The Steps to Conducting an Intervention Using the Love First Approach

person holding hands of addict using the love approach to an interventionThe Love First approach to an intervention was formulated by Debra and Jeff Jay with a focus on honesty and love as families and loved ones create a plan to get an individual help for the disease of addiction. A Love First intervention is a meeting that is highly structured and planned out ahead of time without the knowledge of the person suffering from addiction.

At the time of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), just over 8 percent of the American adult population battled addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction is a treatable disease, and those who suffer from it can go on to embrace recovery for the rest of their lives. An intervention can be a way to get a loved one the help they need to recover. The general steps of a Love First intervention are outlined below.

Step 1: Form the intervention team.

In the Love First approach, the intervention team should have at least three people and no more than seven. Family members, members of the church or clergy members, employers, doctors or caregivers, and friends may all be members of an intervention team. Small children and those who are in direct conflict with the person in question should not be included in this intervention team.

Step 2: Choose a chairperson and a detail person.

Once a team is established, members will choose a chairperson or leader for the team. This may be a family member or a trained professional. Professional interventionists can be very helpful in all aspects of planning and staging an intervention, and they can serve as leaders of the intervention team. If an individual is prone to violence or aggression, has previously attempted self-harm, has a history of mental illness, or abuses multiple mind-altering substances, the aid and advice of a professional are highly recommended.

In addition to a chairperson, the team should also decide on one person to be in charge of handling all the details of the intervention. This person should be highly organized as they will act as a liaison between all members of the intervention team. The detail person should write everything down and make checklists of items that need to be completed by members of the team. They also communicate with the team to ensure that all tasks get done; as they are completed, the detail person will check them off the list. All information is give to the detail person as it comes in, so they can compile it together and disseminate the pertinent information to the rest of the intervention team.

Step 3: Write an intervention letter with a bottom line.

All members of the intervention team will write a letter to the individual battling addiction. These letters have four main parts. The first part focuses on the relationship between the person writing the letter and the person receiving it. It should highlight important features in their lives together and how much love is shared.

The second part of the intervention letter cites specific instances in which the disease of addiction has impacted the writer personally. Careful attention should be paid to ensure that these letters use “I” statements and are not aggressive or angry. They just state the facts and how these instances made the writer feel.

The third piece of the letter is a statement of concern on how addiction is impacting the person’s health and other aspects of their life. No threats should be made at this point. The writer’s goal is to show the person how much they love them, how concerned they are for them, and encourage them to enter into a treatment program.

The final part of the intervention letter is called “the bottom line” and should be done on a separate piece of paper. This is the portion of the letter that lists specific consequences if the person battling addiction chooses not to move forward into a treatment program following the intervention. The writer needs to be prepared to follow through on the actions laid out in the bottom line. Consequences may include no longer giving the person money, not allowing them to continue to live in the house, or removing minor children from their care. Intervention letters should be kept to around 1-2 pages in length.

Step 4: Edit intervention letters.

As the intervention letters make up the core of the Love First approach, they should be read and reread by the intervention team multiple times to ensure they are just right. Hostility, blame, judgment and anger should be edited out of these letters as much as possible. Letters may need to be rewritten more than once. Members of the intervention team should decide what order the letters are to be read in during the intervention for maximum impact.

Step 5: Plan for objections.

During the planning sessions, members of the intervention team should discuss any potential objections the person in question may have and plan careful and thorough responses to them. Careful planning will keep the intervention on track and moving forward.

Step 6: Research and make treatment arrangements.

Families and loved ones should do all of the legwork surrounding treatment admission prior to the intervention so the person struggling with addiction can go straight into a program after the meeting. Treatment options should be fully explored and settled on by the intervention team. Financial arrangements are made and admission is prearranged before the intervention takes place.

Step 7: Rehearse the intervention.All aspects of the intervention should be thought out and rehearsed ahead of time if possible. Day, time, and location of the intervention are planned and details like where people will sit, where cars will be parked to remain out of sight, how the person will get to the intervention, etc., are all hashed out by members of the intervention team during rehearsal. The actual intervention should be scripted and highly structured, and a thorough rehearsal can help with this.

Host the intervention.

It is important that the intervention meeting be performed when the person is likely to most receptive. This means holding it when the person is least likely to be intoxicated and most likely to be well rested. The meeting will begin with an opening by the chairperson and then move on to the reading of the letters by each person, omitting the bottom line for now.

If at any point the loved one becomes angry or confrontational, the reading should stop and members of the intervention team should wait until calm is restored before continuing. If they leave the intervention, a few members of the team should follow them and try to persuade them to return. As soon as they agree to enter into a treatment program, the intervention is concluded even if some letters haven’t been read.

Follow up with treatment or with the bottom line.

The goal of an intervention is to get a person struggling with addiction into a treatment program. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), most well-planned interventions are successful in getting a person the help they need, especially when a professional interventionist is involved. If after the intervention letters are read, the person does not agree to enter into a treatment program, the bottom line portions of the letters are read. Family members and loved ones need to be prepared to stick to these consequences if an agreement to enter treatment immediately is not reached.

Stay engaged during treatment

Families are an integral part of recovery and should participate in family sessions and engage in family support groups while their loved one is in treatment. The intervention letters remain an important factor in treatment and should be sent, along with the person, to the treatment facility for therapists to refer to and use in their sessions.

The Love First intervention approach is a healthy and nonjudgmental method for helping families and loved ones get help for the debilitating disease of addiction. With help from a professional interventionist, loved ones can design and implement a well-planned intervention with admission into a specialized addiction treatment program as the end result.

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