How to Write an Intervention Letter

Sitting down with a loved one who suffers from addiction can be a trying and nerve-racking experience. How many times have you tried to discuss your feelings and concerns in the past, only to have the conversation disintegrate into an emotional, or even angry, conflagration? This is why, when planning an intervention, every member of the intervention party writes a letter which they will read, word-for-word, to the subject of the intervention.

The intervention letter allows an individual to say what they want to say without losing track of their thoughts, without being swayed from their purpose by arguments from the person they are trying to help, and without second-guessing exactly what they need to get out into the open. The intervention letter is a powerful tool, if an emotional one. But what should one include in an intervention letter to make it as powerful as possible?

Step 1

Tell Them How Much You Care About Them.

Families are important in the entire recovery process, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health. They can provide the foundation of support that is necessary for the recovering addict to call upon while they are in treatment. Making certain that they understand that you’re participating in the intervention because you care about them may smooth the way for what you want to tell them next.

Step 2

Remind Them of the Happy Times You’ve Spent Together

Chances are the individuals who participate in the intervention process have known the affected individual from a time prior to the drug addiction. When you write your letter, call to mind those happy times from the past, when your friend or family member was clear of thought and healthy. Did you have a special event you attended while they were sober?  Were you a part of a significant period in their life? This will give your friend or loved one a clear, almost physical, example of how their live was prior to the drug abuse.

Step 3

Show Them a Contrast by Highlighting Their Behavior When They Use Drugs.

It may appear as though your friend or family member has changed since they’ve become addicted to drugs. The fact of the matter is, they have. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the human brain changes physically when a person uses drugs, and their behaviors and thought processes change right along with it. When you compose your intervention letter, don’t be worried about pointing out examples of how your friend’s judgment was impaired? Have they been stealing from you or others? Have they been prone to violence and anger? Does this differ from their previous behavior?

Step 4

Ask Them to Get Help for Their Addiction and Establish Consequences.

Have you been helping your friend make their car payment? Have they come to you for a place to stay when they are in need? While it is normal to want to help someone you care about whenever you can, enabling them to spend their own money on drugs or giving them respite when their addiction has caused them to lose their housing arrangements may not be the best way. In your letter, ask them to enter a treatment program so you can continue to be their friend and help them when they need it. If they choose to avoid treatment, you can let them know that you will no longer be in a position to help them the same you have in the past.

Step 5

Use the Sandwich Technique.

According to Psychology Today, the sandwich technique involves using positive statements to surround the main portion of criticism, and it is an effective tool for communication when one person is confronting another about something that is bothering them. In the closing of your intervention letter, reiterate how much you care about your friend. Reinforce that you love them and you are concerned about their future. Let them know that you will continue to love them, no matter what.

Other techniques of healthy communication may include:

  • Refrain from “you” statements, “You don’t care about anyone but yourself,” versus, “I feel as though you don’t care about me.”
  • Refrain from using “blanket” statements, like, “You are always angry and picking fights,” versus “When you use drugs, you can be violent and aggressive.”
  • Use future statements and requests instead of demands, like, “You have to stop using drugs or I will stop doing X,” versus, “In the future, please stop abusing drugs so we can build a life together.”
  • Proofread your letter. When writing an intervention letter, you may go through several drafts before it says exactly what you need it to say.

Once you have participated in the intervention and read your letter aloud to your friend or family member, be prepared for any response. To find out more about how to plan an intervention or arrange for treatment for your loved one, please contact us here at Axis.