7 Intervention Methods for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 24.6 million Americans age 12 and older used an illicit drug in the past month. That’s 9.4% of the population, and the numbers just keep rising.

When your loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, or a combination of the two, it can be hard to know where to turn. You want to speak up and address the behavior, but you don’t want to shame the person into a deeper spiral.

That’s where a strategic and well-planned substance abuse intervention comes in.

This is a complicated, sensitive move that can require a significant investment of time. Yet, research reveals that taking this step is more than worth it. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that when addicts receive help from a trained and experienced interventionist, more than 90% of them make the commitment to get the help they need.

Are you ready to help stage an intervention for someone in your life? If so, read on. Today, we’re discussing seven ways you can help make this event as meaningful and beneficial as possible.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in.

1. Direct Confrontation

This is what most people picture when they think of a drug intervention. It’s also how the television show “Intervention” and other media outlets most commonly depict the process. In short, direct confrontation involves the concerned party or parties coming together to approach an addict about his or her damaging behavior.

In the decades past, the confrontational model of intervention was centered on placing blame on the addict. Talks were designed to shed light on the negative consequences that the abusive behavior led to. Conversations often included firm expectations that the addict would recover, along with a definitive timeframe.

Of course, this was before addiction was understood to be an illness. Instead, it was considered a mere character flaw, or something that could be quickly erased by aggressive treatment. As such, the decade surrounding the 1990s saw traditional confrontation defined by “punishing” the addict into submission and admittance to a recovery center.

Now, recovery experts still rely on traditional confrontation to begin a conversation around an addict’s behavior. Yet, they do so in a far more gentle manner, understanding now that addicts respond negatively to aggression and pointed fingers.

In these cases, a trained intervention specialist will meet with friends and family members in closed sessions prior to the actual intervention. At this time, the people involved will plan and organize the event. It is understood, in most cases, that if the intervention is not successful and the addict does not seek treatment, friends and family members may be forced to seek alternative approaches, such as tough love.

2. The Johnson Model

This form of addiction intervention was first coined in the 1960s. At this time, Dr. Vernon Johnson brought to light the importance of taking an educational, social stance on intervening.

An offshoot of the confrontational model, the Johnson Model emphasizes pre-intervention meetings. These take place among an interventionalist and those in the addict’s inner social circle.

During these sessions, the caregivers, or those responsible for tending to the addict, learn how to carefully approach their loved one and what to expect. They’ll learn what to say to mitigate the risk of a negative reaction or shutdown.

They will also gain knowledge around addiction itself. This will help them better understand and anticipate its effects. At this time, the group will also select treatment options that are the most appropriate for the addict.

Then, the intervention team will approach the addict without his or her prior knowledge. They explain their concerns and lay out next steps without placing blame or igniting shame.

3. Crisis Intervention

Sometimes, those around an addict don’t have the luxury of time. They need to act quickly to save the emotional or physical health of their loved one and can’t afford to meet for months with a professional to plan strategic intervention techniques. An addict might be in the middle of an overdose, attempting to self-harm, or in the grips of another emergency.

As such, a crisis intervention is usually a direct, one-on-one confrontation that happens at the same time a crisis is emerging. If during this time, the addict refuses to seek recovery treatment, there may be other steps to take. For instance, an interventionalist can become involved at this point, evaluating whether or not the addict should be involuntarily committed to a hospital or treatment center.

If this is deemed a viable next step, the confrontation is no longer a direct one. Instead, it is a forcible one. Though there are often fewer parties involved due to the time-sensitive nature, a crisis intervention should still have many elements of a direct intervention.

Chiefly, the addict will need the support and attention of loved ones. There should also be discussion around the addict’s destructive behavior and how it’s affecting others.

While it can be difficult to coordinate these conversations, especially in the middle of a critical situation, it’s important to make the effort and bring in a professional whenever possible. This is especially important when dealing with cases of self-harm or when an addict is considered to be a risk to the safety and well-being of others.

4. Tough Love

While drug intervention programs are valuable tools for approaching the addict in your life and steering him or her toward recovery, you might need to take a different approach to address the issue rather than solely sitting down and talking it out.

In many cases, especially if there is an addiction among family members, those in charge will implement tough love. In a nutshell, this means carrying out actions that might look harsh and unkind to the addict, but are ultimately done in his or her best interest.

Some examples of tough love might include grandparents removing grandchildren from their own children’s custody because they fear for their safety. Or, you may refuse to loan money to an addict or pay down any outstanding debts, especially if they refuse to seek treatment for their addiction. In other cases, it might mean locking an adult addict out of your home if they show up past curfew intoxicated.

These types of interventions can be both direct or indirect and are often the last resort that friends and family members take. Why? Though they’re frustrated by the behavior, loved ones still care for the addict and often fear that their tough love actions will break the bond they share.

That’s why it’s important to enlist the help of a skilled interventionalist, even if you’re going the tough love route. For this approach to be successful, you can’t just threaten. Their support will be invaluable as you not only make these threats, but actively follow through with them as well.

5. Love First

Though it might appear to be the antithesis of tough love, the love first approach is simply tackling the issue from a different angle. In this case, concerned parties lead with a loving, gentle response throughout the entirety of the confrontation.

This type of intervention is usually arranged and pre-planned and takes place in a comfortable, neutral spot. Loved ones stand ready with affirmative and encouraging responses and talking points during the conversation. For example, if the addict begins to share excuses for his or her behavior, or list reasons why treatment isn’t possible, those in the room will resist the urge to retaliate or push back.

Instead, they’ll explain that everything is taken care of and the only thing the addict needs to focus on is taking steps toward recovery. Their children will be with loved ones. Their workplace is supportive. In essence, every concern or anxiety can be met with kindness. In effect, tensions are eased and conflict is avoided.

If you’ve ever heard of an intervention where letters are read aloud, it was likely a love first tactic. In this approach, loved ones will often pen letters to the addict, focusing not on the negativity of the current situation, but rather on happier times.

They will read these letters aloud at the meetings, emphasizing the bond they share with the addict. They will close with a message of hope and encouragement for the future. Yet, though these letters are positive in nature, they are not without consequence. The latter parts of the notes usually include steps that the loved ones will take if recovery isn’t sought.

6. ARISE Intervention

Sometimes called the family systems model, ARISE stands for A Rational Interventional Sequence for Engagement.

Put simply, this is a form of addiction intervention that shifts the spotlight away from just the addict and instead shines it on the whole family.

These meetings are usually pre-planned. All family members will take a look at their lifestyles, interactions, and habits. What unresolved issues do they have? Those are tackled first, followed by addressing the addict’s behavior.

It’s not uncommon for an interventionalist to assign each family member a new lifestyle change to undertake. These are designed to benefit the family as a collective unit.

For instance, someone might need to attend anger management courses. Another might need to work through codependency issues. Someone else might need to work toward better communication skills.

Research shows that the ARISE intervention model has an 83% success rate of encouraging addicts to enter recovery. This communal approach works best when all family members are on board with the changes. They should also be committed to helping both themselves and the addict live a more harmonious life.

7. Systemic Family Model

The systemic family model of intervention is similar to the ARISE model. Yet, instead of pinpointing behaviors that each family member needs to address, this model simply brings the relatives together in a unified movement of support for the addict.

An interventionalist will make the addict aware of the meetings beforehand so that there is no element of surprise. Then, the meetings are carried out much like therapy sessions, in which communication between family members is open, guided, and healing in nature. In a show of support, family members might attend Al-Anon meetings or similar gatherings to learn more about the addict’s struggles and how they can be there.

The meetings can be conducted in a series of short-term sessions. Yet, many families find these discussions so beneficial that they continue them into the long-term.

Finding a Substance Abuse Intervention Model That Works

Just as there is no cookie-cutter addict, neither is there a one-size-fits-all solution for substance abuse intervention. The method and model you choose will depend on a myriad of factors. These may include your relationship with the addict, the nature of the addiction, and the willingness of the addict to seek help.

One thing these approaches do have in common? They’re all made stronger and more effective with the help of a trained interventionalist. This trained professional will work with you through every step of the process. This helps to make sure that the conversations are effective, progressive, and thorough.

Are you ready to take the next steps toward helping your loved one seek help for an addiction? We’d love to be that resource for you. We’ll work with you to simplify treatment planning and determine the best rehab center for your needs. Along the way, we partner with major insurance providers to help you find an affordable destination within your accepted coverage.

We know this time can be complicated and overwhelming. Contact us today and let us help steer you toward the answers you need.