A therapeutic intervention is an effort made by individuals or groups to improve the well-being of someone else who either is in need of help but refusing it or is otherwise unable to initiate or accept help. The intervention, which can be psychological, physical, or even pharmacological, may be led or guided by a professional interventionist or by friends or family members, with or without the help of a professional, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, an intervention takes the form of a confrontation or meeting between a person who is engaged in self-destructive behavior—and is resistant to help—and concerned friends or family members. In other cases, where individuals are not able to make decisions for themselves, an intervention is a decision to take action on their behalf. This method may not work for every person in need.
When It's Used
Interventions can be applied to individuals and used in group settings, such as rehabilitation centers and psychiatric treatment institutions. Intervention is a tool that may be used with people who have dementia, borderline-personality disorder, emotional problems, addictions, eating disorders, dangerous sexual habits, or difficulty adhering to a medication schedule or other type of treatment. An intervention effort is often made to try to prevent people with known problems who cannot or will not help themselves from relapsing into undesirable behavior. Crisis intervention is used when someone is experiencing an immediate crisis, such as a suicide threat or attempt.
What to Expect
In the case of self-destructive behavior, a peaceful, respectful confrontation is planned and organized in advance by one or more concerned people, usually family or friends, and sometimes with the guidance of a professional interventionist. The concerned individuals present the problem to the person who is behaving in a self-destructive way, discuss the effects, and present options for help. The intervening individuals must try to get the person to listen to them and accept whatever help is being offered. In other instances, an intervention could take the simpler form of bringing music into an institutional setting, such as a hospital, to help reduce patients’ stress and regulate other negative emotions.
How It Works
The theory behind intervention is that planned, nonthreatening mediation in a negative situation can have a positive effect on the outcome. Interventions can help modify behaviors that interfere with a person’s well-being and the well-being of family and friends. Although interventions are often staged for individuals, they are also organized for people who reside in institutional settings and for communities at large. For instance, the practice of distributing free and readily available condoms is a common form of behavioral intervention with the goal of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. The goal of any type of intervention is to take action that will make a positive change in the way someone thinks or behaves, to modify or prevent self-destructive behavior. Intervention also gives friends or family members an opportunity to directly approach their loved one in a safe and structured manner.
What to Look for in an Interventionist
A professional intervention specialist can help plan a safe, effective, and appropriate intervention strategy; help friends and family members express themselves in the most constructive manner; and prepare them for potential outcomes and consequences. Interventionists may be registered or certified in the state in which they practice. Reputable rehabilitation centers and addiction specialists may be able to refer you to a professional interventionist.
- American Psychological Association: Intervention Models.
- Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health. Therapeutic Interventions.
- NICE Clinical Guidelines 42. Dementia: A NICE-SCIE guide to supporting people with dementia and their carers in health and social care. Chapter 7: Therapeutic interventions for people with dementia—cognitive symptoms and maintenance of function. 2007. British Psychological Society.
- Coleman MT ad Pasternak RH. Effective Strategies for Behavior Change. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. June 2012;39(2):281-305.
- Fishbein M, Hennessy M, Kamb M, et al. Using intervention theory to model factors influencing behavior change. Project RESPECT. Evaluation & The Health Professions. December 2001;24(4):363-84.