Family Intervention Models for Addiction Recovery

This entry was posted in Family Intervention on by .

Most people are familiar with interventions based on what they’ve seen on TV or in movies. It seems simple: Confront your loved one about their addiction until they see the light and agree to treatment.

While this makes for great drama, in real life, families are looking for less drama, not more drama. Many families have tried to stage their own interventions and failed. Even when they succeed in getting their loved one to go to rehab, relapse is common.

With the support of professional interventionists using the most successful intervention models, families can take back control of the situation from the addict by learning where to correctly place responsibility and accountability.

Three Common Family Intervention Models for Addiction Recovery

There are three popular intervention models, two of which we recommend and one which we advise families not to use:

  • Johnson Model – This is the earliest intervention model, and the one that most people are familiar with, as it is usually the model shown in movies and television. It has some serious flaws, so we advise against using it.
  • Systemic Model – This is the most widely used model of drug and alcohol intervention due to its effectiveness in addressing the family dynamics that support addiction, not just in changing the addict. It’s a solid model because it changes the systems that enable addiction to continue.
  • SPARED Model – This is the model created by Family First Intervention founder Mike Loverde, based on his oversight of thousands of successful interventions. We highly recommend it because it helps the substance user commit to long-term change by first empowering the family to change.

Let’s look at these intervention models more closely and explore why some work better than others.

Johnson Intervention Model – Confrontation and Controversy

Dr. Vernon E. Johnson, considered to be the founder of the intervention concept, introduced his controversial method of intervention in the early 1960s. Johnson correctly stated that the family does not have to wait for the addict or alcoholic to hit rock bottom before receiving help for the addiction. However, flaws in his confrontational, non-systemic approach became apparent over time.

The Johnson model puts the emphasis on aggressively confronting the addict or alcoholic, focusing only on the behaviors of the addicted individual, with little or no emphasis on repairing the family system, a system that is in part responsible for the addiction getting worse due to enabling behavior.

While the Johnson model had a high rate of success in getting drug addicts and alcoholics into treatment, it had an extremely poor rate of long-term success in achieving sobriety.

Without a systemic approach to fixing the environment that was enabling addiction, many addicts could simply leave treatment and go back to their old ways, because things at home had not changed. Focusing only on the addict and not on the family system is why the Johnson Model and non-professional intervention counselors should not be used, in our experience.

Anyone can talk your loved one into treatment, but it takes a strategic, professional intervention to keep your loved one in treatment and substance-free for the long run.

Systemic Intervention Model – Family and Enabling

No addict or alcoholic maintains the addiction without the help of the family. Drug addicts and alcoholics teach their families how to handle them and their addiction, and this is the engine behind the highly effective systemic model of intervention, which focuses on changing the family instead of changing the addict or alcoholic.

With a properly executed systemic model of intervention delivered to the family, even without the addict or alcoholic present, it is possible for the intervention to be effective. This is because the systemic model of intervention is not about the addict or alcoholic anymore. It is about repairing the family system, which was broken over time by the loved one’s addiction. It’s designed to foster healing for both the family and the loved one together.

Unlike the Johnson model of intervention, which requires the addict or alcoholic to be present at the intervention and agree to treatment, a systemic model intervention can be successful regardless of the addict’s cooperation. This is because it will change the family’s behaviors so that they are no longer enabling their loved one’s addiction.

People always ask prior to the intervention: “What if our loved one doesn’t show up?” Our answer is that he or she always does. But even if they don’t, it really won’t matter.

The goal is not to change the addict or the alcoholic so the family can heal. It is to change the family system so that the addicted person will be motivated to change.

The SPARED Intervention Model – Long Term Addiction Recovery

At Family First Intervention, we use the SPARED Model of Intervention, developed by our founder, Mike Loverde, CIP, B.S.

SPARED stands for Systemic Process of Accountability, Repair, Education and Direction.

A cognitive behavioral model of intervention that is similar to the traditional systemic model, SPARED focuses on the mental process and behavior of the substance user and those who surround him or her in order to bring about long-term recovery. The model has been derived from successful experiences in thousands of interventions, as well as personal and professional experience.

This model makes changing the entire situation and family system the first goal. Until the family gets healthy, it is almost impossible for the addict or alcoholic to follow suit and get well, too.

What differentiates the SPARED Model from other models is the drug and alcohol intervention specialist’s goal of achieving long-term success regarding the addiction problem, rather than simply attempting to guide the substance abuser into treatment with the hope that the treatment works.

Here’s a closer look at each of the elements in the SPARED model:


Refers to the system that surrounds substance abusers that enables them to continue their destructive lifestyle. If the family does not change along with the drug addict or alcoholic, then it is almost impossible to expect long-term sobriety.


The procedure that brings out optimal long-term results for the family and the substance user.


Taking responsibility for one’s own behavior and shifting the accountability for the addiction and the ensuing problems back to the substance abuser. If the family is willing to own the addiction, then the addict or alcoholic has no problem to fix.


Fixing the unhealthy family dynamics that exist as a result of the addiction. Drug addicts and alcoholics break down the family system to make the addiction more comfortable for them, always at the expense of the family.


Understanding not only the underlying causes of addiction, but also family roles. The education starts prior to the intervention and lasts long after the loved one enters treatment.


The guidance provided by a professional interventionist. The intervention counselor is there to handle the entire intervention, including the objections and denial by your loved one, should those arise during the meeting.

Has Your Family Hit Rock Bottom?

Interventions are increasingly common as a tool to obtain the willingness of an addict or alcoholic to begin treatment. However, just talking an addict or alcoholic into treatment does nothing for the loved one’s long-term sobriety. Unless the entire group surrounding and supporting the addict changes, not only during the intervention but also thereafter, the likelihood of long-term sobriety is compromised.

Our interventionists’ goal is not to force or coerce the substance user into treatment, but to have your loved one accept accountability for the addiction by directing him or her and the family onto a new path.

Intervention is not about a motivational speech to temporarily convince the addict or alcoholic to change; it is about setting healthy boundaries so families and their loved ones don’t have to keep going through the endless cycle of hostility and insanity.

The addiction is not the fault of the family. However, it is almost always the family’s responsibility for allowing their loved one to take control of the family’s emotions and decisions in order to make the addiction more comfortable for the user. Family First Intervention is able to help you and your loved one come together, get well, and increase the chances of sobriety and long-term success.

Had Enough? Ready to Take Back Control of Your Family from Your Addicted Loved One?

Explore Our Professional Intervention Services

Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: