An intervention involves an organized attempt to confront a loved one with addiction about how their drug or alcohol use has affected everyone around them. Intervention provides crucial support and allows the opportunity for family, friends, colleagues, and even employers an opportunity to tell the person how their addiction has been a problem in their lives. A family intervention is a carefully planned process and is organized with the help of a certified intervention specialist. Intervention groups operate across the country and work with treatment centers helping families regain control and save the life of their loved ones.

Also, most drug and alcohol treatment centers have counselors who are trained to help families prepare for an intervention. These services are important when a family is working with an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program. Interventions are carefully planned and, with the right help, are successful. However, there is a common misconception that intervention is only done as a last resort, and this is not true. Early intervention is crucial because it prevents an addiction from spiraling out of control. An intervention could be done at any time, and with the help of a certified interventionist, they are successful.

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There are several types of drug and alcohol intervention, which most qualified family interventionists are trained to utilize. The Johnson Model was created by Vernon Johnson and is the most recognizable form of intervention. This model involves the family and a guided interventionist confronting the individual struggling with an addiction. The Invitation Model, or what is known as Systemic Family Intervention, was developed by Ed Spear and Wayne Raiter. The process focuses on a family-orientated approach, and everyone involved is invited to a workshop led by an interventionist to discuss how addiction has affected the family.

Additionally, there is the Field Model of Intervention, which is similar to the Johnson Model as it involves a confrontational approach without the person's prior knowledge. The family interventionist has the training to manage crises during the intervention process and after. The first step for the family is making the decision to follow through with an intervention. Substance abuse becomes work when the drug-addicted individual does not get the help they need. Family Interventions groups are an excellent place to begin because they have the necessary resources to help the family and addict.

When is the Best Time to Consider Family Intervention?

The best time to plan and organize a professional intervention is at any point when the family begins to recognize the addiction and the problems it is creating. The process could begin with researching drug rehab centers and talking to addiction professionals. Most substance abuse treatment centers know of intervention groups and can refer families to these intervention groups. The same applies when families speak with intervention groups; they know of treatment centers that offer the proper resources and help for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The process begins with making the decision to help the drug-addicted individual. Families are often caught in the middle and are enabling the addict, or there are issues with co-dependency. These are issues that a certified interventionist helps the family work through during the first day or two before the intervention takes place.

Once an interventionist has been contacted, they spend the time educating the family and anyone else close to the addict who has been affected by the addiction. When organizing the intervention team, this could include friends and family and the professional interventionist. It is important to select the right people for the intervention. For example, this should not be anyone that is enabling the addict or who is co-dependent. Enabling derails an intervention, and it becomes impossible to convince the drug user they need help. The family is prepared for anything because confronting someone with an addiction does not always go smoothly. However, this is why a professional interventionist is hired to act as a third-party mediator.

The Intervention Process and Why It is Important

According to the Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, only about one in ten people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment. The evidence shows that substance use disorders can be effectively treated with comprehensive continuing care. However, getting an addict to commit to treatment is the first step, and this is where a certified interventionist helps. The Surgeon General's Report also indicates that evidence shows that treatment for substance use disorders, such as inpatient or outpatient, is cost-effective compared with no treatment. Unfortunately, many families do not confront their loved ones about their substance misuse, and the addiction spirals out of control.

Someone who is struggling with addiction is often in denial about their situation and unwilling to seek treatment. A family intervention presents the drug-addicted person with a structured opportunity to make changes before the problem becomes worse. Generally, this is a carefully planned process, and some families attempt this without help, while others hire a professional interventionist. During the intervention, people gather together to confront the addict about the consequences of addiction and ask them to accept treatment. Unfortunately, this is always not successful without professional help.

A typical intervention involves specific steps, and the first one is to make a plan. A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a group to plan the intervention. The best approach is to consult with a certified interventionist or an addiction professional. Hiring a professional is beneficial because an intervention is a highly charged situation leading to anger, resentment, or a sense of betrayal. The people involved should begin to gather information and find out about the extent of addiction. Once the family or friends have an understanding of the severity of the addiction, the next involves forming an intervention team.

Once an intervention team is formed, the next step is to set a date and location and work together to present a consistent rehearsed message. Interventions are structured, and someone who is not connected to the family helps the intervention team focus on the facts of the problem. Typically, this is a professional interventionist that the family has hired who helps the family through the entire process. The people involved with the intervention should also decide on the specific consequences of the drug-addicted individual who does not accept treatment. Each person on the team needs to decide what action he or she will take.

Everyone has something to say during the intervention, which has an emotional impact and bring an understanding as to why the addiction is affecting everyone around the addict. Once the intervention is successful, the drug-addicted individual is escorted to the treatment center. Typically, the best person to bring your loved one to treatment is the interventionist—along the way to the treatment center, anything could happen. It is not uncommon for an addict to want to change their mind and find a way to back out. Certified interventionists are trained to manage the situation and ensure your loved one arrives at treatment safely.

What are the Alternatives to Family Intervention?

The alternative to family intervention is court-ordered drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Court-ordered rehab is a mandatory rehabilitation from a drug or alcohol addiction as ordered by a judge as part of a court ruling. Typically, court-ordered drug rehabilitation is instead of a prison term for someone who has bee charged with a drug or alcohol-related offense. Countless addicts become caught up in a cycle of crime and addiction. Drug courts across the United States routinely sentence offenders to treatment programs in an effort to reduce the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system. People who are ordered to go through court-ordered treatment are often regular people, but their addicts have taken over.

The main purpose of court-ordered drug rehabilitation is the complete rehabilitation of the offender. Also, it is to ensure the rehabilitated individual does not graduate to more serious crimes. Unfortunately, this is a common problem where offenders who do not become rehabilitated commit a more serious offense. A drug court may order treatment instead of rehabilitation if it was a non-violent crime, or the crime that was committed was a direct or indirect result of substance abuse. Also, if a court believes the person would benefit from drug or alcohol rehab, the person qualifies for a probation sentence. However, to be eligible for courter ordered treatment, there are requirements to meet.

Some of the conditions include the person who was addicted to drugs or alcohol at the time in which the crime was committed. The crime committed was directly or indirectly as a result of the person's dependence on drugs or alcohol. If the court feels the person would benefit from drug and alcohol treatment, they would be court-ordered, or if the person qualifies for a probation sentence. Drug courts were designed to be an alternative to criminal courts, and offenders are admitted to addiction treatment programs instead of prison. However, participation in drug court is not mandatory, but the defendant must have pleaded guilty to the crime. Once checked into the drug rehabilitation center, the offender is expected to abide by some, or all of the terms laid out.

According to an article Treating Drug Abuse and Addiction in the Criminal Justice System: Improving Public Health and Safety, "treating drug-involved offenders provides a unique opportunity to decrease substance abuse and reduce associated criminal behavior." Offenders can access Accelerated Pretrial Rehabilitation Programs, which is overseen by the Court Support Services Department. There are also Alcohol Education Programs for someone that was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence. Drug Education and Community Service Programs are applicable to people who have bee charged with possession of drugs or drug-related paraphernalia. When family intervention is not an option, and your loved one is caught up with the criminal justice system, drug courts are an effective approach to take.

Common Terminology Surround Family Intervention

Term Definition
Family Intervention this process includes family members to motivate someone to seek help for alcohol or drug misuse and other addictive behaviors.
Enabling this is the behavior taken on by family or friends that delays the moment where the drug-addicted individual is forced to confront the full gravity of their addiction. For example, the family pays for the drug users' rent or bails them out of difficult situations.
Co-dependency is a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. Also, this problem occurs within a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible addictive behavior.
Substance Abuse Intervention Specialist is a trained and qualified professional who performs family interventions, counsels families, and helps people addicted to drugs or alcohol enter treatment.
Court-Ordered Drug Rehab mandatory treatment is defined as treatment ordered, motivated, or supervised under the criminal justice system, which involves courts or courts associated with DUI offenses.
Motivational Interviewing is an intervention technique that focuses on having a conversation with the addict about help for addiction. The process is designed to encourage them to make positive behavioral changes.
Johnson Model is the most recognizable model of intervention and utilizes the element of surprise where family and friends confront the addicted person with the help of a professional interventionist.
Invitation Model is similar to the Johnson Model, except it does not use the element of surprise. Typically, one friend or family member is asked to speak with the drug-addicted individual.
Field Model combines elements of the Invitation Model and Johnson Model with the professional interventionist working in the field making decisions—it is recommended where an addict has the potential to react in a negative or even violent manner.
Systemic Model is a non-confrontational approach and allows the family and friends to place emphasis on encouraging the drug-addicted individual that they can live without drugs or alcohol.


Marcel Gemme, DATS

Marcel Gemme, DATS


on February 24, 2022

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.

Michael Leach, CCMA

Michael Leach, CCMA

Medically Reviewed

on February 24, 2022

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Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.



« So I guess it's easiest to start from the beginning and my friend who eventually needed help didn't show any signs that there was anything wrong. All throughout college, we had fun. We would go to parties, you know, we would drink and we would have fun and everything seemed normal. It wasn't until we all moved away and my friend kind of had to stay in his hometown and didn't get a chance to kind of move on with his life. And I think that's where the problem started. I kept in contact with him throughout the years and I knew that he was struggling but I had no idea to what extent. I guess the next step of the journey came when I invited him out to come see me on a fun friends' vacation. We started out very innocently and took a road trip down into Mexico. And I started to notice some strange behavior where he was very intrigued by the availability and accessibility of pharmaceutical drugs in Mexico. And I didn't think too much of it. But it did raise the question mark for me. I think that's the real blaring red flag was when he left staying with me and went to stay with some of his family. And it just so happened that he had gotten into their drug cabinet, sort of really went for it, took a lot of different things and they called me up because they had no idea what to do. So I told them to bring him over to my house. I had dealt with, you know, people in various states of intoxication before, that's what we see a lot in college. So I had no idea what to expect, but when my friend came to my house, he was worse than I had ever seen him. I could tell that they're just wasn't very much life behind his eyes and I knew that something was really wrong. Up until this point, I still had never talked with him about addiction or his own personal problem. So I think we both sort of agreed at that point that it was time to talk. So I sat him down on my couch and asked him what was going on and it was at that point that he really... I think he realized he had an opportunity to open up about what was going on in his life and let me know just the extent of his addiction and his drug use and really his depression and his sadness. It was hard for me to hear, but I knew that this was really a rock-bottom for him and by that I only mean that it meant that he had so much opportunity to go back up. So as worried as I was about him, I knew that we had to make a plan moving forward and we talked about several opportunities of him getting out of his environment and coming to stay with me or maybe just moving somewhere completely different to start anew and I had reached out to his family and I talked with his mother and she had been aware of the situation, but she really didn't know what to do. And that I find is a very common occurrence where people that are really close to drug users and addicts. They're almost too close and they don't know what to do or how to take the next step. So we both agreed that something drastic had to happen. We needed to save my friend's life. I had a friend, luckily, who worked at a rehab in the United States and we reached out to him and he was very helpful, as I find a lot of rehab centers are, and set us up with a plan of what we could do to get the ball rolling almost immediately. So we all came to a decision collectively that it was time to sort of pull the trigger and make a big step. I knew that as much as my friend was going to be tentative about doing it, he also knew that it was the right thing to do. So literally that next day, I put him on a flight and we sent him to the rehab center. I didn't get to talk with him for a couple days. Then I remember, about three days after he was first admitted to the rehab center, I got a phone call and I saw that it was an area code I didn't recognize. I thought: "Oh, maybe this is my friend," and I answer the phone and the voice on the line sounded familiar, but it sounded so different and I just remember kind of having this feeling of: "It's him, but it doesn't sound anything like him," because he had confidence in his voice. There was a strength to his voice that I hadn't heard in a really long time. And that was very sort of reassuring that he was well on his way. He's going down the right path. And as he told me about the treatments that they were doing and the advancement that he was having, it really just made me feel like we had made the right decision. And it turns out, he completed his entire rehabilitation, just completely turned around physically, mentally, emotionally and so much so- it had such a great impact on his life that he actually decided to stay at the center, work for the center and help people. And I think that that's one of the greatest success stories that you can have is if somebody realizes how important it is and wants to help people and their experience. And to this day, we still talk. We still find time to hang out with each other. I went to his wedding recently and nothing makes me happier than to see him happy and to see that, you know, he's made such a positive change in his life. So although I was there to sort of make the tough call, I think that it's just so important for an addict or for people that are in these situations, they need to have the support around them and they need to be pushed into the next step. So that's my experience. I hope it helps. » - Calvin L. from San Diego, CA