An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one or many people – usually family and friends – to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis, or other serious problem. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event involves addiction to drugs or other items. Intervention can also refer to the act of using a similar technique within a therapy session.
Interventions have been used to address serious personal problems, including, but not limited to, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, drug abuse, compulsive eating and other eating disorders, self harm and being the victim of abuse.
Direct and indirect interventions
Interventions are either direct, typically involving a confrontational meeting with individual in question, or indirect, involving work with a co-dependent family to encourage them to be more effective in helping the individual.
The use of interventions originated the 1960s with Dr. Vernon Johnson. The Johnson Model was subsequently taught years later at the Johnson Institute. There are some pockets of thought within the substance abuse treatment and intervention industry that the uninformed alcohol or drug dependent person is negatively affected by so-called "ambush" inherent in the Johnson Model direct intervention. However, beyond anecdotal evidence, there are no scientific studies which confirm that theory.
Two of the major models of intervention that are utilized today are known as the Systemic Family Model and the ARISE model of intervention. While the ARISE model utilizes a predominantly invitational approach, in practice many of the same aspects of the Johnson Model are used. Systemic Family Model interventions may use an invitational approach but often utilize the direct approach. Both models rely heavily on having the family as a whole enter a phase of recovery. This helps take the focus off the addicted individual and notes the need for the entire family unit to change in an effort for everyone who is involved to get healthy.
Plans for direct intervention
Plans for an intervention are made by a concerned group of family, friends, and counselor(s), rather than by the drug or alcohol abuser. Whether it is invitation model or direct model, the abuser is not included in the decision making process for planning the intervention. A properly conducted direct intervention is planned through cooperation between the identified abuser's family or friends and an intervention counselor, coordinator, or educator. Ample time must be given to the specific situation, however, basic guidelines can be followed in the intervention planning process. (Note that an intervention can also be conducted in the workplace with colleagues and with no family present.)
Prior to the intervention itself, the family meets with a counselor or interventionist. Families prepare letters in which they describe their experiences associated with the addict's behavior, to convey to the person the impact his or her addiction has had on others. Also during the intervention rehearsal meeting, a group member is strongly urged to create a list of activities by the addict that they will no longer tolerate, finance, or participate in if the addict does not agree to check into a rehabilitation center for treatment. These consequences may be as simple as no longer loaning money to the addict, but can be far more serious, such as losing custody of a child.
Family and friends read their letters to the addict, who then must decide whether to check into the prescribed rehabilitation center or deal with the promised losses.
There are questions about the long-term effectiveness of interventions for those addicted to drugs or alcohol. A study examining addicts who had undergone a standard intervention (called the Johnson Intervention) found that they had a higher relapse rate than any other method of referral to outpatient Alcohol and Other Drug treatment. "The Johnson Institute intervention entails five therapy sessions that prepare the client and his or her family members for a family confrontation meeting."
More research needs to be done in the area of long term effectiveness of pre-treatment interventions specific to drug and alcohol abusers.
Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT) apparently has had much more success than the Johnson Intervention method or Al-Anon/Alateen (see article: CRAFT).
Civil liberty and forcible intervention
Sometimes direct interventions involve physical force (for example, by family members or friends) to capture or confine the targeted person. In such cases the intervention may be illegal because it deprives the person of liberty without due process of law.
In popular culture
Real life interventions
- Film & television
- The A&E television series, Intervention, follows participants who have addictions or other mentally and/or physically damaging problems, in anticipation of an intervention by family and/or friends. Each participant is given a choice: go into rehabilitation immediately, or risk losing contact, income, or other privileges from the loved ones who instigated the intervention.
- The Bravo TV reality show, Thintervention, follows American fitness trainer Jackie Warner as she helps a group of eight clients lose weight. Warner's clients receive psychological, nutritional, and lifestyle counseling in addition to physical fitness training.
- Faye Resnick reveals in the book Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted (1994), which she co-wrote with Mike Walker, gossip columnist for The National Enquirer, that she learned about Brown's murder three days after Brown and her friends forced Resnick to enter a rehab clinic for drug and alcohol abuse.
- Film and television
- In the "Private Practice" episode "Who We Are" (Season 5, Episode 8), the Seaside Wellness group stages an intervention for a defensive and volatile Amelia, who has resurfaced after disappearing on a 12-day drug binge with her boyfriend, Ryan. During the intervention, Amelia mercilessly attacks her friends one-by-one, and Addison, in particular, has trouble seeing her sister-in-law in her present condition.
- In The Sopranos episode, "The Strong, Silent Type" (Season 4, Episode 49), Tony Soprano organizes a drug intervention for heroin addict, Christopher Moltisanti.
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode, "Intervention" (Season 4, Episode 4), different interventions happen for various reasons, like magic for Barney Stinson, the English accent for Lily Aldrin, spray tan for Robin Scherbatsky, Marshall Eriksen's Seussian hat and Ted Mosby's fiance. These are all accompanied by the character in question entering the apartment and finding the rest of the group standing underneath a banner which reads Intervention. As the interventions themselves become increasingly overdone and ridiculous, the group decide to stage and 'intervention intervention' to stop the practice. However, a number of subsequent episodes have reused the intervention banner and motif as a running gag, often when a character behaves ridiculously or obsessively.
- In The Office (US) episode “Moroccan Christmas” (Season 5, Episode 83), Meredith’s coworkers arrange an intervention about her drinking after her hair catches fire due to her drunkenness. Afterward, Michael attempts to force her to enter rehab, only to find that he cannot legally do so.
- In the Arrested Development Pilot, the Bluth family arranges an intervention for Michael, which he found to be more of an imposition.
- The comedy film But I'm a Cheerleader is about a high-school girl that is sent to a residential inpatient reparative therapy camp to cure her "lesbianism".
- In the Are you there, Chelsea? episode, "The Foodie" (Season 1, Episode 10), Chelsea's friends arranges an intervention for her.
- In the Seinfeld episode, "The Pez Dispenser" (Season 3, Episode 14), Jerry hosts an intervention for an old friend with a drug problem.
- A Season 5 episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia centres on the gang's attempt to stage an intervention on Frank because they feel it's no longer fun to drink with him.
- In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Leonard, Penny, Wolowitz and Koothrapali stage an intervention in order to force Sheldon (who doesn't drive) to get his learner's permit because they are all tired of having to drive Sheldon everywhere he wants to go.
- There is a good-humoured account of a well-meant but perhaps misplaced intervention in Jayne Ann Krentz's All Night Long.
The family of the protagonist (Luke) want him to abandon his "destructive" writer-lifestyle and return to the family business. Irene, his new partner, only learns of the intervention at breakfast, after it has already begun.
- In James Joyce's short story "Grace", from his collection Dubliners, the alcoholic Tom Kernan is confronted by three of his friends and persuaded to take part in a religious retreat.
- Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT)
- Drug Interventions Programme
- Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
- Exit counseling
- List of counseling topics
- "The Johnson intervention and relapse during outpatient treatment". American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 22.n3 (August 1996): pp36
- Miller, William R.; Meyers, Robert J.; Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Susanne (1999). "The Community-Reinforcement Approach" (PDF). Alcohol Research and Health (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) 23 (2).p. 119
- Faye D. Resnick with Mike Walker (October 1, 1994). Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted (2nd ed.). Dove Books. ISBN 978-1-55144-061-3.
- David Ehrenstein (January 22, 1995). "LA Times Book Review: All About Faye". LA Times.
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