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Interventions: Myth vs. Reality  

Written by Paul Sawyer
Published on March 16, 2019

The media portrays interventions in a very specific way. The interventions that we see on TV shows such as Intervention, The Real Housewives, Celebrity Rehab, and Dr. Phil are not what all real-life interventions look like. Here, we are going to demystify six commonly held false beliefs about interventions:  


Myth #1There is only one type of intervention: they type that they do on TV!

Reality: There are many different types of interventions and the “right” one to use depends on a number of factors.  These include the family, the person requiring the intervention, the level of severity of the use or diagnoses, and the interventionist.  The model shown most frequently on TV is the confrontational model where someone is invited to the intervention under false pretenses, although this is one type of intervention there are also others including innovational and facilitated family meeting.  

Myth #2: All interventions are a surprise on the person with the substance use disorder. 

Reality: Quite often interventions use an “Invitation Model. In this type of model, the family reaches out to the person with the substance use disorder and lets them know that they are having a family meeting with the support of a professional and that they would like them to attend.  

Myth #3: All interventions do not take into account what the person with the substance use disorder wants. 

Reality:  Sometimes the most effective interventions take what the person with the identified issue wants into consideration. For example, sometimes the identified person is willing to give up some substances and not another. This all depends on the situation, but it may be appropriate for the family to support the autonomy of the individual. Also when selecting a treatment center or location the individuals input can be invaluable and help them feel like they have a voice and go into treatment with motivation.  

Myth #4: The goal of an intervention is to always get the individual with the substance use disorder into a residential or inpatient treatment facility. 

Reality: Depending on the presenting issues, it may not be clinically necessary for an individual with a substance use problem to go to inpatient or residential treatment. Also, the identified person may be willing to abstain from substances with the support of an outpatient program. If the person is willing to do this level of care, it may be beneficial to try the approach first before opting for a higher level of care. This is why it is critical for the interventionist to collect a thorough history of the person with the presenting issue as well as information about the family system. 

Myth #5: The intervention is a one time only event. 

Reality: Follow-up care is critical to the long-term success of a family and individual. For example, if someone is to go to treatment following an intervention and decides to leave treatment early, it is important for the interventionist and any other parties involved to have an emergency meeting to address this issue and implement any necessary boundaries so the individual can get the appropriate level of care. 

Myth #6: Interventions are only done for someone with a substance use disorder. 

Reality: Interventions can be performed for eating disorders, mental health issues, and other forms of addictions (hoarding, sex addiction, etc.). 


O’Connor Professional Group’s interventionists and treatment teams can tailor an intervention that is best for you and your loved ones. Reach out to us at 617-221-8507 for more information about our intervention services.  


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