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Different Types of intervention

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An intervention is a conversation in which the consequences of an addiction are made clear to someone who uses and abuses drugs. These talks can help to push reluctant users into a treatment program that can help them.

Considered vital in the fight against addiction, these purposeful meetings may be structured and conducted in various ways. So, it is important for families to give careful thought to the specific needs, personality and preferences of their loved one who is addicted. This will help ensure that they can make the best case to their loved one for treatment, and that the selected program will likely be effective.

Brief Intervention

Doctor talking with patientWhile many interventions involve concerned family members, some models don’t require the family’s participation. For example, a brief intervention allows addicted people to meet with their health care provider to discuss the consequences of addiction. This kind of appointment might be appropriate in certain situations. Like when someone has an unusual health test score as the result of an addiction. One example of this might be when the liver is affected from alcoholism. These interventions might also be good to use with people who fail a drug test at work.1

This model defines and utilizes the various stages of change that generally represent the process people go through when thinking about, beginning and trying to maintain new behavior. The doctor or therapist can use brief interventions to aim motivation directly at the particular behavioral pattern occurring at each stage of this process.

Understanding this progression of change in thinking helps health care providers in several ways. It helps them accept the patients’ current position. It helps them avoid advancing too quickly in steps taken, thereby averting resistance in patients. Most importantly, this model helps to apply the right counseling strategy for each stage of readiness.2

Johnson Intervention

When a chat with a health care provider isn’t enough, a Johnson intervention might be a good alternative. Here, the family lays out the evidence of addiction that their loved one has displayed. Then the family shares a list of consequences that might befall the addicted person if changes are not made.

The family prepares for this conversation weeks in advance, and often an interventionist helps to direct that planning. The individual with the substance use disorder is rarely invited to these planning sessions. The intent of the meeting is to surprise the inflicted loved one by the visit.3

Systemic Intervention

Mom and dad intervene with sonWhile a Johnson intervention might suggest that the substance abuse is a product of the addicted person’s opinions and behaviors, a systemic intervention suggests that the addiction could stem from behaviors the whole family shares, such as:

  • Lack of communication.
  • Violent tendencies.
  • The attempt to shield the addicted person from the consequences of addiction (alias enabling).
  • Placing blame for the addiction on family member(s) rather than on the person abusing drugs.

The truth is, the entire family experiences the consequences of addiction. The whole family needs to change in order for the addiction to be effectively dealt with. This approach gives families a format for exploring issues and developing plans for effecting change in a unified front.

This model of intervention can be quite effective in altering behavior, even if the person with the substance use disorder doesn’t agree to get professional help right away. As the family’s thoughts and actions evolve, the addiction, in theory, becomes harder to sustain. The hope is that this climate shift within the family forces its members to change for the better – away from the need for using drugs.4

ARISE Intervention

Similar to the systemic model, the entire family is the focus of change in this approach. But this type of intervention has a bit of an edge to it. Here, the family begins by encouraging their loved one to enroll in treatment. That person is also asked to attend educational sessions on addiction.

If these terms are met with resistance, the family then gets more firm. They lay out the consequences for noncompliance. In this respect, it’s similar to a Johnson intervention.5

A study on the effectiveness of the ARISE model appears in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Researchers found that it typically took seven days for families to convince their loved ones to get care using these tactics.6

More Assistance Is Just a Phone Call Away

For more information about these intervention strategies or for help in wording what might be said during such meetings with a loved one, we invite you to call us on our 24/7 toll-free line. Because we care.


Brief Interventions for Alcohol Misuse.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, Volume 187, Issue 7, Pages 502-506, April 21, 2015. Accessed 28 September 2017.

2Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed 28 September 2017.

3Johnson Intervention.” American Psychological Association. Accessed 28 September 2017.

4What Is the Family Systemic Model?” Association of Intervention Specialists, May 2, 2017. Accessed 28 September 2017.

5The Arise Model of Intervention.” All Things Treatment, May 5, 2016. Accessed 28 September 2017.

Landau, Judith, CFLE, MB, ChB, DPM,, “Outcomes With the ARISE Approach to Engaging Reluctant Drug- and Alcohol-Dependent Individuals in Treatment.” Taylor & Francis Online, August 24, 2009. Accessed 28 September 2017.