What Is the Invitational Model of Intervention?

Invitational Model of Intervention

With drug and alcohol addiction affecting an estimated 1 in 8 American adults, the subject of treatment is all too common. Intervention is one of the most trusted tools in the arsenal of substance abuse disorder treatment. An intervention is when a group of people who care about a person with a substance use disorder organize together and encourage them to seek treatment. There are many methods used for interventions. The Invitational Model is arguably one of the most gentle.

What is the Invitational Model of intervention?

Unlike the original intervention method, also known as the Johnson Model, the Invitational Model is non-confrontational. Rather than surprising and confronting the addict, the Invitational Model, as the name suggests, invites the addict to attend. The process begins with a family member, friend, or other concerned individual contacting a professional interventionist, a person who specializes in coaching addicts and caregivers through addiction treatment options.

The interventionist has the entire support group come to meet them, usually in a clinical setting, and several days are spent educating those individuals on addiction. The education is in-depth, going through not only the root causes of addiction but things that contribute to the addiction being difficult to control. One of the hardest contributors of addiction to overcome is enabling. This is when family members, friends, or other loved ones of the addict to take actions that allow the addict to continue their addiction. Examples of enabling include making excuses for the addict’s behavior, loaning or gifting them money that they then use to buy more drugs, and giving them a place to live when they have lost their home due to actions related to addiction, among others.

During the initial invitational intervention phase, the interventionist explains enablement in great detail and coaches those in attendance on how to avoid enabling the addict. They go through how even acts that seem to be out of love can have a great detrimental effect, and teach them how to say no. This is a key part of the process.

The workshop, usually spanning a period of two days, allows the interventionist to work with each person present, helping them to understand the role that they play in the addict’s disease. This is why the Invitational Model is also known as the systemic family intervention model, as it addresses root causes more thoroughly than other methods.

The addict is then invited to come in, and once they do so, the interventionist focuses on coaching the entire support system. They explain the different options available for treatment, and discuss all of the options in depth. The goal is to guide both the addict and their loved ones to choosing a treatment method with the highest chance of success, taking into account all of the complex factors that contributed to their addiction.

Who can benefit most from the Invitational Model?

The Invitational Model of intervention is designed to help addicts who are either aware that they have a problem with substance abuse or are amenable to discussing the possibility. Since the method hinges on inviting the addict into treatment rather than confronting them and drawing a hard line if they don’t, those who are in denial of their problem are highly unlikely to attend.

This can be mitigated somewhat if the addict in question has a strong family tie to the person inviting them. If the addict doesn’t necessarily see a problem with their actions but defer to their mother, for example, the chances that they will accept the invitation are increased if that invitation comes from the mother.

Is the Invitational Model successful?

The success of one intervention model over another, or in fact the intervention process in general, is very difficult to determine. As outlined above, the various intervention models are better suited for different types of addicts. There are too many complex aspects to drug addiction recovery to be able to accurately compare the success of one intervention model to another. Choosing the right intervention model for the specific addict certainly helps determine success. A professional interventionist can help the caregiver to determine what method might be best for their specific loved one.

What is known is that addicts who seek treatment and complete a program, as well as those who actively participate in ongoing therapies with a strong support network, are much less likely to relapse. They are also more likely to seek follow-up care if they do relapse, thereby increasing the likelihood of remaining sober long-term.


The Invitational Model Intervention focuses on the family system and changing family dynamics in a non-confrontational workshop. In contrast to the well-known Johnson Model Intervention, the entire family is invited to the intervention with the family treated as a whole system.

According to the Invitational Model, by changing the whole system or family unit, the addict will also change. Prior to the day of the intervention, family members are expected to prepare by reading about addiction or attending relevant meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Alanon.

How Does the Invitational Model Intervention Work?

Family members select an interventionist to lead the 2-day workshop or intervention. Together with the professional interventionist the family plans for the workshop.

One of the family participants is coached on ways to get the addict to attend the intervention. The Invitational Model stresses a non-judgemental and non-confrontational approach.

While attendance by the addict is not mandatory and the intervention workshop will still be conducted for the whole family unit without the addict, the goal is to get the addict and all other family members to attend if possible.

During the workshop, the subjects of treatment options and codependency are typically covered. Underlying neurobiological and genetic links to addiction are often discussed for a better understanding of the nature of addiction.

The professional interventionist explains the role each family member has in the addiction and expects all parties to make a commitment to a recovery plan.

The expectation is that the addict will make a commitment to recovery along with the rest of the family.

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Invitational Model Intervention vs Johnson Model Intervention

The Invitational Model Intervention differs in many ways from the highly-televised Johnson Intervention Model. Instead of using deception to get the addict to the intervention with a single goal of getting the addict to enter treatment, this intervention model is designed with the entire family’s mental health and recovery in mind.

Instead of confronting the addict in a confrontational two-hour intervention meeting, the entire family attends an intervention workshop that seeks to educate the family and help each member of the family get the help they need to recover from the often devastating impact of addiction. This intervention model seeks a win/win scenario without blame or the possibility of alienating the substance abuser.

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