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Family Intervention Help


A family intervention is a structured method of assisting an individual who has resisted previous attempts by concerned others to get help for a drug or alcohol problem. An intervention involves convening as many people as possible who care about, and are considered important to, the abuser. These may include family members, friends, co-workers, an employer, etc.

The objective of an intervention is to confront a person in a non-threatening way and allow them to see their self-destructive behavior, and how it affects themselves, family and friends. A well-executed intervention is professionally facilitated by an interventionist: an individual with expertise in drug and alcohol counselling and specific training in the intervention process.

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Admittedly, our modern society is not particularly effective when it comes to getting help for people with addictions. This is why family interventions are so important. If you aren’t sure about why you should have an intervention Sunshine Coast has prepared an article just for you. Please read Raising the Bottom: The Power of Family and Natural Consequences When There is Addiction in the Family.


Since only a handful of interventionists exist in all of Canada, they are listed under each province for your convenience. Most, if not all, interventionists are willing to travel to other cities so don’t discount accessing an interventionist if one is not available in your home community.

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For a list of Canadian interventionists refer to the following page on our sister website, .


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Washington State Interventionists

Scott and Jenny Graham
Camano Island, WA
Phone: (360)387-6821
The Hart Center
Patrick J. Hart, Psy.D.
Seattle, WA
Phone: (206)547-4357 or 769-STOP

Intervention Help
Joyce Sundin
Seattle, WA
Phone: (206)634-0434
Toll-free: (888)634-0434
Note: Joyce has done frequent interventions with families across Western Canada.



There are three models of intervention in use today:

1. The JOHNSON Intervention Model

The JOHNSON Intervention Model was developed by the late Dr. Vernon Johnson, considered the founding father of addiction interventions. The Johnson Model was the first to recognize that there was another option besides just waiting for addicted family members to “bottom out.”

There are two goals of a Johnson Model intervention: (1) break the denial of the addicted individual so that they admit they have a problem and (2) have the addicted individual enter inpatient addiction treatment. All aspects of the Johnson Model of intervention focus on the intervention as a singular event where success is determined by whether the addicted family member accepts treatment.

The duration of the intervention depends on the size of the group, time that each client spends sharing their story, and the resistance on the part of the addicted family member to go to treatment.

Finally, the Johnson Model recommends that family members keep private any knowledge of the pending intervention so that the addicted family member is unable to circumvent the process.

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2. The SYSTEMIC Intervention Model

The Systemic Model – or Family Systems Model – of intervention builds on the Johnson Institute model of therapeutic intervention. The Systemic Model is an approach where the entire family, including the addicted family member, is invited. Together the family learns about addiction in an educational workshop format. Included, however, is the opportunity for family members to share their experiences.

The goal of the Systemic intervention is that, by the end of the process, the family is able to utilize new skills to (1) help themselves and (2) invite the addicted family member to consider treatment. In other words, the intervention provides a benefit to all participants, not just the addicted family member.

The Systemic Intervention Associates website has a page that distinguishes between the Johnson and Systemic models of intervention.

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3. The ARISE Intervention Model

The ARISE (Albany-Rochester Interventional Sequence for Engagement) Intervention Model (also known as the “Invitational Intervention”) is similar to the Systemic Intervention Model since it (1) invites the addicted individual to participate in the intervention process and (2) is not focused on a singular intervention event. It differs, however, from the Systemic Model by:

  1. assuming that families are more powerful than the interventionist to effect change
  2. recommending outpatient treatment as the first stage of treatment
  3. utilizing a three stage, graduated continuum of intervention where each stage involves an increased level of therapy and family involvement compared to the stage which precedes it


By utilizing a graduated approach, the ARISE Model has an intent to meet people “where they are” which, proponents of the ARISE Model assert, allows for more flexibility in comparison to other models.

Another important difference is that the ARISE Model is conducted over a series of 5 to 10 meetings. Meetings progress from being:

  1. telephone conference calls to
  2. face-to-face meetings with the whole group. These meetings may talk about how to engage the addicted family member (if he/she is not present and refuses help) or the meeting may be about getting a commitment to (a) begin treatment or (b) meet in one week for a progress report (if he/she is present at the meeting) to
  3. an actual intervention if the addicted family member has resisted all attempts to engage despite the efforts of the group as outlined in step 2.


So, if telephone conference calls with the family group result in the addicted family member entering treatment then no further involvement by the interventionist is necessary. If, however, the family member is still not attending the family meetings and is not in treatment, then steps 2 and 3 are applied.

For more information on ARISE interventions read the article ARISE: A Method for Engaging Reluctant Alcohol- and Drug-Dependent Individuals in Treatment.


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I.A. Intervention Books for Clinicians

Addiction Intervention: Strategies to Motivate Treatment Seeking Behavior (1998) Robert K White, Deborah George Wright

Invitational Intervention: A Step by Step Guide for Clinicians Helping ...(2006) Judith Landau, James Garrett

Inviting Change Through an Invitational Intervention: A Step-by-Step ... (2007) Garrett Landau

Motivating Substance Abusers to Enter Treatment: Working with Family Members (2007) Jane Ellen Smith, Robert J. Meyers

Training Families to do a Successful Intervention: A Professional’s Guide (1996) Johnson Institute

I.B. Intervention Books for Family Members

Addiction-Free: How to Help an Alcoholic or Addict Get Started on Recovery (2001) Gene R. Hawes, Anderson Hawes

Freeing Someone You Love From Alcohol and Other Drugs (1992) Ronald L. Rogers, Chandler McMillin

Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening (2004) Robert J Meyers, Brenda L Wolfe

Getting Them Sober: You Can Help (1998) Toby Rice Drews

Home and Work: Negotiating Boundaries through Everyday Life (1996) Christena E. Nippert-Eng

Intervention: How to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help (1986) Vernon E. Johnson

Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction (2000) Jeff Jay, Debra Jay

No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcohoiism and Drug Addiction (2006) Debra Jay

When They Won’t Quit: A Call to Action for Families, Friends and Employers (2002) Bruce Cotter

I.C. Boundary Setting For Family Members

Note: the following books may not be specific to addiction but the concepts of boundary setting may still apply. Some books listed are written in a religious context.

Boundaries: A Guide for Teens (2000) Val J. Peter, Tom Dowd

Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self (1993) Charles L. Whitfield

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life  (1992) Henry Cloud, John Townsend

Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin (1993) Anne Katherine

Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No (2006) John Townsend

Boundaries in Marriage (1999) Henry Cloud, John Townsend

Parents, Teens and Boundaries: How to Draw the Line (1993) Jane Bluestein

Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day (2000) Anne Katherine

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Websites Specific to Family Intervention Help

A & E Television – Intervention is a television program that gives viewers a first-hand account of family interventions. Local TV listings times and dates provided.

Julie Kelly & Associates has a website that helps clarify the Systemic Family Intervention approach.

Linking Human Systems is a website dedicated to promoting the ARISE model of intervention.

Love First: Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction has lots of good intervention information.

Intervention for Alcoholism and Other Addictions is an article that introduces the concept of intervention, specifically the Johnson Intervention Model.

General Information on Family Intervention Help

Intervention Patients Have the Same or Better Chance of Recovery (Summer 2004) is an article that sends the message that there is no reason to give up on family members who resist treatment. Dr. James West, Betty Ford Center.

Clinical Articles on Family Intervention Help

The ARISE Intervention: Using Family and Network Links to Engage Addicted Persons in Treatment James Garrett, Judith Landau,

Intervention FAQ: Help loved ones overcome addiction and abuse (August 2007) helps families learn when to hold an intervention and how to make it successful. Mayo Clinic

Strength in Numbers: The ARISE Method for Mobilizing Family and Network to Engage Substance Abusers in Treatment (2000) Judith Landau, James Garret,

Outcomes with the ARISE Approach to Engaging Reluctant Drug- and Alcohol-Dependent Individuals in Treatment (2004) The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

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Recent YouTube Videos


I am now much more optimistic about my loved one’s recovery. I found the Family Program facilitator to be so honest and open. There wasn’t any arrogance in his approach and he really wasn’t judgmental. That is so important when dealing with people with addictions who already feel bad about themselves and think everyone is judging them.

- Libby

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