4 Drug Intervention Models Proven to Work

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an intervention

Understanding Intervention Models

An intervention can be a necessary and valuable opportunity to help your loved one acknowledge their drug addiction and provide the support and direction to begin the path to recovery.  But an intervention can vary widely in approach: in a confrontational or invitational format; in a family, workplace or community setting; or as part of a singular or ongoing meeting arrangement. To understand the types of drug interventions available, you can compare these common approaches:

Johnson Model

Originating in the 1960s, the Johnson model is one of the earliest approaches to intervention and what comes to mind for many when discussing intervention. This method focuses on facing a loved one about their drug use, and typically adheres to the following characteristics:
  • It is a “confrontational” format: while it is caring in tone, it is direct and frank, and the addicted person is not aware of the intervention in advance.
  • The intervention meeting is singular, with an emphasis on immediately spurring action.
  • Loved ones share how they’ve been affected by the drug abuse and what they will do if he or she fails to seek treatment.
  • Participants are expected to follow through with their stated consequences if the addicted person does not opt to enter a rehab program for their drug use.
The primary objective of this type of drug intervention is to proactively trigger a moment of change for the drug user before they reach a “rock bottom” moment that could have more severe, even fatal, consequences.
While the Johnson model is a longstanding strategy for instigating treatment for substance abuse, other techniques for intervention have arisen in the years since.


While similar in many ways to the Johnson model, ARISE intervention varies in its approach in a few key ways:
  • It is “invitational” rather than confrontational. The addicted person is aware that loved ones have planned an intervention — there are no surprises.
  • There may be anywhere from one to five meetings, depending on when the addicted person opts to enter treatment.
  • The treatment is more collaborative and addresses the needs of the addicted person’s loved ones.
  • The support network remains involved throughout and after treatment.
As with the Johnson model, participants can include family, friends, coworkers or members of their religious community.

Systemic Family Model

More so than other models, the Systemic Family Model of intervention more deeply explores loved ones’ dynamic with the addicted person. Drug abuse does not happen in a vacuum, and this method approaches intervention accordingly.
  • It acknowledges not just how a drug user’s behavior can affect a family, but also the ways a family may unknowingly reflect or reinforce negative behaviors.
  • With the help of an interventionist, the addict, and loved ones commit to ongoing therapy, with all participants working toward creating an environment of recovery.
  • As the name suggests, the focus is on healing the entire family system, not solely on the addicted person.
The goal is that both the recovering addict and their loved ones will have the tools and support to maintain the hard-won progress that stems from the intervention.
This can be particularly important for younger drug users such as teens whose age creates an increased reliance on family for successful rehabilitation.

Crisis Model

While other models typically attempt to address an addicted person’s behavior before they’ve hit proverbial rock bottom, sometimes that moment comes where a drug user is at their lowest and needs intervention. While the crises in this type of intervention often risk one’s physical or mental well-being, other, less immediate difficulties may be leveraged. Examples include:
  • Illness related to drug abuse
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders exacerbated by drug use
  • Legal problems stemming from substance abuse
  • Job loss or financial woes due to drug use
  • Troubles at school, such as risk of expulsion
  • Fractured family and social relationships
This approach to intervention seeks to help remedy the immediate crisis while offering a path toward recovery when the addict is most receptive to finally receiving help.
Because the nature and severity of the crisis can vary significantly, the approach to intervention typically needs to be tailored to the individual’s circumstances.

The Right Intervention

While these are among the more common types of drug intervention, the right method is the one that will work best for a loved one struggling with drug addiction. A trained interventionist can help you find an approach that is best suited to your circumstances and guide you through the process. If you have questions, reach out to our highly trained staff.


AIS. “What is the Johnson Model?” Association of Intervention Specialists. 2 August 2012. Accessed 28 April 2016. http://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/what-is-the-johnson-model/ Daley, Dennis. “Dual Disorders Recovery Counseling.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 28 April 2016. http://archives.drugabuse.gov/ADAC/ADAC3.html Stratton, Peter. “The Evidence Base of Systemic Family and Couples Therapies.” Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice. January 2011. Accessed 28 April 2016. http://www.aft.org.uk/SpringboardWebApp/userfiles/aft/file/Training/EvidenceBaseofSystemicFamilyan