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Types of Drug Addiction Interventions

An intervention is a carefully planned conversation among family and friends that is designed to save lives. The topic is addiction, and an intervention provides the family an opportunity to address that issue head-on, in the hopes of creating change or bringing the addicted family member into treatment.

Interventions vary in length, complexity, and goals. These important moments may involve anything from an impromptu, yet serious, discussion around the kitchen table to a carefully planned event with an addiction intervention coach or therapist. Formal addiction interventions are shown to work better than unplanned conversations, and are more likely to result in a completion of treatment.

There are many different models of interventions that families can follow as they plan for these formal interventions. A consultation with an experienced clinician or certified interventionist can help you decide the best path for you and your loved one. In the meantime, three types of interventions to consider include:

  • Johnson Interventions
  • ARISE Interventions
  • Brief Interventions

Johnson Intervention

In the 1960s, Vernon Johnson began toying with the idea of confronting addicts in structured conversations that outlined how addiction was harmful, why treatment was needed and what might happen to the addicted person if the addiction was allowed to continue. The Johnson intervention, which was developed as a result of this work, is considered to be the most traditional, and most effective, form of intervention currently available to families in need. As noted in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Johnson interventions are both highly structured and involve some pre-planning or rehearsal, often with the aid of an experienced intervention professional.

This reputation was enhanced with the work of interventionists on the A&E television program Intervention. These professionals almost exclusively used a Johnson approach, according to an article in Psychology Today, and the show provided some dramatic examples of very addicted people who chose to change their lives when they were provided with a Johnson intervention.

Johnson interventions revolve around a series of letters written by family members that include:

  • Specific instances in which the person harmed himself/herself or someone else due to the addiction
  • Recollections of how the person once was before the addiction began
  • Expressions of love and support
  • Pleas for the addict to enter treatment, along with a structured treatment location plan
  • A list of consequences that might take place if the addict refuses help

These are confrontational talks, and each family member reads his or her letter in turn without responding to anything the addicted person might say. The intervention ends when the addicted person agrees to get help, or when there are no more letters to read.

Johnson interventions can help break through longstanding denial, but the confrontational approach used in this method can make some family members uncomfortable. Family members may hesitate to confront a person they may have spent years enabling. Many people fear confrontation, and this method may be too overwhelming for some families. Johnson interventions also provide the families with few, if any, options if the addicted person refuses to get help. They might be forced to carry out their ultimatums, and this could cause them to lose contact with the person they love.

Arise Interventions

ARISE is an acronym that stands for “A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement.”According to the Journal of Substance Abuse and Treatment, this type of intervention differs from the Johnson model in a few key ways. Primarily, this type of intervention usually begins with the addicted person’s full knowledge. In some cases, the addicted individual may even help plan his or her own intervention to some extent.

The principle behind ARISE interventions is that a person may react in an unfavorable way if he or she is confronted out of the blue. The ARISE intervention uses an approach based on motivational interviewing. This theory believes that gentle motivational conversation is more effective in addiction treatment than a confrontational intervention.

An ARISE intervention is also an entire plan of treatment. ARISE involves the entire family through the addiction treatment process. In this model, family members participate in treatment and gain education about helping themselves and their loved ones.

Special Considerations: Family Interventions

Interventions among family members can be a crucial part of the recovery process. When the addicted individuals are also parents, it may become important to help the children of the addicted person find healing as well. No matter what type of intervention you choose, be sure to consider all of the affected family members.

When it comes to family interventions, it may be a good idea to consider counseling for all family members. If the addicted person has children, you may be able to help by planning ahead for childcare, or helping arrange family counseling that can help everyone heal together.

It is a good idea to talk with an experienced intervention professional before an intervention takes place. An experienced counselor or interventionist can help you decide who best to include in the actual intervention event, and the type of intervention you choose may also include (or exclude) younger family members.

Families can plan ahead by coming up with detailed childcare plans before they open up the discussion. They can determine where the children will stay while the parent gets help, and draw up a schedule involving the child’s various activities and an adult responsible for supervising those activities. Parents who balk at leaving their children might be reassured to see that the family is willing to pick up the slack.

Allowing the child to write a letter to the parent about the addiction might also be appropriate if the child is not present during the intervention. Children can use their own words to describe the impact of the addiction on their lives, and often, they can reach through to a parent in a way that a peer simply can’t. It might not be appropriate to include a child in a formal intervention, as some deep and dark ideas might be shared that aren’t appropriate for small ears, but giving the child a voice could be a vital part of the healing process for the addicted person, spurring that parent to get help.

Special Considerations: Executive Intervention in the Workplace

There are times when the people who are most impacted by the addiction aren’t members of the person’s family or circle of friends. When an addicted person continues to work and that addiction begins to take a toll on a company’s bottom line, the person’s employer may need to hold an intervention. These are delicate conversations that require a significant amount of tact, as simply firing an addicted person or threatening some other form of severe action could land an employer in legal trouble.

An executive intervention is usually held with the person’s supervisor, the company’s human resources manager, the company’s lawyer, and the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) representative, if applicable.

Once again, the addicted person is confronted with specific examples in which the addiction was noticed, and the addiction was harmful. Those examples might include:

  • Erratic behavior at work
  • Comments from clients
  • Repeated unexplained absences
  • Failing drug screening results
  • Poor performance

An intervention like this can be a serious wakeup call to an addicted person, as the threat of unemployment might be a strong motivator. The intervention might also be incredibly helpful, as most interventions like this end with a recap of the benefits the company provides to help treat an addiction. The addicted person will have a clear understanding of why help is needed and how much of that help will be paid for.

Brief Interventions

Despite a family’s best intentions, there are times in which addicted people simply won’t see the need for help, and as a result, they won’t enter treatment programs for their addictions. They might, however, agree to a brief series of counseling sessions with an expert. These so-called brief interventions could make a big difference, and allow the person to enter a treatment program with an open mind and a willingness to work.

In these short encounters, therapists use motivational interviewing techniques to reach through denial. Often, this takes the form of questions.

The counselor might ask the person to talk about how the substance abuse issue makes life easier or more complicated. As the addicted person talks, it might be clear that the addiction is causing real harm. Slowly, the person might come to realize that treatment really is vital, and that it could make life better. The family might open the door to that realization in their intervention, but the counselor can drive the idea home in these sessions, making entry into formal and intensive treatment programs all the more likely.

The Need for Addiction Intervention Is Great

Ignoring an addiction is rarely an effective strategy, as people who are addicted might simply continue with their actions without realizing they need to change in any way. By contrast, conversations about addictions can be painful, but they really can make a difference. Any sort of talk can be helpful. For example, a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol found that even brief talks about addiction provided by a doctor could reduce the amount of alcohol that individuals drank. If a quick talk by a doctor can do this, a structured talk by a family or colleagues is likely to have an even bigger impact.

When you’re ready to hold an intervention, we’re here to help. At The Canyon, we can help you fill out admission paperwork for the addicted person, so he or she can simply enter treatment as soon as the talk is over. We can also help you to find an intervention specialist who can help you hold this important talk. Please call us today to find out more.

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