Family Intervention Strategies for Helping the Addict in Your Family

Family intervention strategies work to help an addict stop using. Most counselors agree that the support of family and friends through the detoxification process is extremely valuable. An intervention is a meeting or session that encourages an addict to seek treatment. According to the National Center for Biotechnology’s publication, “Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse,” family involvement in drug intervention is particularly important. Although it is not advisable for family members to conduct an intervention, at least one counselor or doctor along with family and friends is very beneficial for individuals who would not otherwise seek treatment. There are several types of family intervention strategies, and a variety of techniques and methods used in these strategies.

Types of intervention strategies

Although there are several intervention strategies, only a few of them the American Psychological Association only recognizes a few of them. These strategies are:

  • Motivational Interviewing – This conversational style intervention involves motivating the person to make a change rather than commanding it. The two important factors in this method are gaining the trust of the addict and offering empathy and understanding. This method is less confrontational than most of the other methods and works with or without direct therapist involvement.
  • Johnson Intervention Model – This intervention is the one that most people see on television or movies. It is confrontational and demanding rather than empathetic and conversational. The family and a therapist confront the addict with all of the bad behaviors and pain he or she causes. Its primary motivational techniques are shame and pressure. The threat of what happens when an addict continues using after the invention is plainly stated. This method allows the family to offer full support only if the addict stops using. The Johnson model is sometimes effective but can force an addict away from family and back to the drug.
intervention strategies

Find the intervention strategy that works best for your family.

This model surprises or tricks the addict into going to the intervention. Essentially, a therapist, family, and friends confront the addict without allowing a warning or preparation.

  • Invitational Model – This intervention model is simple and straightforward. It involves making an appointment with a therapist or interventionist and inviting the addict to the appointment. The family and friends involved keep the appointment regardless of whether the addict attends or not. They leave the choice to attend up to the addict giving them some form of control over the situation.
  • Field Model – This is a combination of the invitational and Johnson models. It takes place wherever the addict is. A therapist or interventionist can change the intervention to fit the circumstances. It allows the addict the ability to back away and protects the family should the addict become violent.
  • Systemic Intervention Model – Since the confrontational approach does not work with aggressive or violent addicts, this model uses family experience rather than direct accusations and threats. The family discusses their contributions to the substance abuse. The focus of this model is on helping the addict stop using instead of threatening the addict with consequences. This model has an emphasis on positive encouragement rather than negative.

Each form of family intervention has its merits. Not all types of intervention work for all addicts and it may be necessary to try one or two of these strategies before it is successful. Along with the types of interventions, there are also different techniques and methods for interventions.

Family intervention techniques and methods

One popular method in family intervention is to confront the addict directly. This is to pull the addict out of denial and into treatment. This method only works when the addict is nonviolent and more placid.

Another intervention technique is to use role-playing. The therapist and the family work out role-play scenarios to enact situations that the addict causes, collective family pain, and the possibilities that rehabilitation offers. This technique works for addicts who are willing to participate in this activity. Some addicts are embarrassed or unhappy with what they see as play-acting.

One of the most used intervention methods is a nonconfrontational question and answer method. In this technique, a therapist or doctor asks the family and friends of the addict leading questions. These questions are designed to make the addict understand that he or she needs treatment to help the family and friends. It allows family members to air their concerns without directly confronting the addict with them.

Tips for family interventions

According to the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, prevention and intervention work best when a family-based intervention strategy is used. A family can do several things to make an intervention go smoothly. These are:

  • Know the addict – in order for an intervention to be successful, you have to know the addict well enough to gauge how they will react to being confronted with their addiction.
  • Do not have a person who is also an addict at the intervention.
  • Rehearse – it is important for the family to rehearse or write down what they are going to say to the addict especially children if they are involved.
  • Choose a non-threatening location – make sure the addict is comfortable with where they are. Home might be convenient but it is not always the best place to be when confronting an individual about drug addiction.
  • Choose a strategy and stick to it.
  • Stay on task – stay focused on the goals of the intervention, going off on tangents only confusing things.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “No one single treatment is appropriate for everyone,” it follows that no single intervention strategy is appropriate for everyone. When choosing between the different family intervention strategies, it is important to consider all types and find the type and method that works for the addict in your family. Not every intervention method works for every addict. Remember whom the intervention is for, if the intervention does not fit the individual it will not work. Family intervention is one of the best ways to get an addict to seek treatment.