How to Write a Sample Intervention Letter
How Does an Intervention Letter Fit into an Intervention?
To best understand how an intervention letter fits into an intervention, it is necessary to have an understanding of the overall process. The television network A&E is currently in its 16th season of the show Intervention, which involves real-life professional interventionists. The show reflects the reality of many formal interventions.
First, a group of concerned individuals will plan an intervention. The person who is abusing drugs does not know about this plan. Second, the group will hold the intervention and offer the loved one treatment at a rehab center. Third, if treatment is accepted, the professional interventionist or a member of the intervention group will ensure that the person is promptly admitted to the rehab.
The intervention letter is relevant to the planning phase and the actual intervention. During the planning phase, each member of the group will write a letter that reflects their concerns and makes the offer for treatment. Each group member will read the letter to the loved one during the intervention meeting.
Jeff Jay, author of Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, provides exceptionally insightful advice on why an intervention letter is so helpful. Jay points out that an intervention letter can:
- Serve as a roadmap during the intervention. Due to the emotions that can come up during an intervention, it can be difficult for a person to stay on track. An intervention letter provides a point of focus and helps to ground a person.
- Prevent a person from becoming overly excited, frozen, or bewildered. The letter will have a tone that was achieved in a more relaxed state of mind. Despite how a person may feel during the intervention, the supportive and positive tone of the letter will come through when it is being read aloud.
- Be perfected with group feedback. Typically, an intervention group will go through a rehearsal. During this time, members can read their letters and receive helpful feedback, which can help ensure that the final letter has content and a tone tightly aligned with the intervention’s main goal.
- Be sent to the treating therapist at the rehab center after the event. These letters can help the therapist incorporate the family’s experiences into the recovery process, provided the loved one seeks rehab after the intervention.
Writing an intervention letter can also be cathartic. Drug abuse can silence everyone involved. The person who is experiencing substance abuse may become explosive when confronted, and loved ones may react by not verbalizing their concerns. Drug abuse can overwhelm the user and hold everyone involved hostage.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has published an open letter from a father to his son about his son’s addiction. The letter likely reflects the feelings of anyone who loves a person who is addicted to drugs. The father talks at length about his own pain and the pain he imagines his son has experienced. The letter does not come up in the context of an intervention, but it is like an intervention letter in at least one critical respect: The expression of the father’s pain is self-empowering, and it is part of his own process of recovery. Members of an intervention group wear two important hats; they are taking action to get the loved one into treatment and, at the same time, they are working to heal themselves.
Tips for Writing an Intervention Letter
Author Jeff Jay also provides great guidance for writing an intervention letter. The following are some helpful tips:
- Begin the letter with a heartfelt statement that is full of the love and concern that one truly feels.
- Communicate gratitude to the person. For instance, if the loved one is a parent, share a memory about when they did something loving, like going to a school play.
- Think about including a statement that reflects your understanding that substance abuse is a disease. By putting the issue into a medical context, the loved one may feel less guilty. This individual likely feels powerless in the face of the addiction, which is not a moral failing, though the person may feel this way at times. Addiction can make a great person do not such great things. But you can convey that you know the difference between who the person is and how addiction may compel them to behave.
- Include statements of fact about the loved one’s behavior when on drugs. It’s a good idea to provide more than one specific example.
- Remind the person of your positive feelings and concern. Then, state that the group is offering them treatment at a rehab center.
- Ask the loved one to accept the offer of treatment.
According to Jay, in his experience, only about 5 percent of interventions will require an ultimatum. Some professional interventions may insist on including an ultimatum in the letter. If an ultimatum is included, it should be a clear “if … then” statement. For example, “If you do not accept treatment and enter rehab today then I am no longer going to give you any money.” It is thought that the ultimatum lets the loved one know each intervention member is serious and will no longer support or enable the addiction.
Sample letters can provide helpful insight and inspiration for one’s own intervention letter. The following sample intervention letter is based on information from three sources, author Jeff Jay’s book, Love First, and other writings; advice from the Partnership for Drug Free Kids; and various sample letters.
Dear [insert loved one’s name],
[This section reflects that the writer loves the person who needs help and is grateful for some specific experiences they’ve had together. It also demonstrates their bond is not broken, though the relationship may be strained. It’s a good idea to address the person by their familial relationship, such as dad, mom, bro, sis, etc.]
I know we haven’t been talking much lately and we haven’t sat down together in a really long time, but I love you dearly, and I am happy we are here together today. You have played such a huge role in my life. I have so many memories of spending time with you. Remember when you taught me how to swim? I was really afraid, and you told me to pretend that I was a dog and to do the doggy paddle – you know how much I love dogs! I often think about what you said to me when I was having trouble in my new school, in the 7th grade. You reminded me that it’s more important to be myself than to lie just so people would like me. That helped me get through a tough situation. I couldn’t have done it without it. I trusted you to help me, and you did. I’ll never forget that. Thank you.
[In this section, the writer is clear that she is aware that the drug abuse is occurring. She cites specific examples of symptoms, signs, and the consequences of the drug abuse.]
I know that you have been abusing prescription pain pills since your accident. I know that these pain pills are addictive if you take too many, and you have been taking too many for a long time now. I don’t know if your doctor explained it to you, but addiction is a disease. Your body is used to the pills now, and it always wants them. People who work in addiction say that it would be really hard for you to stop on your own. I read about how pain pills make people feel and look, and I’ve seen you that way so many times. Last month, when I came home, you were standing in the kitchen acting dizzy, like you were going to pass out. You were just rocking back and forth and didn’t respond when I talked to you. I was so worried. I’m also worried about your weight gain and your diabetes. You eat so much more sugar than I know you should. I really don’t want you to have to go to the emergency room again, like last year. I love you so much. When you do drugs and don’t take care of your health, especially your diabetes, it really hurts me. I know that you would be worried about me if I have a disease because you really love me too.
[In this section, the offer to go to rehab is made. An ultimatum is also included, if the offer is rejected.]
I’m not the only one who loves you. We all do. That’s why we already reserved a space in a rehab program for you. We found you a great place. The people are really nice and they can help you; they’ve helped a lot of people. It’s hard for me to say this next part, but I have to, for you and for myself.
If you don’t go to rehab today, I am not going to protect your drug abuse anymore. I won’t tell lies to people for you anymore; you are the one person who always told me never to lie. If your boss calls and asks why you aren’t at work, I’m going to tell the truth. If people ask me what’s wrong with you, I’m going to tell them the truth. If my teachers ask me what’s upsetting me, I’m going to tell them the truth.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can get help. This disease is 100 percent treatable. Will you accept our offer and go to rehab today?
With all my love,
When writing your own letter, keep the goal in mind and remember that treatment can break the cycle of addiction. If you are in therapy, or start therapy, it can help to address this topic, as well as the addicted person’s impact on your life.
Focus on the positives. If you’re strong enough to provide help to your loved one, you are definitely strong enough to communicate your feelings and emphasize your support for the rehab offer.