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What to Say in an Intervention Letter

Intervention: How You Can HelpInterventions can be highly emotional, unpredictable, and painful experiences. They involve being brutally honest and confronting serious issues between loved ones, including substantial harm that the addicted person may have caused. As difficult as they may be, interventions are considered by many addiction experts to be an effective method of getting people with substance use disorders into rehabilitation programs. However, if they aren’t planned properly, these confrontations can easily go awry.

One of the most important steps in any intervention is the reading of intervention letters. These are letters written by loved ones who have been affected by the addicted person’s substance abuse that explain their concern and urge the individual to get help. The point of writing down one’s thoughts beforehand is to ensure that they are organized, nonjudgmental, thorough, and stay on track. Improvising can easily turn into rambling or become an argument with the addicted person.

Even with plenty of time to prepare, it can be hard to figure out what to say to a loved one who has a problem but may not yet have acknowledged it. However, many people have gone through the same thing – 22.7 million people in the US alone are estimated to have a problem with drugs or alcohol – and can therefore offer advice on how to craft an intervention letter.

Letter Structure

The opening statement of an intervention letter should always be dedicated to assuring the addicted person that they are loved and supported. Subjects of interventions may feel attacked, ashamed, or as though they are going to be yelled at and made to feel guilty for their actions. It’s therefore essential to make it clear that this is about love and helping the person confront a problem and heal.

Next, the letter should point to specific incidents in which the addicted person’s behavior around substance abuse caused harm. Being specific is important as it can help individuals see that they have a problem when they have been in denial about it. It’s easy for people to deny they have a problem, but specific incidents of harm can’t be denied. These can include:

  • Injury to the addicted person or others
  • Financial problems caused by the cost of the substance
  • Missed work due to intoxication or hangovers
  • Incidents of physical or emotional violence from the addicted person while intoxicated
  • Missing important family events in favor of getting drunk or high
  • Legal troubles from actions such as driving under the influence
  • Incidents causing embarrassment to loved ones

Though it’s important to list these, it’s also important to refrain from sounding as though you’re attacking the addicted person. Use “I” statements, such as, “I feel afraid,” or “I feel angry,” and make direct observations rather than accusing the individual of trying to hurt you.

The letter then needs to close by offering solutions and outlining consequences for refusal to change. These should be discussed among all the people staging the intervention before the letters are written. Families and friends will often urge the addicted person to go straight into a rehabilitation program, but there are other options, depending on the intervention style chosen. In many instances, a few program options are presented, and the individual can choose which seems best for them. This engages them in the process.

Consequences for refusal are also important. They may include the withdrawal of financial support, a change in relationship status, loss of child custody, or not allowing the individual to reside in the family home any longer. It’s important to stand firm on the consequences that are outlined in the intervention, showing the person that everyone on the intervention team is serious that change must happen.

Involving a professional interventionist in the process can help to ensure that the entire process runs smoothly. The interventionist will help team members craft their letters, and this assistance can be invaluable in putting the right words on paper.