Top 10 steps in drug addiction intervention

Interventions are practices that aim to investigate a potential addiction problem and to motivate an individual to begin to do something about her substance abuse. This list indexes the intervention techniques used to address substance users. Although created for clinicians, these intervention techniques are also helpful for working the 12th Step.

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An intervention ranges from unstructured counseling and feedback to more formalized structured therapy. Brief interventions, are time limited, structured, and directed toward a specific goal. Ideally, the goal is to have an addict accepting responsibility for her own recovery. Brief interventions ARE NOT a substitute for specialized care for high levels of dependency but are used to encourage people to attend 12-step meetings to seek treatment.

Interventions follow a specific plan (sometimes a workbook or pamphlet or a questionnaire) and include a timeline for the change of specific behaviors. Effective interventionists assess an addict’s readiness and willingness to change, plan a corresponding strategy to assist her in progressing to the next stage, and implement that strategy.

  1. Define the purpose of the talk, gain permission to talk, and help the person understand the reason for the intervention.
  2. Raise awareness of the issue in the context of the person’s health.
  3. Screen, evaluate and assess substance use.
  4. Actively listen to feedback and direct toward the purpose of the talk.
  5. Help the addict weigh the costs and benefits of change.
  6. Offer positive change alternatives and options.
  7. Identify potential change strategies.
  8. Help the addict choose the most appropriate change strategy. Address the costs and benefits of various change strategies (e.g., self-change, brief treatment, intensive treatment, self-help group attendance).
  9. Reinforce personal decisions made by repeating goals and outcomes.
  10. Schedule a follow up talk to track progress. This can be in the form of a face-to-face meeting, a telephone call, or even a voice mail message.

Source reference: SAMHSA/CSAT Tip 34

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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