intervention, and how do you know if it’s the right option?

Northbound Treatment has been helping addicts and their families overcome the devastating effects of substance abuse disorder (SUD) for more than 30 years. We’re experts when it comes to treatment and the often bumpy road to rehab. Here’s everything you need to know about drug and alcohol interventions, including how to stage an intervention, types of interventions, and what you should do before staging one.

What Is Intervention?

What is “intervention,” exactly? Essentially, an intervention is a pre-planned attempt—usually by multiple people—to convince a person to get professional help for their destructive behaviors[1]. Interventions most often address substance abuse problems, but they’re sometimes held to confront issues like gambling addiction, codependency, eating disorders, self-harm, domestic violence, or deteriorating physical health.

Since an intervention is a deeply personal matter, the people staging it usually consist of a relatively small group of close family members and friends. When these individuals become overwhelmed or severely worried about the person’s addictive behaviors, they often feel helpless. In some instances, they might begin to perform poorly at work, become depressed or anxious, suffer financially, or turn to substance abuse themselves. As we mentioned, addiction unfairly impacts a person’s closest circle, and interventions come in when they finally decide enough is enough.

How Do Interventions Work?

You might have heard of interventions before or even seen the A&E reality series Intervention, which followed addicts’ friends and relatives as they created a plan with a professional interventionist (intervention specialist). Though successful interventions generally follow similar steps, they don’t all look the same.

However, aside from getting a person to agree to treatment, one of the primary objectives is to allow each person a chance to speak. This gives them the opportunity to express how the individual’s substance abuse has impacted their lives and how they’ve been hurt.

So, how does an intervention work? Interventions also take place in a controlled setting. It’s not about cornering the addict but more so about confronting them in an environment where they’re more likely to listen and be receptive to each person’s qualms. Most often, an intervention will occur at the individual’s home or the home of a family member.

In many instances, addiction counselors from rehab centers help families prepare to intervene, and they may even be present during the intervention. As part of our commitment to setting our clients up for success and providing high-quality care at every stage of our treatment program, Northbound is here to assist with your confrontation. Our experienced intervention specialists can help you plan for the best possible outcome.

Types of Interventions

There are various types of interventions for alcohol abuse and drug addiction. The most common methods include Johnson Intervention, the Field Model, and Systemic Family Intervention.

Johnson Intervention

Johnson Intervention (or the Johnson Method) was developed by Vernon Johnson, and it’s the most common approach to confronting a loved one’s substance abuse. With this intervention method, an addict’s family collaborates with a professional interventionist to confront them about their problem without any warning. In a communicative and non-threatening manner, the people present will try to convince the individual with an addiction to begin treatment before the consequences of their behaviors get worse[2].

The Field Model

Similar to Johnson Intervention, the Field Model calls for confronting an addict without their prior knowledge of the intervention. However, this technique requires a more involved and carefully planned process. The Field Model is typically implemented when a person has a co-occurring mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, MDD (major depressive disorder), borderline personality disorder, or another condition that could contribute to an escalated response or some sort of outburst. If the loved ones of an addict believe the confrontation could result in physical violence, self-harm, or other dangerous behaviors, they bring in an intervention specialist trained in mitigating the situation[3].

Systemic Family Intervention

Systemic Family Intervention (also known as the Invitation Model) was created by Wayne Raiter and Ed Speare. With this approach, an addict and their closest relatives participate in an interventionist-led workshop, during which they address the ways in which substance abuse has impacted the family as a whole. The family-focused technique also takes into account each person’s involvement and potential enabling of the addiction[4].

What type of intervention process is best for your family? That depends on several factors, such as the nature of your loved one’s addiction, previous attempts to confront their habits, any underlying mental illnesses, your family’s willingness to participate in their recovery, family dynamics at play, and anything that’s critically at stake due to their substance abuse.

Do Interventions Work?

The answer to the question of “Do interventions work?” is somewhat complex. The method can be effective in getting someone to admit they have a problem and accept help. But it’s important to note that an alcohol or drug addiction intervention itself isn’t the be-all and end-all. Even if this person agrees to get addiction treatment, there are still many steps in the road to recovery.

Be that as it may, interventions can be a wakeup call for many addicts—especially when they hear from their loved ones about how their substance abuse has affected them. While drug addiction and alcoholism are urgent matters that should be treated as soon as possible, a last-minute intervention without proper planning can backfire.

There are so many variables at play, and addicts tend to respond in unpredictable ways. Sometimes, a poorly executed drug or alcohol intervention can end up deepening family rifts, lead a person to hide their substance abuse moving forward, or cause other problems. In order for the confrontation to work, you’ll need to plan carefully and prepare for various outcomes.

Family members of people with SUD often fear what may happen if they don’t step in. Addiction is a dangerous and sometimes fatal disease, and many worry that they’ll regret not attempting to intervene. Though you shouldn’t blame yourself for another person’s substance abuse, it’s always worth trying to get professional help. Northbound Treatment is here to help you help your loved one. Contact us to get in touch with a drug or alcohol intervention specialist.

Have Treatment Options Ready

The most crucial thing about holding a formal intervention for drug addiction or alcohol abuse is to prepare to present them with treatment options. Time is of the essence, and if your family member agrees to seek help, you’ll want to make sure you’ve ironed out the logistics. Contact a rehabilitation center to see if they have an opening and verify insurance coverage if possible. That way, they might be able to begin treatment as soon as the same day.

Northbound Treatment is proud to offer a full continuum of care for alcoholism and drug rehab in Orange County, and we’re welcoming new patients every day. Our flexible treatment plans include medically supervised detox, residential (inpatient) treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and ongoing aftercare services. Clients can enroll in a variety of our integrated programs, including dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders.

We also offer a family program for those in residential rehab. Each month, family members meet over the course of four days to connect with the person getting treatment. This allows them to discuss the underlying causes of substance abuse, learn about addiction from the viewpoint of a disease, and mend damaged relationships.

If someone dear to you is struggling with drugs or alcohol and you’re considering an intervention, we encourage you to get in touch with us at Northbound Treatment. Call us today at (888) 978-8649.

External sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
  2. https://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/practice-settings/intervention/johnson-intervention
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/would-an-intervention-help-my-addicted-loved-one-4147406
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001353/

Article Reviewed by Beth Durling

Beth DurlingBeth Durling BA, CADCII, ICADC is the Clinical Director of Northbound Treatment Services. She is also the proud owner of The Durling Group, Inc., a national consulting firm, where she worked closely with large scale corporations, healthcare companies, and universities, helping to enhance outcomes.

Beth founded and resided as CEO for The Center for Life Change, a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Riverside County where she gained national recognition for her outcomes as a leader in the field of addiction surrounding patient care, specializing in retention strategies for both staff and patients.

She also founded The Heart Culture Academy, creating a collaborative national community of trained influencers, helping people change their relationships, their work environments and personal lives through her published Model, Heart Culture.

Beth believes individual lives can be enhanced through learned consciousness, utilizing her specialized techniques that offer long-lasting, connection-based relationships. She has toured the country speaking and distributing this message.

Beth has been writing and speaking to assist individuals and organizations through transformative processes for the last 25 years. She is the mother to two adult children, Ridge and Rachel and resides in San Clemente, California.


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