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Intervention Techniques and Models

For families and loved ones of those struggling with drug addiction, knowing how and when to get help can be overwhelming. Each patient is different, and so is every family involved. And so must the treatment plan must be —- tailored to the individual patient to give him or her the best chance at a new and healthy life.

It is important to seek out treatment programs that addresses these uniquely individual needs.

What Constitutes Effective Addiction Treatment?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, no one treatment is effective for every person dealing with addiction. However, there are several factors that generally make up the parts of a cohesive treatment program, including the following:

1. Detox

  • A preliminary process that rids the body of all drugs of abuse — must be followed up with further treatment.
  • Medications are often used to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and allow patients to adjust to a life without drugs.

2. Testing & Evaluation

  • Evaluation and treatment for mental health disorders (if applicable).
  • Regular drug testing to ensure a relapse hasn’t occurred.
  • A thorough health evaluation to detect the presence of communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, and counseling in harm-reduction practices.

3. Treatment

  • A comprehensive drug treatment program must address all aspects of the person, not just their drug use or addiction
  • Counseling in both individual and group settings that addresses coping mechanisms and allows addicts to understand their addiction and rise above it
  • Continual reevaluation of the treatment program for effectiveness1

Before treatment can begin, the person struggling with addiction must be willing or convinced to show up. This can happen either voluntarily or involuntarily, and it often through the use of an intervention set up by family and friends. There are several different approaches to interventions, so it is helpful to understand your options before choosing one.

Major Intervention Models

The idea of the intervention is now ingrained in popular culture. With shows like A&E’s Intervention, more people have at least a cursory understanding of the process. Most people assume that every intervention includes an unsuspecting subject lured to specific location where she’s surprised to find her friends and family, along with a therapist, waiting to confront her about her addiction. While this method is effective in some cases, it doesn’t describe the best tactic for every situation.

The Johnson Intervention Model

The Johnson Model is what most people think of when they hear the word intervention. This model is confrontational. The person in addiction is called to a meeting at which time his friends and family confront him about his behavior and how his addiction is causing harm to himself and others. The participants are to offer their full support should he agree to go through treatment. Loved ones also communicate consequences that will happen if the person refuses treatment. The strategy here is to pull the person out of his self-denial to understand directly what his addiction is doing to his loved ones. An interventionist oversees the process.2
While this method can work well for some, it has the potential to cause severe problems. According to Psychology Today, confrontational models like the Johnson Model don’t always work, and the usage of shame and pressure could cause more harm than good, including relapse or forcing the person to cease all contact with family.3

Invitational Model

The Invitational Model is fairly straightforward and lacks the element of surprise the Johnson Model imposes. Family and friends schedule a workshop or meeting with an interventionist. The person struggling with addiction is invited to the workshop, providing full knowledge of what will occur at the meeting. It’s left up to the person to decide to come or not. However, the meeting always occurs regardless of whether or not the addict agrees to go.4

Field Model

The Field Model is a combination of the Johnson Model and the Invitational Model. It’s designed to be easily adaptable to the situation. For example, if the drug user has the potential to be violent or the intervention must be put together hastily, this model is useful in mitigating negative responses. Its name is derived from the notion that it is applied “in the field” allowing the therapist to make decisions based on the given circumstances.

Systemic Intervention Model

Confrontational approaches are not always the best option for interventions, especially with hostile or overly defensive addicts. The Systemic Intervention Model is a good choice in these cases. During meetings with a therapist, the entire family discusses how everyone contributes to the person’s continued abuse of substances.
Instead of forcing him to confront his denial, the focus is placed on how to encourage the person to cease the use of drugs or alcohol. Only behaviors and interactions that encourage positive abstinence are emphasized.5

Motivational Interviewing

This intervention technique is focused much less on strategy than it is on thorough counseling that focuses on conversation with the one caught in addiction. The goal of this technique is to encourage the person to make positive behavioral changes by engaging in conversation.6
The therapist aims to guide the person by understanding his or her point of view, offering empathy and building trust on which to base goals for changing negative behavior like drug abuse. While this technique lacks the confrontational aspects of other intervention models, it can still provoke feelings of denial and resistance.

Therapeutic Techniques

Older woman talking in group therapy settingWhile some patients will need to be enrolled in an inpatient program to go through detox and receive around-the-clock monitoring, many treatment plans can occur on an outpatient basis.

Even those who start out in an inpatient program will eventually transfer over to an outpatient plan that focuses on behavioral modification and applying coping strategies to daily life.

Beyond the intervention models described above, therapists use some specific strategies to help those trapped in addiction to understand the origins of their addiction, overcome obstacles and maintain positive coping mechanisms to prevent a relapse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a few techniques stand out, including the following:
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A form of treatment that helps patients understand what situations are most likely to trigger addictive behavior and how to avoid these situations in the future.
  • Contingency Management: The use of positive reinforcement to give patients incentives to avoid drug abuse.
  • Multidimensional family therapy: A treatment program that includes the entire family in the process of identifying the causes of drug abuse and triggers, and helps the family learn how to cope more effectively to decrease the likelihood of a relapse.

A continued treatment program following the initial detox period is essential for preventing relapses and ensuring that your loved one remains on the sober path. This typically involves individual counseling sessions, family therapy, group therapy or some combination of the three.

Finding Help for Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is fighting addiction and you are ready to plan an intervention, we can help. We can connect you with caring and experienced interventionists who can help you through the entire process and help get your loved one into treatment.

Please call our 24-hour, toll-free helpline, 424-387-3118, today to begin the process of a better life for your loved one and your whole family.


1 "Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction." National Institute on Drug Abuse. January 2018.

2 "Johnson Intervention." American Psychological Association. Accessed June 18, 2018.

3 Jaffe, Adi, "A&E’s Intervention, meet Motivational Interviewing." Psychology Today. July 2, 2010.

4 "An Overview of ARISE® Comprehensive Care with Intervention." ARISE Network. Accessed June 18, 2018.

5 "What is the Family Systemic Model?" Association of Intervention Specialists. May 2, 2017.

6 "Motivational Interviewing." Psychology Today. Accessed June 18, 2018.