What Is An Intervention?

An intervention is a scenario where a group of people (such as coworkers, family, friends and/or other loved ones) gather together in order to confront a person who is struggling with some type of addiction. Often, the addiction involves drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc. A trained interventionist normally leads this intervention, and they work to maintain open communication and order during the intervention as well as provide the means necessary for the addict to receive treatment.

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During the intervention, this group of people who care for the individual will bring to light the pains and struggles that they are experiencing as a result of the person’s addiction. They will confront the addict and present consequences to the person if he or she does not agree to go into treatment immediately.

Types and Methods of Interventions

There are two basic ways of conducting interventions. The most common and best-known approach is the “Direct Intervention”. This type is confrontational and places the addict together with the intervention group, often without the individual’s prior knowledge. This direct method is sometimes considered to be an ambush on the person with the addiction.

There is also another way to conduct an intervention, and it is called an “Indirect Intervention”. This is less confrontational and focuses on working with the addict’s family in teaching them how to be less co-dependent, establishing defined boundaries, and being better equipped to help the individual.

There are different methods of interventions studied and applied, but there are four that are most notable. They are:

  • Regular Method – Consists of five basic components. They contain:
    • Friends, family and loved ones included in the intervention are the only ones involved in meetings before the it. It is kept a secret from the sufferer.
    • In order to increase success and effectiveness, it can only take place once.
    • A specially trained interventionist leads it in a safe and controlled setting.
    • Everyday life must continue for the group once it has been completed.
    • During the process, consequences are given to the sufferer by the group should the addict choose not to accept rehabilitation. These penalties must be carried out if treatment is turned down.
  • Johnson Method – The Johnson Method was developed by Dr. Vernon Johnson in the 1960s. Dr. Johnson’s method has seven different elements which include:
    • Team – A trained interventionist organizes a team that normally consists of friends, family, loved ones, and sometimes business associates who are affected by the person’s addiction.
    • Planning – This component determines the time and place of the intervention. This is also the point where letters to the sufferer are discussed and what will be written in them.
    • Focus on Care – The center point of this is the person’s care, getting him or her into recovery, and emphasizing that they should not be criticized or condemned. This element is one of the most important ones of the intervention, and it should be observed throughout the entire process.
    • Addiction Only – This concentrates on the addiction and only the addiction. It does not include any previous issues or problems.
    • Evidence – This step includes providing proof of how the addiction is affecting the individual lives of the group. This is often presented in the form of a letter, and the examples should be especially detailed.
    • Primary Goal is Treatment – The end result of the intervention is for the person to look for treatment. This goal must be a unified agreement with all members of the group. It is to be presented as a way to improve the addict’s life and not some sort of reprimand.
    • Treatment Options – Optimally, it will end with the sufferer accepting treatment. However, the person needs to be offered three different options from which to choose.
  • Family Systemic Method – This method is much different from the regular and Johnson methods. There are four main parts which consist of:
    • All meetings are conducted by an interventionist, and every planned meeting is known by the person fighting the addiction. He or she is present in the very first meeting.
    • A trained interventionist conducts the meetings in open but controlled manner. All members, including the addict, participate in the discussions. The intervention allows everyone to discuss how the addiction has affected them and their lives.
    • This style of will have multiple meeting instead of one big meeting. These meetings are time intensive and can last months at a time.
    • Everyone involved commits to entering counseling. Often, the sufferer will enter a treatment center for a more intensive rehabilitating approach. The addict will be included in the family therapy sessions during his or her treatment. The family counseling continues even after the person completes their treatment program.
  • ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement) – The ARISE method was developed by Dr. Judith Landau and her co-developers. It is an evidence-based, best practice intervention technique that focuses on family motivation for long-term recovery. The addicted person is a part of the process from the start of the meeting. The group is created to help motivate the person to accept addiction treatment. This process lasts for a minimum of six months and will continue until the sufferer and the family are living together in recovery. There are three basic levels in the ARISE method, but the intervention stops at the first level that works. The levels are:
    • Level 1 “The First Call” – This level begins when a loved one makes the first call to an interventionist that is certified in the ARISE technique. The person that made the call is instructed how to build a supportive group that encourages the addict to go to an ARISE “First Meeting of the Intervention Network”.
    • Level 2 “Strength in Numbers” – This level starts when the person fighting the addiction does not agree to the assistance offered in Level 1. The group, also known as the “Intervention Network”, begins to function like a family board of administrators. The addicted individual does not interface with anyone on a one-on-one basis.
    • Level 3 “The Formal ARISE Intervention” – This level is implemented if the addict still has not accepted treatment. This level applies severe penalties on the addicted person if they continue to deny treatment. Fortunately, this level almost always ends up with the sufferer accepting treatment because they are already aware of the consequences.

Group of Peers Supporting Young Girl

It is important to evaluate the various intervention methods to determine which one is best suited for the one suffering from addiction, loved ones, family, and friends. The process needs to be well planned and implemented in a safe and secure environment. The focus should always be on the addict receiving support, love and, most importantly, treatment.


There are various statistics that can be cited to support the use of an interventionist and implementing an intervention for someone suffering from an addiction. For example, the ARISE Intervention “Level 1” has a 56% success rate of addicted individuals entering treatment [1]. Additional data include:

  • By the end of the first two to five Intervention Network meetings, 80% of addicted people have entered treatment [1].
  • 83% of addicted individuals have said yes to help before the ARISE Intervention “Level 3” is implemented [1].
  • Another research study published in 1996, which compared the inpatient treatment experience between self-referred patients and the intervened patients provided additional insight into the validity of process. This study compared both groups of patients (self-referred and intervened) as well as polling the attending treatment staff. The results of this research demonstrated that the intervened patient has as great a chance of positively experiencing inpatient treatment as the self-referred patient. This information supports the prospect of raising the bottom for alcoholics and addicts and breaking through their denial system via professionally facilitated crisis intervention [2].
  • An intervention is also America’s most successful method of addiction treatment, with its proponents boasting that an intervention followed by a long stint in residential rehab achieves a long-term recovery rate of well over 50 per cent [3].

Intervention Steps

Careful planning, thought and guidance is needed to conduct a successful intervention. A loved one struggling with alcoholism, prescription drug addiction or sexual addiction present different types of problems, and these issues have various nuances that need to be addressed before one, can be implemented. There are some standardized steps that help to promote a successful intervention. These steps normally include:

  • Initial Planning – Often, a loved one or colleague will recommend to others that are affected by an addicted person’s behavior and actions that an intervention needs to be implemented. It is important to consult a certified interventionist as they are trained to handle the explosive situations that can occur.
  • Information Gathering – This step is used to determine as to what extent the person’s addiction level has reached. Questions about co-occurring issues, treatment programs, the severity of the addiction, etc. are addressed.
  • Establishing Intervention Team – The group is developed in this step. The members normally include friends, family and an interventionist. Meetings are held with the group, and the plan of action is established. The time and location is also determined.
  • Determine Specific Consequences – Consequences are presented to the addicted person to inform them what will happen should he or she choose not to enter treatment. These penalties often include financial repercussions, ending communication with loved ones, removing access to children, being asked to move out, etc.
  • Specific Incidents in Writing – This step involves letters written to the addict expressing specific instances of how his or her addiction is affecting individual lives of the group. However, these incidents have to be articulated with care, compassion and love.
  • The Intervention – The actual intervention is where the addicted individual is confronted about their addiction. It is often held at a safe and controlled location. This is the time when treatment options are offered and consequences are issued. The main objective at this point is for the addict to choose recovery and enter a rehabilitation program.
  • Continued Maintenance – This step includes everyone involved in the intervention. It is important for the addicted person and his or her loved ones to be involved in continued counseling. The group now needs to transform into a type of support group and commit to making the changes needed to help ensure a successful recovery and preventing a relapse.

It is imperative that the intervention is carefully planned and executed. This is a critical time in the addicted individual’s life. If the intervention is poorly planned or goes wrong, the situation can become worse. The addict may choose to dive deeper into the addiction because they feel betrayed or attacked. Remember to keep the meeting calm, the lines of communication open and the objective clear: get the addict into treatment.

When is an Intervention Needed?

An intervention is normally needed when a loved one is trapped in an addiction, and they continue to deny that there is a problem. The intervention is an act of love and concern for the addicted person. Fortunately, someone struggling with an addiction no longer has to hit rock bottom before he or she seeks help. Now, this process can raise that bottom and hopefully help the person fighting the addiction find recovery and healing much sooner. The meeting could save the life of the loved one struggling with addiction before they hit the bottom and die.

What Happens After an Intervention?

Check out this infographic to get a great overview of the process that comes after the intervention (click to enlarge) [4]:

intervention resource guide image

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[2]: Fearing, J. (1996) Statistically speaking: A comparative analysis of the inpatient chemical dependency treatment experience between professionally intervened patients and self-referred patients, Treatment Today, 8(2), 10-11.