The Four Types of Interventions and How They Are Used

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If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, you understand how deeply addiction affects all aspects of a person’s life. Addiction is a serious condition that can wreak havoc on someone’s mental and physical health, damage relationships, and lead to serious financial or legal consequences. The effects of addiction are not limited to only the person who struggles with it. The consequences of addiction extend to the people around them, too. It impacts their families, friends, and their communities.

It is hard to watch someone you love struggle with addiction. You may have feelings of frustration, sadness, anger, or hopelessness. While you may want to do something to help them overcome their addiction, it can feel impossible to talk about addiction or treatment without pushing the person away or becoming emotional.

Many people find that having an intervention is an effective and compassionate way to talk to a loved one about their addiction and to offer them the chance to begin a treatment program. There are several types of interventions and many resources available to those who want to hold one for a loved one.

If someone in your life requires addiction treatment and you do not know where to begin, you are not alone. Understanding the different types of interventions and how to start planning one can help prepare you to have one of your own.

What is an Intervention?

Simply put, an intervention is a specific type of conversation with someone who is struggling with addiction. In each of the types of interventions, one or more concerned people talk to their loved ones about their addiction and how it has impacted those around them. An intervention generally includes an offer of support and the chance to start an addiction treatment program right away. An intervention may also include consequences if the person does not accept the offer to go into treatment.

When Should an Intervention Happen?

Generally speaking, an intervention can be performed at any point after it is clear that the person is struggling with addiction. The earlier someone begins substance abuse treatment, the better chance they have of recovering from their addiction. It is fairly common for people to live with addiction for a long time before showing obvious signs of it. This is why it is important to plan for intervention as soon as it becomes apparent that someone is abusing substances.

An intervention works best when the subject is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When planning for an intervention, choose a time and place where you can have privacy. Plan to have enough time for everyone present to speak and for the subject to process and respond.

What Are the Four Types of Interventions?

Each intervention is a personal event that reflects the needs of the person at the center of it and their loved ones. In general, there are four main types of interventions.

Simple Intervention

A one-to-one intervention is sometimes called a simple intervention. In a simple intervention, one person may bring up the subject of addiction and make an offer or help. For example, a concerned parent may become aware of their child’s addiction and talk about it. The parent may encourage the child to start treatment and help them get into a program quickly.

Classical Intervention

If you have seen an intervention on TV or in a movie, it was probably one modeled after the classical type of intervention. In a classical intervention, several friends and family members receive training or counseling before holding the intervention. They may take turns explaining to their loved ones how their addiction has affected them personally. Together, the group offers a treatment option and decides on consequences they will enact if their loved one refuses treatment.

Family Systems Intervention

In many cases, addiction is a family disease. This means that family members may be enabling the addiction or may be contributing to it through patterns of behavior. In some cases, it is important that the whole family participate in an intervention to identify harmful or enabling behaviors. This may include therapy, counseling, and education about addiction.

Crisis Intervention

This type of intervention is used when a person’s addiction has caused a crisis that threatens their immediate health or safety. These kinds of interventions are more urgent and consist of “tough love”. In most cases, a crisis intervention needs to be carried out by a trained professional. It is important to avoid putting yourself in danger. If someone is in an acute stage of crisis or has violent behaviors, call emergency services.

Each intervention is designed for a different type of addiction crisis, and the type you need to perform will vary from situation to situation. In every case, hiring a professional interventionist can give you the best chance at staging a calm, effective intervention.

Get Help for All Types of Addiction Interventions

If you or someone you love require treatment for substance abuse or support at any stage of recovery from addiction, reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Interventions. We offer a range of programs designed to help people recover from addiction and engage in lifelong recovery. We’ll help you stage an intervention, find the right rehab center, and create an aftercare plan that works for you. Call now to get started.

Medically Reviewed: September 17, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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