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The Intervention “How-To Guide”

Intervention is a technique that was originated by Vernon Johnson of the Johnson Institute in Minnesota. Mr. Johnson’s original idea was to create a “controlled crisis” for the Alcoholic who was reluctant to enter into treatment. This type of Intervention was then modified to address all crisis situations.

Group Training

“Intervention, when conducted by a trained professional, is 96% successful in convincing a reluctant person to enter into treatment.”

For many years the common thinking was that a substance abuser or chemically dependent person be it alcohol, illegal street drugs or prescription medications had to reach bottom and call out for help before anything could be done for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a way, an intervention is simply the raising of that bottom so that the chemically dependent don’t spiral further toward self-destruction.

You might compare it to a loved one standing in the middle of the road with a truck heading right for them. Would you stand idly by and watch them being run down? Of course not! You would scream and holler at them to get out of the way. You might even dash onto the highway yourself, and push them to safety. That is the essence of an intervention.

A well-conducted intervention is objective, unequivocal, nonjudgmental and caring in the presentation of specific facts. It is empathy not to be confused with sympathy. You may express your understanding of the problem, but you most certainly don’t sympathize with the problem. The problem is the PROBLEM. The person IS NOT the problem.

“Intervention breaks through the person’s denial by approaching several of his/her defense mechanisms all at once. Removing or short-circuiting the person’s defense mechanisms allows the family to present the truth about his/her problem in a calm, rational and loving manner.”




Why now? The longer the delay, the longer the person will suffer and the more life threatening the disease will become. That said, it is unwise to charge into an intervention without careful preparation and the guidance of a professional interventionist.

Why you? Just the fact that you have researched the idea shows that you care. After all, isn’t it reasonable to expect loved ones and friends to care about someone who is sick?

The Fear Factor

The problem with addiction is that it counts on fear as one of its strongest allies. It uses fear to maintain the inactivity of the family unit to confront the problem/addiction. This fear is often quantified by the family members looking at all the possible negative consequences of a proposed intervention.

The rational of the problem/addiction is as follows: If I can instill just enough fear in the family, then maybe they will just leave things the way they are. That way, I can continue destroying the patient. In this manner, the problem/addiction has become a parasite with the patient as its host. Again, we cannot directly control the ultimate actions of the patient.


Almost without exception, the more deeply seeded the problem becomes within the client, the less likely the client is able to realize that there is any problem at all. This is denial. The problem/addiction also uses this tool to remain active and viable within the patient.

look into yourselfIn this way, the problem/addiction can mask its insidious spiral of death and destruction. It makes the patient feel that everything is really OK. This is where the rationalization we were talking about comes into play. Through the use of denial, the problem/addiction makes the patient think that they are really just like everybody else. The denial essentially removes the patient from reality. It is probably the strongest and most finely honed defense mechanism within the arsenal of the problem/addiction.

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