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Intervention theory is a term used in social studies and social policy to refer to the decision making problems of intervening effectively in a situation in order to secure desired outcomes. Intervention theory addresses the question of when it is desirable not to intervene and when it is appropriate to do so. It also examines the effectiveness of different types of intervention. The term is used across a range of social and medical practices, including health care, child protection and law enforcement.

Within the theory of nursing, intervention theory is included within a larger scope of practice theories. Burns and Grove point out that it directs the implementation of a specific nursing intervention and provides theoretical explanations of how and why the intervention is effective in addressing a particular patient care problem. These theories are tested through programs of research to validate the effectiveness of the intervention in addressing the problem.[1]

Intervention is increasingly used within the addictions profession to help a person engaged in self destructive behavior accept treatment.

In Intervention Theory and Method Chris Argyris argues that in organization development effective intervention depends on appropriate and useful knowledge that offers a range of clearly defined choices and that the target should be for as many people as possible to be committed to the option chosen and to feel responsibility for it. Overall, interventions should generate a situation in which actors believe that they are working to internal rather than external influences on decisions.[2]

See also


  1. Burns and Grove, Understanding Nursing Research, 2007, pp 281-3.
  2. Chris Argyris, Intervention Theory and Method: A Behavioral Science View (Addison-Wesley series in social science and administration), Addison-Wesley, 1970