An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one, or often many, people (usually family and friends) to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some other kind of serious problem. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event involves addiction to drugs or other items.

Interventions have been used to address serious personal problems, including, but not limited to, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, drug abuse, compulsive eating and other eating disorders, tobacco smoking, "workaholism", and various types of poor personal health care. Interventions have also been conducted due to personal habits not as frequently considered seriously harmful, such as video game addiction, excessive computer use, and excessive television viewing.

Intervention Models

The use of interventions originated in 1960s with Dr. Vernon Johnson. The Johnson Model was subsequently taught years later at the Johnson Institute. There are some pockets of thought within the substance abuse treatment and intervention industry that the un-informed alcohol or drug dependent person is negatively affected by so-called "ambush" inherent in the Johnson Model direct intervention. However, beyond anecdotal evidence, there are no scientific studies which confirm that theory.  

Two of the major models of intervention that are utilized today are known the Systemic Family Model and the A.R.I.S.E. model of intervention. While the A.R.I.S.E utilizes a predominantly invitational approach, in practice many of the same aspects of the Johnson Model are used. Systemic Family Model interventions may use an invitational approach but often utilize the direct approach. Both models rely heavily on having the family as a whole enter a phase of recovery. This helps take the focus off the addicted individual and notes the need for the entire family unit to change in an effort for everyone who is involved to get healthy.

Plans for direct intervention

Plans for an intervention are made by a concerned group of family, friends, and counselor(s), rather than by the drug or alcohol abuser. Whether it is invitation model or direct model, the abuser is not included in the decision making process for planning the intervention. A properly conducted direct intervention is planned through cooperation between the identified abuser's family or friends and an intervention counselor, coordinator, or educator. Ample time must be given to the specific situation; however, basic guidelines can be followed in the intervention planning process. (Note that an intervention can also be conducted in the workplace with colleagues and with no family present).

Prior preparation

Prior to the intervention itself, the family meets with the interventionist. Families prepare letters in which they describe their experiences associated with the addict's behavior, to convey to the person the impact his or her addiction has had on others. Also during the intervention rehearsal meeting, a group member is strongly urged to create a list of activities (by the addict) that they will no longer tolerate, finance, or participate in if the addict doesn't agree to check into a rehabilitation centre for treatment. These consequences may be as simple as no longer loaning money to the addict, but can be far more serious, such as losing custody of a child.

Family and friends read their letters to the addict, who then must decide whether to check into the prescribed rehabilitation centre or deal with the promised losses. 

HeartQuest Interventionists

If you or anyone you know is struggling with problematic substance use, click here or call Cory at: 604.818.1771.