What Is Therapeutic Intervention in Psychology?

Learn about therapeutic intervention in psychology. Get the definition, list of types of therapeutic intervention, examples and goals on HealthyPlace.

Therapeutic intervention can take several forms and applies in a variety of settings. In the context of psychology, the term refers to actions or practices that improve the psychological, social or emotional wellbeing of another person. This person may be unwilling or unable to seek or accept help for themselves, or they may be at risk of endangering their own welfare or the welfare of others.

Below, you’ll find a list of types of therapeutic intervention along with who can benefit from therapeutic intervention and the goals of therapeutic intervention.

Therapeutic Intervention in Psychology: What Is the Goal?

The goal of therapeutic intervention is to initiate improvement in how the client feels, thinks, and behaves. Modification of self-destructive behavior patterns will often be a focus, as in work with addiction and other self-harming behaviors.

Therapeutic intervention will typically be led or supported by a relevant, qualified professional or team of professionals. The intervention may be made directly, with the individual in difficulty alone. It may also involve family and friends of the individual needing assistance. In some instances, family members or other non-professionals may play a leading role in therapeutic intervention, with or without professional supervision.

For instance, in the case of addiction to alcohol or drugs, a therapist may support family members to deal more effectively with an addicted loved one. Therapeutic intervention might address any co-dependence or unintentional collusion to help the person get the help they need.

Where Does Therapeutic Intervention Take Place?

Therapeutic intervention may be carried out in a variety of professional and community settings. These might include homes, clinics, welfare agencies, private counseling practices, hospitals and institutional settings such as care homes and prisons.

Intervention may stem from a variety of therapeutic approaches. It is not uncommon for a professional, or professional team, to employ a blend of techniques to meet the needs of the individual. The availability of particular forms of intervention may vary according to the area, as well as the demand for services.

Professional Therapeutic Intervention: List of Types

Here is a list of therapeutic intervention forms:

Interpersonal therapy (IPT): A form of individual psychotherapy that focuses on the individual and their relationships with others. It is a talking therapy much used in the treatment of depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A range of short-term, 'solution-focused' talking therapies. The aim here is to help the client become aware of and change problematic thought or behavior patterns.

Family therapy or family systems therapy: A therapist will work with the whole family rather than with an individual client. Family therapists view the family as a 'system.' The interaction of family members is seen as both the root of presenting difficulty and the means of creating lasting, positive change.

Group therapy: Therapy takes place within a group of individuals experiencing similar problems or concerns. Here, there is plenty of opportunity for peer-support and challenge. The focus is on sharing experiences and developing a greater understanding of the self. It is often used in the treatment of addiction but has many other relevancies.

Mindfulness-based therapy (MBCT): This approach blends aspects of CBT and meditation, and has become widely practiced in the treatment of stress and depression. It encourages a mind-body connection and a non-judgmental attitude to the self.

Medical interventions: Medication can aid recovery or management of, certain physical and mental health conditions.  Medical therapeutic intervention will be facilitated by a general practitioner or consultant psychiatrist. It may be offered alongside other therapeutic interventions.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): This is offered only in very specific circumstances and with patient consent. ECT relieves symptoms of particular mental health problems, and typically where other treatments have not been helpful. This treatment is given under general anesthetic.

Movement, art and music therapy: Creative expression, used therapeutically. This kind of therapy may help with powerful emotions that are difficult to manage via talking therapies. Again, this approach may form part of a package of therapies or treatments.

This is not an exhaustive list of therapeutic interventions. The form of therapy taken will vary according to the needs of the individual, their age and the most appropriate method for their level of vulnerability.

Who Benefits from Therapeutic Intervention?

Therapeutic intervention is intended for people who cannot or will not seek the help that they need. It can help a diverse range of individuals, including those living with:

If you know someone who needs therapeutic intervention, it's important to seek the appropriate help. If the person is a child, you should contact your local child protection services. If the person is acutely suicidal, you should call the emergency services or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, September 26). What Is Therapeutic Intervention in Psychology?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Last Updated: October 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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