What Is the Systemic Family Intervention Model?

Beth LeipholtzIntervention

girlfriend listening to her boyfriend
If you are an alcoholic or addict, or have a loved one who is, you’ve likely heard of an intervention—a meeting set up by friends and family in order to confront an alcoholic or addict about their substance abuse issues. However, there are different approaches that can be taken when it comes to interventions, and one may fit a specific situation better than another.

Systemic Family Intervention Model (SFI)

One such intervention approach is called the Systemic Family Intervention (SFI) model, in which an addict or alcoholic’s family comes together to confront their loved one about their issues with substances, whether drugs or alcohol.

SFI vs. Traditional

The SFI model differs from traditional intervention models in a variety of ways. For example, more mainstream invention models such as the Johnson model, do not inform the addict that the intervention is taking place and usually there is only one meeting. However, with the Systemic Family Intervention model, the addict is aware that the intervention is taking place. Often, an interventionist informs the addict and allows him or her to make the choice to attend. This results in less of a feeling of ambush and more a feeling of control over the participation. In the SFI model, the lines of communication are open so that the addict or alcoholic can respond with their own thoughts and feelings, and the goal is for the conversation to be open and non-attacking.

How SFI Works

Typically in this model of intervention, there is more than one meeting between the interventionist, family, and addict/alcoholic. Sometimes the meetings can span weeks or even months depending on the wishes of those involved. Often, both the family and the addict take part in counseling in between or following the meetings. For the person struggling with addiction, this usually means an inpatient or outpatient treatment of some sort, while for the family, it means therapy sessions. Often when the addict is done with treatment, they will join the family in continued therapy sessions. The SFI model has many potential benefits, one being the relationship between the addict/alcoholic and his or her family. Because of the nature of the SFI approach, both parties are usually on the same page and have an understanding of how their actions affect one another. And since the addict or alcoholics participation in the intervention is voluntary, they likely want to be there and want to make a change in their life, eliminating the need to convince them it is necessary. As always, each situation is unique and could require a different type of approach. Before staging an intervention, do your research to determine the best fit for the specific scenario.