An intervention is an event designed to help a person suffering from addiction seek treatment. Friends and family typically plan interventions, but they many involve professional intervention specialists.

Although the purpose of an intervention is to encourage a change in behavior, successful interventions are rarely confrontational. The high-drama approach seen on popular television shows, in which families catch loved ones off-guard with strict ultimatums, is exaggerated and unrealistic. The following guide will help you understand how effective interventions work, when to stage one, and what techniques are likely to prove successful in your situation.

Types of Interventions

Because every person and situation is unique, there is no single “right” way to stage an intervention. However, a few proven models exist to give you a good place to start:

Classic Intervention Model (The Johnson Model)

In this commonly used approach, loved ones carefully write what they plan to say in advance, using specific examples to illustrate concerns. The primary focus of the intervention is to demonstrate concern and help the struggling individual find the support and treatment. Coming prepared with specific treatment options increases the likelihood that the intervention will result in the individual choosing recovery.  

ARISE Intervention

The ARISE Intervention method focuses on early and proactive intervention, involving professional interventionists in every step. Following this approach, friends and family address a loved one in stages, with increasingly formal attempts to encourage the acceptance of treatment. The approach encourages love, acceptance and support, rather than confrontation.

Brief Strategic Family Intervention  

This approach views addiction as an issue that belongs to an entire family, not just an individual. All family members commit to counseling, including group therapy, and the member suffering from addiction is involved from the earliest stages of intervention. Once an individual has entered a formal treatment program, the family involvement continues.

Sprout Health Group employs a variety of interventions that largely utilizes the foundations of the Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) model. As individuals will eventually return home, it is important that their respective families are involved in every aspect of their care. This can be best enhanced when family interactions are strengthened and family dynamics are reinforced.

When is an intervention helpful?

Although the term “intervention” has become associated with substance abuse, interventions can address other addictive behaviors, too. Gambling addiction, eating disorders, hoarding or sex addiction may all require an intervention. Simply put, an intervention is appropriate when an individual is engaging in a harmful behavior and either does not recognize the problem, or cannot seek help independently. They may hesitate out of embarrassment, a lack of resources, or an underlying mental illness. Many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. These individuals may have difficulty thinking clearly about how to take the first step toward treatment even if they want to.

The support of family members is often what provides the courage and clarity to seek help. Although interventions give friends and family an avenue to express pain and frustrations, the most successful interventions focus on a show of united support and a commitment to engaging in treatment.        

What should friends and family know before staging an intervention?

Although you may anticipate strong emotions or perhaps denial during an intervention, you cannot know how a loved one will react when faced with concern about their behavior. Friends and family should know that those suffering from addiction may legitimately not recognize their problem. And while it may feel tempting to dismiss the shock or anger they may express, remember that these feelings are genuine.

Friends and family should also know that simply wanting to accept treatment may not be enough for individuals suffering from addiction to take action. Even if they recognize a problem, they may not see a way out of it. Some individuals, particularly those who can function well enough manage day-to-day life with addiction, may have accepted it as part of their identity. Because they may have tried to stop in the past and failed, they may not believe recovery is possible. Some may feel intimidated by the expense or logistics of seeking help. Understanding all of these factors before approaching a loved one can increase the chances of a successful intervention.

Should I used a professional interventionist?

Although many successful interventions take place without the help of an outside professional, a professional interventionist can improve your communication. If you anticipate a reaction of denial from your loved one, or strong emotions among friends and family, you may benefit from a professional mediator who can help each person feel heard. A professional interventionist can also help friends and family stay on task. Rather than dwelling on the past, interventions serve a critical purpose — to help a loved one build a new future.  

What are tips for a successful intervention?

  • Keep an open mind. Recognize that your loved one may face challenges that you have not considered, including a co-occurring disorder.
  • Show unconditional love. Remember that the support of families is often crucial to long-term recovery and sobriety.
  • Hold firm to the support you can offer. Remember that the goal is to help a loved one seek treatment. Financial or emotional support that does not involve treatment will not lead to recovery.
  • Come prepared with education, materials and a plan for treatment. Individuals who struggle with addiction are more likely to accept help if they are presented with specific treatment options. Call us to learn how we can provide these for you.  

Do not feel discouraged if your first attempt to stage an intervention does not result in the acceptance of treatment. Showing your support and recognition of the problem is a big first step toward recovery. Engaging a professional interventionist, involving the whole family in therapy, or simply taking some time before trying again can help increase your chances of helping a loved one successfully start treatment.


To learn more about how you can help a loved one who is struggling with addiction, call us today. Our experienced wellness specialists can give you the resources you need to help your friend or family member take the first step toward recovery.