The Field Intervention Model

Intervention to save a loved one's life
Last Edited: February 14, 2020

Patricia Howard, LMFT, CADC

Clinically Reviewed
Andrew Lancaster, LPC, MAC

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

Hosting a Successful Intervention

Most individuals who are abusing drugs do not realized that their addiction is consuming their lives. Addiction sufferers believe they can handle their addiction on their own and they do not notice how their addiction has changed their behavior and lifestyle. A substance abuse intervention occurs when a loved one notices a friend or family member’s unhealthy lifestyle and wish to convey their message of love and concern without shame or blame.

Intervention specialists are contacted to help host an intervention by convincing the addict of their addictive behavior in a non-threatening manner, with the support of the addict’s family and friends. Abusing drugs causes changes in the brain as a dependency for the drug is developed. These changes focus the addict’s life around getting high, obtaining an ample supply of the substance, and securing a source for continuous purchases.

Denial and aggression can be the reaction towards those who are bringing the addiction to the user’s attention. There are intervention models put in place to defuse aggressive situations and continue the intervention so that the loved one can finally receive some help.

Field Intervention Model

The Field Model of intervention is a combination of two different models: the Johnson Model and the Invitational Model. This model of intervention is implemented when an intervention has the potential to be violent or the loved one reacts to the intervention in a negative manner. The name is derived from the concept that it is applied “in the field” and is based on the principles that the therapist must make decisions based on the given circumstances.

The Johnson Model is most commonly practiced and is the traditional model when one thinks of the word “intervention.” This model is aggressive in nature and can be highly confrontational.

Below is an overview of the Johnson Intervention Model:

  1. The loved one is called to a meeting where their friends and family confront them about their addiction.
  2. The intervention team offers their support if agreed to go through treatment.
  3. A threat is implied if the addict refuses treatment.

While this method may be effective for some abusing drugs, this model can cause shame and pressure and encourage the addict to leave and use drugs or loose contact with family and friends involved in the intervention.

The other intervention model  is called the Invitational Model. This model is direct and lacks the surprise:

  1. The intervention team schedules a meeting with an interventionist.
  2. One person invites the drug abuser to the meeting with full knowledge of what will occur at the meeting.
  3. The loved one decides to go to treatment by their own freewill.
  4. The drug abuser is then given the options for treatment and with the support of the intervention team makes a decision based on the meeting.

This model is non-confrontational and relies solely on the willingness of the addict. The Field Intervention Model combines these two models to best suit the situation.

The intervention specialist will determine, based on drug history, which model will be used predominantly. Factors like the type of drug, addict’s response to other interventions, length of drug abuse, and any other information provided will dictate how the specialist will proceed. The Field Model gives the specialist freedom to vary from either model in response to the addict and the intervention team. Having this freedom to vary from either model upholds the overall goal of convincing the addict to get help from their problem.

What is an Intervention Specialist and How Can They Help?

Due to the gravity of their task, intervention specialists are required to undergo intensive training and obtain certification before they mediate an intervention. Many people seek help with interventions because either their own efforts have failed in the past, or they have concerns that require professional input. It is common for families to contact an intervention specialist to assist them in conveying a message of love and support.

Talking to a drug abuser about their behavior and the harm they have caused others is an extremely delicate matter. This discussion is often met with hostility, blaming and defensiveness. Most people with an addiction problem will deny that there is a problem, and aggressively defend this denial. The training of intervention specialists prepares them to respond to these situations and provide the family with tools to overcome this denial. Certified Intervention Specialists have received training in:

  • Evaluating a person’s history of addiction
  • Implementing effective rebuttal strategies for denial situations
  • Persuading a person with substance abuse problems to consider treatment
  • Creating a cohesive intervention team of family and friends to express love and support
  • Hosting productive and organized interventions
  • Deescalating potentially violent situations or overpowering emotional responses
  • Conducting the addicted person to treatment after a successful intervention

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