There is no absolute right way to intervene in someone else’s life. In fact, there is a school of thought that argues that any form of intervention is abhorrent, a violation of free speech and of an individual’s right to choose.

Nevertheless, as individuals and as a society we are always influencing others whether or not we want to, and sometimes we decide to intervene purposefully.

In addition to family interventions there are workplace interventions involving Employee Assistance Programs, executive interventions for senior personnel in professions or corporations, court involved interventions and diversion programs, interventions by Impaired Professional Programs conducted by professional membership organizations, and many others.

When thinking about family interventions, however, there are generally four basic orientations: Simple, Crisis, Classical, and Systems.

1) Simple Intervention

Sometimes just a simple request from someone who matters can turn the tide. Simply ask the person to not drink. Believe it or not, this sometimes works. It is extraordinary how many times this has not been done because of a belief that nothing was ever going to change. And if this has not been done, it should always be the first step before any more complicated or involved form of intervention is embarked upon. (Occam’s razor)

2) Crisis Intervention

This is the polar opposite of the Simple Intervention. Crisis Interventions occur in dangerous situations involving reckless driving, weapons, hospital emergency rooms, or violence or threats of violence.

It is obvious in these situations that a person is in immediate danger to himself or others.

The immediate objective in these cases is to calm the crisis and to create safety for all.

Remember, a crisis often creates golden opportunities for family members to help someone accept help.

3) Classical Intervention

The most common form of family intervention remains the Johnson’s approach or some variation thereof. It has been used for over thirty years for thousands of interventions with great success.

The focus is on the drinker. The immediate goal is for the drinker to enter treatment, hopefully soon.

Family involvement varies, but at the very least there is enough involvement to plan the intervention prior to the intervention day. Family involvement is often extensive after intervention day to address problems that arise either for themselves or for the drinker.

Family education is primarily aimed at preparing for the intervention day. There is frequently some additional education after intervention day to help the family adjust to the changing circumstances.

Many treatment programs have fine family programs designed to educate the family in addictions and how to take care of themselves when living with a recovering person.

4) Family System Intervention

A family systems intervention focuses on the family. The goal is for everyone in the family to change their ways, at least with regards to the self-destructive behavior, knowing that this changed behavior will have a tremendous influence on the drinker.
In this view the whole process is considered to be the intervention.

Intervention day itself is not nearly as significant as in a more classical approach since the whole family, including the drinker, is considered the subject of the intervention. The drinker is sometimes invited to participate in the process from the start.

Family involvement begins very high and continues to be high whether or not the drinker goes to treatment. The educational process is viewed as integral and emphasizes the basics of addiction, the roles of guilt and shame in the family system, and the recovery plan for each family member.