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6 Tips for Writing a Powerful Intervention Letter

6 Tips for Writing a Powerful Intervention Letter

An intervention can provide the motivation your loved one needs to get treatment for addiction. Although many people believe someone has to hit rock bottom before they can seek help, that’s not true and sometimes rock bottom means death. A well-run intervention has a good chance of convincing your loved one to at least give treatment a try.

To give your intervention the best chance of succeeding, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of an intervention specialist. This is a person with training and experience in conducting interventions and it is often someone who is in recovery and knows what it’s like to go through an intervention. The intervention specialist can help you plan and execute the intervention.

One aspect of an intervention that most people are familiar with is the intervention letter. You may feel like you could easily improvise a 15-minute speech about why your loved one needs treatment for substance use and that’s exactly why a pre-written letter is so important. If you’re just talking off the top of your head, you are likely to ramble. You may work yourself up while speaking and become angry or accusatory, which is counterproductive. Worst of all, you go totally blank and have nothing to say. Having a letter to read from keeps you focused, calm, and positive. Here are some suggestions for writing a powerful intervention letter.

Open with a statement of support.

It’s crucial to keep in mind throughout the whole process why you are doing this intervention in the first place: you love this person and you don’t want them to suffer. Therefore, it’s good to start your letter with a statement of love and support. It’s also a good idea to include a statement of gratitude or appreciation. People with substance use issues tend to feel a lot of shame. When they realize they’ve walked into an intervention, they are prepared to be criticized and condemned. 

However, an intervention is about persuading, not about condemning. Your loved one will be far more receptive if you start by establishing why you care enough to stage an intervention at all. It is especially effective if you can briefly describe two or three specific things you are grateful to the person for. Maybe they helped you through an especially tough time or maybe there was an especially happy occasion you shared. Making the person feel loved and appreciated is the most effective way to start. 

Say that you understand addiction is a disease and that recovery is possible.

Next, let the person know that you are aware their addictive behavior is not their fault. You understand that addiction is a disease with complex causes and that their behavior when using drugs and alcohol is not who they really are. Tell them that you understand that everyone needs help sometimes and that they can recover with the right help.

Stick to the facts.

Talking about the negative ways addiction has affected the person’s life and the lives of their family and friends is the part of the intervention letter most people mainly think of. There are a few things to keep in mind when describing the destructive influence substance use has had on your loved one’s life. First, only describe things you’ve experienced yourself. Don’t go into things you’ve heard second or third-hand. There’s a good chance that whoever told you about it is in the room with you and they’ll describe the incident themselves. This also makes what you say harder to refute. 

Second, leave judgments aside and just describe what happened. It’s usually good to describe at least three incidents related to drugs or alcohol. So, for example, instead of saying something like, “Your drinking is always getting you into trouble,” you might say something like, “Last week, you passed out on the porch after drinking all evening. It was cold and you might have died from hypothermia.” Specific examples are less accusatory and they are harder to argue with, especially as they accumulate over the course of the intervention.

Ask the person to accept help.

End your letter first by first reaffirming your love and appreciation for the person, then ask the person to accept help. By this point, the intervention team should have already chosen a treatment program, so you may want to mention it specifically. In a small percentage of cases, the intervention specialist will recommend spelling out the consequences of not accepting help–such as being locked out of the house, getting divorced, being financially cut off, and so on. If you’ve decided ahead of time to include the consequences of not accepting help, this is the time to express them. Don’t threaten anything you aren’t willing to follow through on.

Seek feedback ahead of time.

By the time you actually read your letter at the intervention, several people should have already heard it or read it. You may have read it during the dress rehearsal before the intervention. This gives the other team members and the intervention specialist a chance to give you constructive feedback on the letter. Pay special attention to what the intervention specialist tells you. Although you may know your loved one better, the intervention specialist knows what works and what doesn’t, so take their feedback seriously.

Stick to your letter during the intervention.

Finally, when you read your letter during the intervention, stick to it. Don’t add in new stuff you think and don’t let yourself get angry or emotional. If the person tries to argue, don’t respond. Just stick to your letter. Let the intervention specialist or a designated person respond to objections.

Never forget that an intervention isn’t about venting or placing blame; it’s about getting someone you care about to accept the help they need. Always write from a place of love and compassion. If someone you love needs help for a substance use disorder, Steps Recovery Centers can help you with intervention and treatment. To learn more about our services, call us today at 385-236-0931 or explore our website.