Intervention: An Option for Helping Alcoholics and Addicts

Have you ever said, “I just don’t know what to do…” Or, “I’ve run out of options.” An intervention may be the only approach left. Deciding to do an intervention is not easy, but, they are usually extremely effective.

Vern Johnson, the pioneer of intervention, said “Intervention is a way in which to approach a loved one or friend in a loving and respectful manner.” There are now, thank goodness, different models of intervention. Two types of interventions are a “surprise” model or an “invitational” model.

A surprise model, as exemplified by the TV Show “Intervention,” consists of:

Confronting the alcoholic, usually through some form of a ruse, with how his/her drinking or drugging has impacted everyone around the alcoholic or addict. The alcoholic’s family, friends, and employers attempt to tell the alcoholic in their own words how his (or her) drinking has been a problem in their lives.

In this model, the only focus of an intervention is to get the alcoholic to go into a treatment program. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s not as simple as that. Often the other aspects of the disease (how the other family members enable or allow the disease, or, how the family will relate to each other after treatment) are not addressed in the intervention. Without fixing the world the alcoholic/addict lives in, the chance of good recovery is greatly lessened.

An invitational model, a newer, more systemic way to help alcoholics/addicts and their families, consists of:

Inviting the loved one into a process in which the whole family looks at how the disease of addiction impacts them, taking the focus off of the addict and putting it where it should be, on the disease. Individually the family will approach their loved one and talk about how the disease has impacted the relationship. Each dialogue is a “mini-intervention” where the addict learns something about the reality of how his or her behavior is impacting others. This process helps nudge them towards the contemplation stage, initiating the addict’s belief that addiction is NOT working well for them.

A workshop will be proposed and the addict will be invited into the process. A large percentage of addicts will attend the workshop. In the workshop the focus will be kept on the disease aspect and off of the addict (the belief here is that they have enough shame already).

There is an emphasis on separating the human from the medical disease, thereby reducing the shame in the human. This is a hugely successful approach as the family is also “intervened” on and when their loved one comes home they have eliminated the “relapse environment.” This is my preferred way of doing things. It does cost more and takes a longer time to complete, but, with this model changes tend to last longer and all family members have a chance to get some happiness back into their lives.

I personally recommend visiting or These skilled interventionists come with the “Gore Seal of Approval.”