Intervention is the process through which the loved ones of an addict employ the assistance of a professional in attempts to persuade him or her to accept addiction treatment.  Often, addicts do not, or cannot recognize the dysfunction and chaos of their lives while in the middle of their addiction and destructive behaviors. Since addiction is a behavioral issue that gets progressively worse as more time goes by without treatment, the likelihood of an addict admitting to his or her lack of control can diminish with longer-term addiction. No two addicts will behave the same way, and while some addicts may accept treatment quickly and with no resistance, others may fight the idea with every fiber of their being regardless of the pleas of loved ones.

Johnson Model of Intervention

While the outcome of asking an addict to accept addiction treatment may be unpredictable, there is one significant aspect of intervention that remains consistent: An adult addict cannot be forced into treatment against his or her will. No drug treatment program will work for an individual who is not willing to be receptive to it, and no drug rehab facility can hold an adult against his or her will. While this may be disheartening to some, the degrees to which a resistant addict will go in order avoid treatment can be tested in an intervention.

This is tested in the Johnson model of intervention, created by Dr. Vernon Johnson in the 1960’s. As the most commonly recognized form of intervention, the Johnson model has been almost exclusively used in public displays, such as television shows and movies. Dr. Johnson developed the Johnson Model as he observed alcoholics as they decided to enter into addiction treatment. He studied what had taken place in their lives and where they were at the time of their decision to get help.

While interventions were not necessarily new at this time, most were conducted from a blaming perspective where loved ones would “gang-up” on the addict, blame him or her for pain and hurtful memories. Dr. Johnson introduced the caring and compassionate aspect to the intervention model for which he is now so well known.

The Johnson Model of intervention has seven main components:

  1. Team
    The team consists of the professional and all concerned loved ones of the addict. This is not just family, but any individual in the addict’s life who is genuinely worried about his or her welfare. In fact, this may preclude some family members with whom the addict has a particularly contentious relationship.
  2. Planning
    The planning stage of the intervention is a secret meeting to which the addict is not invited. During this session, the counselor discusses with the loved ones, what they are going to write in their letters to the addict, regulates the tone of the letters, and guides the loved ones to be able to say what they need without attacking or blaming the addict.
  3. The Intervention Tone
    The entire tone of the intervention should be focused on care and compassion. At no time should any loved one yell at, or condemn the addict. The goal of the intervention is to lower the defenses of the addict and allow him or her to feel the love in the room, and accept treatment.
  4. Stay on Topic
    The counselor is important in this component of the intervention, as there tend to be multiple layers of issues and conflicts within families and relationships with loved ones. It is important to stay on the topic of addiction and how it is affecting the lives of the addict and his or her loved ones. The counselor can help to keep everyone on track during the intervention
  5. Evidence
    Statements made to the addict should be supported by evidence from the reader. The intervention is not a place for opinions or elaborations of the facts. The loved ones of the addict should have evidence to support any statement they make regarding the destruction and effects of addiction.
  6. End Goal
    The entire team must be in agreement that the goal is to get the addict into treatment, no matter what. The intervention is not a family counseling session, and it is not a forum to release pent-up anger. During the intervention, the only goal is for the addict to accept treatment, and do so with the loving and caring words of his or her loved ones.
  7. Options
    Before the intervention begins, the team must have at least three options for addiction treatment. While they may be different locations or modalities, if the addict needs a 90-day treatment program, all options should be 90 days. These options should be presented to the addict during the intervention.

The Johnson model of intervention has been successful for many loved ones of addicts. However, this is not always the case. Because this model of intervention involved secrecy and a surprise confrontation, it can exacerbate the resistance of some individuals to accept treatment. The dynamics of the family firmly determine the effectiveness of this model of intervention.

If the intervention is unsuccessful, it is essential for the loved ones of the addict to stick to their bottom lines or the consequences of the addict’s refusal of treatment. Often, these outcomes will include things like:

  • No more financial assistance, car rides, housing, or any other assistance given to the addict so long as he or she continues to refuse treatment
  • Reporting the addict to police or probation/parole officer for illegal activities and possession of drugs
  • Seeking custody of minor children of the addict if he or she does not get addiction treatment
  • Cutting off ties with the addict until he or she accepts treatment

According to the Johnson model of intervention, if the loved ones do not hold their bottom lines, the addict has no reason to enter treatment. While it is not the primary goal, if an addict can be made to hit “rock bottom,” he or she will eventually realize that life has become unmanageable in the wake of such tremendous loss, and accept help.

The Systemic Family Model of Intervention

Contrary to the Johnson model, the systemic family model of intervention includes the addict every step of the way, and there is no surprise confrontation. The components of the systemic family model of intervention include:

    1. Inclusion
      The loved ones inform the addict that they have contacted a professional interventionist or family counselor, and the addict is invited to the very first meeting with this counselor.
    2. Open Conversation
      During the meeting, everyone discusses openly the way addiction has affected their lives, and discuss solutions to the problem. This is not a one-sided discussion or the reading of letters. The counselor serves as a mediator to be sure the conversation remains on track and civilized.
    3. Multiple Meetings
      Contrary to the Johnson model, the systemic model of intervention includes numerous meetings of the addict and his or her loved ones. These sessions can continue until such time that the addict and the loved ones agree upon a solution.
    4. Solution
      When the addict and his or her loved ones finally arrive at a solution, the results are typical that the addict will attend an addiction treatment program and the loved ones will continue in family counseling during that time. Once the addict has completed treatment, he or she will join the rest of the family in counseling to remain on the path of healing in recovery from addiction

The Systemic Family model of intervention is another model that is successful for many loved ones of addicts, and its success is mostly credited to the involvement of the addict and the lackIntervention of confrontation in the intervention process. The success of this model of intervention is also dependent on the dynamics of the family and the individual suffering from addiction. If the addict continues to refuse treatment after several months of meetings, the loved ones have a choice to either keep what they have been doing, switch to the Johnson model of intervention, or continue with their counseling, and wait for their addicted loved one to join in.

Is Intervention Worth It?

If an intervention is attempted and fails, many loved ones are left wondering if the entire process was for naught, but it is essential to understand that addiction treatment only works as well as the addict will allow it to work. Some addicts are simply not in a place where they will accept the massive change in their lives that comes with committing to sobriety and recovery. While painful and extraordinarily difficult to accept, loved ones of addicts must do whatever they can to be well, and not allow the addiction of another individual to bring them down. This does not necessarily mean giving up hope, as hope should never be lost. More often than not, addicts will eventually grow weary of their lifestyle and choices to continue with addiction. It may not happen at the time of an intervention, but if an addict sees that his or her loved ones are holding their bottom lines and/or doing whatever is necessary to be well and at peace with themselves (without the addict), he or she will most likely get to the point at which addiction treatment will be the accepted way out.

So, is intervention worth it? If it is never attempted, one would never know. The only intervention that isn’t worth the effort is the one loved ones never try. Countless addicted individuals need help to get help, and that is the purpose of an intervention. Any attempt to try and save the life of a loved one who is suffering as mightily as addicts suffer is always worth it.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from addiction and need help to get help for him or her, please contact us to speak with one of our certified counselors about the situation. We will work with you to determine the best course of action that will be most effective for getting your addicted loved one into treatment where he or she can begin to do the critical work necessary to achieve sobriety and maintain recovery from addiction. We understand how difficult it is to witness a loved one who is suffering from addiction, and we can help. Countless addicts have found their path to recovery, even with initial resistance that required intervention. Please don’t wait to get help, and don’t lose hope. Support is here, and we are ready to assist you in any way we can.