How to Write a Great Intervention Letter

How to Write a Great Intervention Letter

An intervention is typically a last resort to try to convince a family member to accept treatment for a substance use disorder. By the time a family stages an intervention, they have probably tried everything else. Most people are familiar with the basic idea of an intervention, perhaps from watching the long-running show Intervention on A&E. Essentially, the family, and maybe some close friends confront the person with the addiction about the problems caused by her substance use. During the intervention, the family reads from prewritten letters.

When writing an intervention letter, it helps to understand the letter’s role in the overall process. An intervention isn’t an ambush. A lot of preparation goes into staging an intervention. Before an intervention happens, there has to be a concrete plan in place to get the person into treatment immediately if she agrees to go. That means all the details of choosing a program, booking a spot, making travel arrangements, and packing a bag have to be taken care of ahead of time. An intervention should also be rehearsed. Everyone should know basically how things will go, such as who will speak when. The rehearsal is also an opportunity to get feedback on your letter. With everything that goes into preparing and conducting an intervention, it’s a good idea to enlist an experienced intervention specialist who can organize things and let the family focus on supporting their loved one. 

As crucial as all the preparation is, reading the letters is when the family expresses some hard truths. This is the appeal to their loved one to get help before it’s too late. There are mainly two reasons family members read from letters rather than just speaking extemporaneously. The first is that it’s easy to say the wrong thing. Even with the best inventions, you might anger or alienate the person you’re trying to help. The interventionist and the rest of the group can help you spot these missteps in advance. Second, this is an extremely high-pressure situation. It’s too easy to freeze up, start babbling off topic, or get overly emotional. Having a letter to read from insures you stay focused and say exactly what you meant to say. Here are some tips for writing a great intervention letter.

Start with love.

Start your letter by expressing genuine love and appreciation. An intervention is difficult and you wouldn’t put yourself and your loved one through it if you didn’t care. Cite a few examples why you’re grateful the person is in your life and be specific. These should be times when you feel like she was at her best. Maybe when your dog died, she showed up at your door with pizza and ice cream or maybe she organized a surprise party for your birthday. Anything you sincerely appreciated can be a good start for expressing your love for the person. 

Express your concern.

Having started on a positive note, it’s time to shift to why you’re there. You’ve seen the person you love and care about suffering and you want her to get help before it’s too late. It’s often a good idea to also express your understanding that addiction is a disease. This indicates that the person’s behavior does not come from her true self but rather from the addiction. Making this distinction separates the behavior from the person and also emphasizes that addiction is essentially beyond her control. It’s a medical issue that requires treatment, which you hope she will accept.

Cite examples of how substance use has hurt them and others.

The meat of the letter is about specific examples of how addiction has hurt your loved one and her family. When someone has a substance use disorder, she may be ingenious about rationalizing her behavior. She may say she doesn’t really drink that much or that maybe she has been drinking too much but it’s only because she’s been under so much stress or that the consequences of her drinking haven’t been that bad and so on. 

That’s why it’s so important to avoid generalities in your letter and focus on specific instances in which substance use has harmed her and others. If you can provide dates, that’s even better. For example, you might say, “Last month, you passed out before you could get in the house and in the morning, I found you asleep on the steps,” or “two weeks ago, you were supposed to interview for a job but you missed it because you were hungover.” Stick to incidents you personally witnessed and not things others told you about. As the intervention proceeds, these incidents will accumulate it will become harder and harder to deny there is a problem. 

Reiterate your love and concern.

It’s hard to hear about all the bad things you’ve done because of substance use so close your letter by reiterating your love and concern. You’re there because you’re worried about your loved one and you want her to be the person she really is, not the person consumed by drugs and alcohol. 

Ask the person to accept help.

Finally, ask your loved one to accept help. If she could quit drugs and alcohol on her own, she would have done it by now. Professional treatment is the only option. In some cases, an ultimatum might be necessary. For example, if the intervention is for your spouse, you might say you’ll leave if she doesn’t accept treatment. You must be prepared to follow through with whatever consequences you set. The intervention specialist can guide you about whether an ultimatum is necessary. As noted, it’s important to have everything ready in advance so your loved one can go directly to treatment. If there’s any gap, she may have time to change her mind.

At Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Hart Consultants