The 3 Main Addiction Intervention Models for Drug or Alcohol Problems

What types of interventions currently exist for drug and alcohol problems? A look into the theories and models used today…with a section for your questions at the end.

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Who Needs an Intervention?

An intervention is a collective effort that is orchestrated by one or more individuals who care about the person struggling with a substance abuse disorder, or a crisis, traumatic event, or some other type of serious problem. Interventions have been used for both process addictions (behavioral addictions like gambling, sex, technology, shopping) and substance abuse disorders, self-harm events, and abuse situations.

The goal of an intervention is to get the person the help that they need, which can include treatment.

The majority of interventions are family based. Confrontational approaches in general, though once the norm even in many behavioral treatment settings, have not been found effective. In fact, confrontations without warning may backfire by heightening resistance and diminishing self-esteem on the part of the targeted individual.

Still, there are several different types of interventions that you can use, with associated models. Below, we’ll look at the most well-known interventions.

Types of Addiction Interventions

Simple Intervention: A single-family member or loved one confronts the person with the problem, asking them to stop the behavior and to start a comprehensive treatment program. This can be very effective. Often, the conversation is informal and does not require the help of a professional.

Classical Intervention: This type of intervention involves a professional interventionists. A planning session takes place before the actual intervention that includes everyone that will be involved in the intervention except the person with the problem. This is to educate all parties involved and increase chances for success. Each person will learn what their role will be at the intervention. They will be educated on what to do and self-care throughout the process.

Family System Intervention: These interventions are used when more than one person in a family has a problem, usually with substance abuse disorder. The goal here is to address the problem, the codependency, and any emotional issues that occur within the family unit. How to handle the coming changes and self-care throughout the process.

A Crisis Intervention: When a crisis occurs in a person’s life who suffers from chronic substance use disorder which makes it clear to everyone that treatment is necessary, where the person has become a danger themselves and the people around them, the immediate objective should be to stabilize the situation for safety. Treatment will soon follow.

The 3 Main Interventionist Based Models for Drug and Alcohol Problems

1. The Surprise Model

The use of interventions originated the 1960s with Dr. Vernon Johnson. “The Johnson Model” was subsequently taught years later at the Johnson Institute. The Johnson Model is not meant to frighten or bully the addict, but instead to let them know that the community wants to help them.

The Johnson Model is often used when the person with the problem has so thoroughly and involuntarily surrounded themselves with excuses that they are unable to see how devastating their actions have become. An interventionist trained in this model will guide the addict’s community in bringing them to a decision. The steps of the Johnson Model are as follows:

a. The family or group hires an interventionist that they trust.
b. The group researches addiction and its specific effects on their loved one.
c. The group researches and selects workable treatment options.
d. The group tells the person with the problem that they believe the person needs help.
e. They present the person with a choice: seek recovery, or live with their withdrawn support.

Johnson: This approach focuses on educating the family member, loved one, family member, co-worker, etc., on how to confront the addict, and encourage him or her to get the help they need for the substance abuse. Blame is avoided, and concentration is directed at ways of treating addictions and co-occurring disorders with some sort of therapy.

2. The Invitational Model

This differs from the surprise Model because the person with the addiction problem is involved from the very beginning. Those who are involved with this model of intervention go through systematic steps that end when the addicted person agrees to go into treatment. The steps usually start with a family member contacting a professional interventionist. If the addicted person does not agree to enter treatment after the first meeting, the group plans another meeting. If the addicted person still refuses after five meetings, a meeting will be scheduled to establish consequences, if the person does not enter treatment. This is approximately a nine-month process that is specific and rigid

The ARISE (A Rational Interventional Sequence for Engagement): This focuses on the whole family group and how they can work together to solve the addiction problem. It is not just the addict’s problem to overcome.

Confrontational: This involves firmly challenging the addictive behaviors by pointing out undesirable behaviors and consequences caused by the addict.

Love First Intervention Approach: This encourages the providing of love and support to be given throughout and beyond treatment. This does not mean accepting the addicts’ excuses. It just means confronting in positive ways.
Tough Love Approach: Use this if you’ve come to a point of no return because you’ve tried everything else. This is perfect to stop enabling the addicted person.

3. Family Systems Intervention Model

This model is unique in that it involves the addicted person’s whole family, so as not to feel as intimidated with the entire intervention focusing on them. The family follows the following steps: The family finds a professional interventionist to prepare the family for the process. The focus is on all of the other family issues first, then the addicted person last. The interventionist has the family learn about addiction and the role of the family in a substance abuser’s life.

A workshop is planned where each family member will be assigned a lifestyle change to make, this will change the family dynamic and should help to disable addictive tendencies. One spokesperson for the family invites the addicted member to the workshop. The interventionist presents the family with treatment options and changes to pursue, all members of the family agree as an example to the addicted member. The interventionist coaches the family on how to live with a person in recovery for the next twelve months.

This model is highly successful with a wide range of addictions which include process addictions such as Pathological Gambling, Food Addiction, Sex Addiction and other behavioral addictions which harm the family and the addicted member. Focus is not on the individual; however, is on the family. This method is gentle and respectful, non-secretive, non-deceptive, less stressful, and highly effective.

Should You Plan an Intervention?

No matter what type of intervention is ultimately used, it has been shown that family members often have a large influence on the one with the addiction. In fact, many won’t seek treatment on their own, no matter how much damage or disruption they have caused in their own life, but many will seek help if they see how their behaviors have damaged their loved ones.

If you’re considering an intervention for your loved one, please let us know if you have any questions. Yu can leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to all readers with a personal reply.

About the author
Melanie Solomon is the author of AA-Not the Only Way; Your One Stop Resource Guide to 12-Step Alternatives 2nd Ed. A full-time writer and lecturer, she has taught at the Huntington Beach School District's Drug and Alcohol Program and The learning Annex in California. For the past five years, Melanie has also been providing personal coaching for those with alcohol and drug problems, where she helps clients find the treatment plan that is the best match for their particular situation.
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