Don’t Try This At Home (Intervention for Substance Abuse)

Introduction to Intervention

I recently shared that I was going through my old blog posts and site copy to update to person first language.* I came across one of my first blog posts on the Myth of Readiness. In it, I discuss how it’s a commonly held belief that a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) needs to “be ready” and to “want it” to get sober and to accept treatment. Go read the blog post to see how that’s not true.

What THIS blog post is about is professional intervention. As a specialist in the field of addiction and supporting family members who love people with a SUD, I get asked about interventions often. Intervention is the term used to describe an organized event in which family members or friends come together for the purpose of trying to convince a loved one to get help. Usually this means getting the person to agree to treatment.

Types of Intervention

There are different theories and approaches to a professional intervention. Many people have seen the A&E TV show in which a person with a substance use problem is featured and ultimately intervened upon.

  • Direct Intervention – Created by Dr. Vernon Johnson (the father of intervention) this model uses traditional “treatment as usual” tools such as confrontation and direction intervention. It is what you might be familiar with in TV shows.
  • Systemic Family Intervention Model – This model educates and informs the family and the person with the SUD. The family intervention teaches members of the family system to see the role they play in the progression of the SUD and how to change actions and habits that are not beneficial.
  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) – Developed by Robert Meyers, PhD. Through multiple therapy sessions, CRAFT teaches families how to talk about addiction and its effects on the family.
  • Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement (ARISE) Model  – ARISE focuses on healing entire families by mobilizing a support system to form a committed intervention. An invitational model, this intervention invites the person with an SUD to join the process right from the beginning with no surprises, no secrets, no coercion, and absolute respect and love.
  • Love First – The Love First intervention, created by Jeff Jay emphasizes staying positive and supportive. It structures interventions around the goal of treatment and is based on the idea that addiction is a medical issue. It focuses on the power of a family coming together to express their love and concern.
  • RAAD ModelRAAD, developed by Dr. Cali Estes of The Addictions Academy, uses positive psychology and active listening to encourage the person with an SUD to listen to the options ahead of them with an open mind. It is more of a persuasive process than a confrontation designed to convince the person to attend a rehab program and give them more control to make an educated decision.


Don’t Do This Alone

Perhaps because it just looks like people sitting in a circle telling “their truth,” perhaps because they’ve seen it on TV, perhaps because they don’t want to anger the person suffering with the SUD, many people try to arrange and stage an intervention themselves.

Folks, don’t.

I am an accomplished professional with a specialty in substance abuse treatment. I have 2 advanced degrees, will have a doctorate by the end of the year with a specialty in this field, and I refer out interventions.

Family members and friends of the person with the SUD are too close. Even professionals who happen to have a family member with an active SUD are too close. It is impossible to sanitize the intervention from the family dynamic.

An intervention is a specific process that needs a specific and trained professional. A trained and certified professional will also have developed relationships with treatment facilities and other professionals in your area and will help make informed choices about a good match for your person. They will help facilitate getting your person to their care setting. A professional can do things you cannot, so get one. And listen to them. And while I am not a professional interventionist, I do know a few things:

  1. Don’t try to heal all things during the intervention. Follow the process given to you by your professional.
  2. Forget what you’ve seen on TV. “Reality” TV isn’t, really.
  3. Don’t expect an intervention to be treatment. While some of the intervention models are educational and a process, they are by definition a process to motivate treatment and are not treatment themselves.
  4. Don’t force your model or idea of recovery onto your person. An intervention is to get them to say “yes” to going to professional treatment. (when they get home from treatment, see #4 on this blog post).
  5. Remember that when they get to treatment, treatment will be treatment. You can allow the process and professionals to do their thing.
  6. As soon as your person says “yes’ to treatment, stop talking and let the interventionist take them to treatment. Like, STOP TALKING.

Since I am not a professional interventionist, I recommend Dan Caldwell. His style capitalizes on the fair and efficient approach of the Direct Model but is updated and informed by Love First. Intervention services can be hired across state lines, so you can reach out to him from anywhere. He is familiar with facilities in Texas, but also a wide network of professionals and facilities throughout the United States.


*Person First language is becoming the expected industry standard. And for the right reasons. The main reason is to acknowledge people as people first, before any other words are used, rather than referring to them in terms of a diagnosis or condition. This is true on the medical side of things as well. “A person with diabetes” is being used rather than “a diabetic.” Using Person-First Language in regard to addiction means someone is a “person with a substance use disorder,” rather than the stigmatizing term, “addict.” It relates directly to dignity and respect. Moving away from terms such as addict or alcoholic, we lead with the person, identify the person, and honor the person – first.

24618 Kingsland Blvd 2nd Floor, Room 8
Katy, TX 77494
On the left hand side of the CLS building
(281) 740-7563

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.