What are the Different Types of Intervention?


When addiction happens to families, there’s no clear-cut path forward. There are a variety of treatment plans out there and types of intervention to choose from. That means, we should weigh our options and choose our plan of action carefully and consciously. Jumping at the first rehab that pops up or reacting to your loved one spontaneously may not work out that well. Taking the time to learn more about the different types of intervention will prove useful, and help you wisely choose the best path forward for your family.

1. Simple Intervention

This is a short conversation about the issues that have been going on between 2-3 people. Not everyone has to get involved with these simple types of intervention since they are meant to be discrete, and non-aggressive. The sincere input of just one or two important people can get someone to recognize their drug or alcohol problem and start treatment. Even if it’s just a sincere, heartfelt text message conversation, you may be able to really get through to your loved one without any major planning.

2. Break Free Intervention

If you’ve already tried simple types of intervention with no success, it’s time to get more people involved. You are probably already familiar with classic types of intervention where everyone sits in a circle and reads aloud their statement. The best variant of that is the Break Free Intervention which is unique for its gentle nature that actually gets results.

Unlike what you’ve seen on reality TV, drug or alcohol intervention shouldn’t be a surprise attack. The most effective types of intervention to use when your loved one is suffering from addiction will begin with loving intentions and a kind invitation to join the family meeting. The Break Free method starts with just that. A loving invitation to change can be a powerful motivator, and it can also help families avoid making the addicted person feel attacked, or defensive right off the bat.

The Break Free type of intervention involves choosing 3 or more friends and family members to take part in the circle of change. All members will prepare their statement ahead of time about why they are concerned, and why they want their loved one to start treatment as soon as possible. Most addicted individuals will be inclined to seek treatment, but if not, bottom lines can be used sparingly and the pressure can be turned up gradually.

One of the most interesting parts about the break free types of intervention is the family map tool. While preparing for the meeting, one family member can prepare a sort of genealogical family tree which includes information about addiction, drug abuse, mental health, and trauma in past generations. This is a surprisingly moving resource which can reveal how addictive behaviors can be traced back through family ties.

If the break free intervention model sounds right for your family, read about it in detail in this best selling book by the creator, Brad Lamm.

3. Crisis Intervention

This is a spur of the moment, emergency response intervention. It doesn’t involve pre-prepared statements, but they do need to be as loving and positive as a break free intervention. It’s a good idea to think of a plan before the crisis happens. That way, if you’re in the process of planning and a crisis pops up, you’ll be prepared.

A crisis is an event where someone gets hurt or ill, is at risk for serious harm, or makes a mistake that puts others at risk for harm. Even though many of us will experience a crisis at some point in our lives, it’s much more likely when we live with active addiction. So, a crisis intervention is one of the best types of intervention we can use in response to the following scenarios:

  • Overdose
  • Hospitalization
  • Injury
  • Violence, either your loved one is being mistreated or he or she is mistreating someone else
  • Getting Arrested
  • Destroying property
  • Self-Harm and Suicidal Thinking
  • Driving Under the Influence

These types of events are clear signs that the addiction needs to be addressed through rehab, or some other form of intensive treatment. If you weren’t sure about an intervention before, now you know it’s necessary.

Unlike the other types of intervention we discuss here, a crisis intervention is extremely time sensitive. Families have to act in the moment and to the best of their abilities in order to get their loved one into a safer situation as soon as possible.

Use the crisis as clear evidence that the drug or alcohol problem has gotten out of control. Hear your loved one out, but remember that your goal is to move forward. Try to de-escalate the intensity of the situation, and direct the conversation as much as possible towards finding solutions. You may want to consider calling for help, an interventionist will know how to respond tactfully to any crisis.

Making the Leap

The thought of confronting a drug or alcohol problem by holding an intervention is scary for a lot of families. It’s common to worry about causing unnecessary drama or getting into an argument. That’s why, so many of us tend to wait while an addiction grows worse and worse without saying anything. Unfortunately, though, addiction isn’t a problem to be ignored.

If all of these options seem overwhelming right now, it doesn’t mean you should wait. Reach out to a professional who can help you change the direction of this situation. Even the strongest, most organized, and close-knit families have a hard time with carrying out these types of intervention. Enlisting a professional interventionist means your family will have a powerfully influential extra voice in the room. An intervention professional will come into the situation with a fresh outsider’s perspective as well as years of experience, which can help the conversation move forward.


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