The Definition of an Intervention Specialist


According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, an intervention specialist is a human service worker who acts as a neutral arbitrator for friends and families of substance abusers. Specifically, they use their expertise to help concerned clients convince substance abusers to seek rehabilitation. Intervention specialists accomplish this by educating influential people in an addict's life about how to persuade an addict to accept help without imparting feelings of humiliation or coercion.


  • Intervention specialists have a variety of backgrounds before becoming certified to do interventions. Some are professional substance abuse or crisis counselors. Many have battled addiction themselves. Others may be licensed social workers, clerics or health care providers such as physicians, practical and registered nurses. State-certified counselors or those certified by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium or NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, may register with The Association of Intervention Specialist Certification Board for credentialing approval.


  • The services of intervention specialists have become publicized by the A&E television show "Intervention." These professionals facilitate group confrontations of the addict. They help each group member, normally comprised of relatives of the addict, prepare a script detailing observed destructive behaviors and offering an ultimatum if the addict does not agree to attend rehabilitation. Intervention specialists also search for rehabilitative programs for the substance abuser that seem best able to treat their disease course. Some treatment centers are residential facilities, while others offer outpatient services.

Work Models

  • The Association of Intervention Specialists recognizes three primary work models used by intervention specialists. The Johnson work model has demonstrated a 90 percent success rate in persuading addicts to agree to treatment. The Johnson model promotes reminding the substance abuser of positive character traits that changed after the person began using. The ARISE model has an 83 percent success rate with a low rate of relapse. It utilizes a "right to know" approach with the addict. It engages the substance abuser and concerned relatives and friends throughout the entire intervention process without an element of surprise. Finally, the systemic model offers treatment to everyone involved in an intervention who may exhibit a pattern of destructive behavior, not just one person.

Ethical Guidelines

  • The Association of Intervention Specialists recommends that intervention specialists operate from seven basic ethical principles. Specialists should not treat people differently or discriminate based on personal identifiers like race, age and religion. In so doing, they must also be able to adequately protect the welfare of all clients and promote the well being of others, especially the indigent and disadvantaged. Ethical intervention specialists must agree to uphold state and federal laws during the execution of work and submit to ongoing education in the field to maintain competence. Finally, specialists have an obligation to respect confidentiality and not exploit relationships with patients through the acceptance of enumerations.

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