Drug and Alcohol Addiction Interventions

Over 20 million Americans battle addiction; however, the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) publishes that only one out of every 10 people who need help for drug and/or alcohol abuse receive it. Addiction is an all-encompassing disease that negatively impacts not only the individual struggling with it, but also their families, loved ones, coworkers, teammates, and anyone else in a person’s social circle.

The cost to society for substance abuse is staggering, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates expenses of around $600 billion each year in crime, healthcare, and lost workplace production. Substance abuse treatment programs can greatly lower both the personal and societal cost of addiction, but individuals battling the disease may be resistant to enter into a treatment program. An intervention is a method that families and loved ones can use to try and help a person struggling with problematic substance abuse find the motivation to get professional help and enter into a treatment program.

Types of Intervention Models

The main goal of any intervention is to get a loved one who needs help managing substance abuse and/or addiction into a treatment program. An intervention is a structured, well-planned, and focused meeting between an “intervention team,” made up of family members, friends, neighbors, teammates, clergy members, coworkers, classmates, or whoever else is impacted by the individual’s substance abuse, and the person needing help.

There are several different types of intervention models, all of which strive to help a person realize how their drug and alcohol use affects those around them and recognize that a problem exists. The most common models for a substance abuse intervention are outlined below.

The Johnson Model

The Johnson Model is likely the most typical form of intervention for substance abuse, as it is a traditional and confrontational method. The American Psychological Association (APA) publishes that the Johnson Model typically involves a person’s primary caregiver initially. This person will then form the intervention team out of the individual’s social network.

They will then host several meetings, planning the intervention without the knowledge of the person in question. The actual intervention is carried out by the intervention team with a specific plan in place, goals for treatment solutions, and consequences if the loved one refuses to get professional help.

ARISE Intervention

The ARISE method for interventions is an alternative to traditional confrontational methods and involves the person struggling with addiction right from the beginning. There are no secrets with this model, and the support network, caregiver, and individual in need all work collaboratively to get help.

An ARISE model, as explained by the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), has progressive levels from one to three. Level 1 is the initial phone call by a concerned loved one to a certified ARISE interventionist who helps set up a planned meeting between the support group and the person requiring help. Level 2 involves the entire intervention team working together through 2-5 sessions to motivate the individual to enter into a treatment program. Level 3 is the formal intervention. The ARISE intervention method is respectful, gentle, and offers a full continuum of care.

Family Systemic Intervention

The Family Systemic Intervention Model also includes the whole family and the person battling drug and/or alcohol abuse right from the start. AIS publishes that this method includes several meetings, where individuals and family members talk about how addiction has impacted them personally in an attempt to motivate change.

The goal of a Family Systemic Intervention is to get the entire family into some form of counseling and the person battling addiction into a formal rehab program. With this model, families all go to therapy together to improve the family unit as a whole. The Family Systemic Intervention Model involves several meetings, and it can be a longer and more drawn-out process.

Staging an Intervention

Regardless of which type of intervention families and loved ones decide to use, a professional interventionist can help families plan and carry out a formal intervention. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports on studies showing that an intervention, when carried out with the help of a professional interventionist, is successful in getting people into treatment programs around 90 percent of the time.

Families should consult a professional when their loved one has a history of violence, aggression, or self-harm; when there is polysubstance abuse; and when there is a history of mental illness or mental health concerns. A professional interventionist can be helpful in guiding families and loved ones through the entire process, offering support and guidance along the way.

Mayo Clinic reports that an intervention will provide specific details and examples of how drug and/or alcohol abuse has negatively affected each member of the intervention team, include prearranged treatment options, and dictate specific consequences that will occur if the person refuses to enter into treatment.

The intervention is designed to help a person become motivated on their own to seek treatment. They need to agree that treatment is the right thing to do, and the goal of the intervention is to help them see that substance abuse and addiction hurt the people close to them.

Below is a basic step-by-step guide to hosting an intervention with the goal of getting a loved one into a specialized addiction treatment program that can foster long-term recovery.

Step 1: Decide on a course of action

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The first step in an intervention is for a caregiver, family member, or concerned loved one to recognize that a problem exists and decide how they would like to move forward. It can be helpful to hire a professional interventionist, speak with a primary care or mental health provider, or contact a trained substance abuse treatment provider for advice on how to get started.

Step 2: Make a plan and gather needed information

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Loved ones, often with the help of a trained professional, will need to decide on their course of action and the type of intervention they would like to host. During this step, families and loved ones will research treatment options and determine what level of care will be optimal, depending on the extent of the substance abuse issue. Treatment programs should be contacted prior to hosting the intervention; this way, if the person agrees, they can enter directly into a treatment program following the meeting.

Step 3: Form the intervention team.

Caregivers and families will need to enlist the help of others in a person’s social network to be part of the intervention team. Anyone impacted by the individual’s struggles with substance abuse may be included as long as there is no “bad blood” between them that may interfere with the goal of the intervention. All members of the team should be invested in getting the individual into a treatment program.

Step 4: Write notes or a letter detailing specific instances of how addiction has impacted each member of the intervention team.

These examples should focus only on things related to the person’s substance abuse. They should be assertive and not aggressive. Statements should focus on the person writing the letter and how they were made to feel while being as nonjudgmental and caring as possible. Exact examples of times where substance abuse was disruptive or caused personal harm should be included.

Step 5: Detail consequences if treatment is not sought.

It is important that members of the intervention team detail firm and concrete consequences that they intend to carry out if the person decides not to seek treatment after the intervention. Enabling behavior must be ceased. Things like no longer offering financial support or providing house are specific actions that can be used as direct consequences.

Step 6: Host the actual intervention meeting.

This meeting should be thoroughly planned ahead of time and held in a neutral location, such as a professional’s office. The meeting should be at a time when the person is not intoxicated and liable to be in their most receptive mood. Each member of the intervention team will read their letter or notes, explain treatment options, and detail what will happen if the person decides not to get professional help for their substance abuse.

Step 7: Follow up.

Members of the family and intervention team should remain active in the treatment program, potentially attending counseling, therapy, educational programs, and support group meetings together with their loved one. There are many ways families and loved ones can be involved to help minimize relapse and promote recovery.


Recovery Process