Although the basic concept of an intervention is well understood, many people are surprised to learn that several different approaches can be used.
The model of intervention that is most appropriate for motivating your loved one to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction depends on factors such as:
- Your loved one’s personality
- The type of relationship you have with your loved one
- The length of time he or she has been abusing substances
- What substances you suspect are being abused
- If there are co-occurring mental health disorders to consider
Simple vs. Crisis Intervention
A simple intervention is a conversation where you express your concern about specific addiction-related behaviors you’ve witnessed before urging your loved one to seek treatment. You do not attempt to shame or judge your loved one, stating only that you’re worried about the effects of addiction and wish to help him or her start a recovery journey.
A crisis intervention occurs because a specific circumstance has made it clear that your loved one needs treatment. This could be an arrest for a DUI, a near fatal overdose experience, or attempts at self-harm. When your loved one’s safety is a risk or the situation poses a danger to others, immediate action is essential.
Love First vs. Tough Love
The love first approach to intervention planning focuses on providing love and support throughout the process, while the tough love approach is most often used when you’ve reached the point of no return. When addiction has your loved one spiraling out of control, sometimes tough love is what’s necessary to inspire lasting change.
The Johnson Model
In the 1960s, Dr. Vernon Johnson developed what most of us think of when we imagine an intervention. The steps in this type of intervention are as follows:
- The group of concerned friends and family hires an interventionist that they trust.
- The group members learn about addiction and list specific effects they’ve noticed in their loved one’s life.
- The group chooses treatment options with the assistance of the interventionist.
- The group tells their loved one that he or she needs help.
- They offer their loved one a choice to either seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction or live with their withdrawn support.
Under this model, the consequences for refusing treatment might be a spouse who is willing to move out of the home, a parent who will no longer provide financial support for an adult child, or a sibling who no longer wishes to have the person visit his or her home.
The Johnson model is sometimes called the surprise model of intervention.
Family Systems Intervention Model
The family systems intervention model focuses on the addicted person’s entire family. The family deals with their issues first, then turns attention to the need to seek treatment for one member’s drug or alcohol addiction.
Often, each family member is assigned a lifestyle change to make that will promote a healthier group dynamic. This might include addressing issues related to anger management, anxiety, depression, codependency, or expressing feelings more openly. Attending Al-Anon meetings and/or completing specific assigned reading may also be recommended.
The family systems intervention model is a gentle, non-secretive approach that works well when the whole family is on board and willing to take steps towards a building more positive relationship dynamic.
The family systems model is sometimes called the systemic family model of intervention, the invitational model, or the ARISE (A Rational Interventional Sequence for Engagement) model.