Comparing 4 Intervention Techniques

Comparing 4 Intervention Techniques to find out the best one for youIt is natural for families to feel helpless to change the course of an addiction. They may feel as though there is nothing they could say or do that would change the way the person with the addiction relates to drugs and alcohol. They may have brought the issue up several times, and each time they may have felt as though nothing changed. Families could change all of this with an intervention.

An intervention is a special kind of conversation in which families outline the very real consequences associated with an addiction. This tough talk, done in the right way, could convince someone to get vital care for an addiction, even if the problem has been in place for a very long time. These are just four different ways to hold such a talk.

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FAQ: Intervention

The Simple Technique

Who is it for?

A simple intervention, also known as a brief intervention, is made for people who engage in risky or problem behaviors associated with drugs or alcohol, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That means it is not appropriate for people who have in-depth, longstanding addiction issues. It is only for people who have either new or mild cases of substance abuse and/or addiction.

How it works

A simple intervention is held between a person with an addiction and a healthcare provider. In a series of appointments, typically lasting an hour or so, the person and the professional discuss how the addiction came about and what the person should do in order to change things around.

Unlike other interventions, in which the family is trying to entice the person to enroll in a formal and long treatment program for addiction, a simple intervention is designed to open up the person to the idea of discussing the addiction in just one appointment with a doctor. This could be as simple as making an appointment. Or one person could pitch the idea informally over dinner. There is no need for a formal plan here. This can be informal.

How to prepare

The World Health Organization reports that people who benefit from simple interventions are often happy users who do not have any worries about their use of substances. They may not see their use as problematic, and they may not agree that change is required. As a result, people like this can sometimes be difficult to persuade, even when the family is only trying to get the person to accept the idea of one or two addiction appointments.

Persistence can be key here. Families can bring the idea up once, and then repeat the conversation at a later time. During each conversation, they should remain calm and serene. They should not argue or attack.

If, despite multiple attempts to get the person to enroll, the person does not agree to care, it might be wise to move to another intervention type that comes with a bit more bite.


The Crisis Technique

Crisis intervention therapy techniqueWho is it for?

People touched by addiction can also be touched by crisis. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one death every 51 minutes can be attributed to a car crash involving alcohol. Similarly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that arrests due to possession of drugs happen all across the United States, and that the number of possession arrests is larger than manufacturing arrests.

When a crisis hits, this form of intervention is designed to highlight how the substance abuse contributed to the problem. In a way, the crisis works as a lever to prompt the person to get care, so the same crisis will not recur in the future.

How it works

A crisis intervention works best when it is held in the moments after the incident is over. That means this conversation could be held in a:

  • Hospital room
  • Health clinic
  • Police station
  • Jail cell

The family discusses how the crisis was caused by the addiction, and they ask the person to enroll in care as soon as the hospital/clinic/jail/prison allows the addicted person to leave the area.

How to prepare

There is no real way to prepare for an intervention like this. When a crisis appears, the family must be ready to react appropriately. There is, of course, no real way to make sure that a crisis will happen at a time that is convenient for the family.


The Classical Technique

Who is it for?

A classical technique intervention, also known as a Johnson Model intervention, is one of the oldest and best-studied forms of intervention available to families today. According to the American Psychological Association, this form of intervention is a confrontational talk in which the substance abuser is forced to listen to a network of people who are all invested in that person’s recovery.

This form of intervention could work for anyone, but it might be best for people who have gone through other, softer interventions and were not moved to change. It might also work well for people with tight social connections and many stakeholders.

How it works

In a classical technique intervention, the family reads a series of letters about addiction to the person with addiction. Each letter outlines:

  • How much the speaker loves or admires the person with the addiction
  • How the addiction has touched the relationship between the speaker and the person with the addiction
  • How treatment works
  • Why treatment is required

Every person participating in the intervention reads a letter, unless the person stops the meeting by agreeing to enroll in care.

How to prepare

This is a formal, high-stakes conversation, so it pays for the family to work with an interventionist. This clinician meets with the family in several sessions before the talk, and that person helps the family to draft letters that are heartfelt and compelling.

The family should also choose a location for the talk and determine who will attend the conversation. The family should also arrange for the person with the addiction to arrive at the appointed place and time in a sober manner.


The Systems Technique

Who is it for?

Addictions are often considered individual illnesses; however, as clinicians writing in Addiction back in 2008 point out, failing to take a social or network view could doom recovery efforts before they start. A systems intervention is designed to help a person’s family to change, so family can assist the person in the recovery journey.

This form of intervention works best for adolescents, but it can also be effective for adults with close family ties. People living with their parents, grandparents, siblings, or cousins might all benefit from a systems approach.

How it works

In a systems intervention, the family hires an interventionist or counselor to help with group healing. The interventionist and the family pull together a treatment schedule, and the family invites the person with the addiction to attend each meeting. The family may remind the person of upcoming meetings, even if the person has not agreed to attend.

As the intervention moves forward, the family may shift and change, and that could make it harder for the person with the addiction to maintain that addiction. The family may not buy drugs or alcohol, accept substance use in the house, invite the person to attend family functions, and more.

At the end of this intervention, the family may hold a classical intervention to persuade the person to enroll in care. Or the family may continue to change, regardless of what the addicted person does.

How to prepare

Hiring a professional who is familiar with the systems approach is the key to the success of this particular intervention type. The family should also prepare to be deeply invested in education and recovery during this time.

Which Is Best for You?

There are many different intervention types to choose from. The one that is best for you is the one you will feel most comfortable holding and the one that has the greatest chance of motivating the person you love. If you cannot make a choice, an interventionist might be able to help you decide.

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