A comparison of the Johnson Intervention with four other methods of referral to outpatient treatment

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1996 May;22(2):233-46. doi: 10.3109/00952999609001656.


The Johnson Intervention is a therapeutic technique in which members of the person's social network confront him or her about the damage the drinking or drug use has caused and the action they will take if treatment is refused. It is highly effective in engaging and retaining clients in inpatient treatment, but, since initial evaluations, two trends have emerged in the field. First, there has been an increase in the use of outpatient treatment and, second, a number of variations of the Johnson Intervention have been developed. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of the Johnson Intervention with four other methods of referral to outpatient treatment. The other methods included two naturally occurring types of referral (coerced and non-coerced) and two less intense and less costly variations of the Intervention (Unrehearsed and Unsupervised). Effectiveness was determined by both entry into and completion of treatment. A retrospective study was conducted on a sample of 331 cases drawn from an alcohol and other drug treatment agency. Those who had undergone the Johnson Intervention were more likely to enter treatment than those in any of the four other groups. Of those that entered treatment, the Johnson Intervention and the coerced referral groups were equally likely to complete treatment, and both groups were more likely to complete treatment than those in the other three types of referral. Although the Johnson Intervention was the most effective, the variations did show some measure of success and can be viewed as part of an Intervention continuum.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Coercion
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology
  • Psychotropic Drugs*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Psychotropic Drugs