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Sample Intervention Letter

Intervention letters are one way you may be able to convince a loved one in crisis to get help for their addiction before it’s too late. While the value of interventions is underresearched and you need to tread carefully, a letter can at least help a person feel seen and like they’re not alone in their struggles. Your intervention letter might be what prompts your loved one to get help.

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When to Write an Intervention Letter

Interventions are group efforts to help a family member or friend who is in crisis as a result of struggles relating to addiction. Whether you intend to stage an intervention in person or just want to send your intervention message through the mail, a letter can help to make sure your thoughts are ordered and prepared, allowing you to confirm you cover everything you want and need to say to the individual. 

If you intend to seriously confront someone about their drug use and their need to get help, we recommend either writing a letter ahead of time or at least some kind of organizational aid to help you focus on what to say during what might be an emotional time.

How to Write an Intervention Letter: Headings to Include

Your letter should be both heartfelt and customized. However, if you’re struggling to get started, that’s understandable. These headings can help to organize your thoughts and ensure you don’t leave anything out:


Use this section of the letter to outline why this person is important to you. It’s a good space for you to reinforce how much you care and why you’re willing to be vulnerable to help reach someone who has made such an important difference in your life.


Use this section to describe the specific instances of addiction-related behaviors you’ve seen. For example, you could talk about the number of pills you know the person has taken, the number of workdays they’ve missed, or the family outings they’ve skipped.


Use this section to describe how the behaviors you’ve seen have changed or harmed your relationship with the person. For example, you might outline how a person’s addiction has altered your family’s finances, how your children ask questions, or how hard it is for you to explain why the person isn’t available.


Use this section to describe why you want the person to enter treatment. Be specific about how you’ll help make that happen and how you’ll stay connected with treatment. For example, you could discuss how you’ll help to pay for treatment or attend meetings with the person you love.


Use this section to set boundaries if the person won’t get care. For example, you could explain how the person’s right to see your children might change, or you could outline how your family funds won’t be used to buy drugs or alcohol.


Use this part of your letter to reiterate how much you love the person and why you want them to get better. End this conversation on a high note and encourage the person to get care.

What to Include in the Letter

There are many ways to write an intervention letter, but it’s important to structure it carefully. Remember, the goal of this letter is to convince a person to get help and clearly outline any boundaries you need to establish for your and your family’s safety and well-being. 

It isn’t meant to be a way to vent your anger or frustrations. Try to keep negative emotions out of it as much as possible.

Clearly Establish Your Concerns

Begin your letter by establishing that you care about the individual and emphasize that the signs you’ve noticed signal a serious problem. Note any changes to their physical and mental health that have gotten you worried. 

You can also highlight some of the related troubles they’ve gotten into, such as developing financial trouble, losing important personal and business relationships, and any criminal activity they’ve engaged in as a result of their drug use or their need for more drugs. Detail how you’ve been hurt or concerned because of their substance misuse.

Show You Want to Help

If you want an intervention to be effective, you need to make a genuine effort to help the individual. It isn’t enough to just highlight some of the problems you’ve noticed and hope they agree and get help on their own. 

Research the effects of the drug or drugs they’re addicted to. Then, use reputable informational resources like these to learn about how to effectively help someone struggling with addiction.

Whenever possible, have all the information needed either in the letter or at least researched and ready to be shared on how the person can get proven, professional help for their addiction. Also, consider how they will realistically receive that help. 

Some people may have obstacles in place, such as poor finances, no health insurance, and/or children and other responsibilities that can make scheduling treatment harder. Present real, workable solutions to these obstacles, such as offering to pay for treatment or taking care of their children while they are getting treated.

Set Important Boundaries

Talking to people struggling with addiction is difficult because you may love them and want to help them, but their addiction may also have caused them to engage in dangerous or otherwise harmful behavior. For example, one common issue is theft from family members to help pay for drugs. 

In an intervention letter, set clear boundaries on behaviors that need to stop if you’re going to continue having the person around you and your family and/or provide them with basic help like food and housing. These boundaries are hard, and you need to stick to them. 

Some common boundaries include explicitly stating that you will not tolerate theft in your house, the person can’t talk to your children while high on drugs, and they cannot bring over associates who misuse drugs or who frequently engage in criminal activity.

Establish Consequences for Breaking Boundaries

It’s important to set consequences for crossing the lines you set that are both fair and that you fully intend to enforce if necessary. The severity of these consequences can vary depending on what the infraction is, but the most common consequence is simply cutting the person off from financial and similar support for reasons of safety and security. 

This may seem callous, but it’s important to remember that a person struggling with addiction isn’t the only individual involved in their problems. If they frequently steal or bring potentially dangerous people into your home, that can hurt you financially, get you unwillingly involved with criminal activity, or even put the lives of you and your family at risk in extreme cases. 

Many people may also outline what behaviors may allow the person to get privileges back. This cannot simply be an apology or admittance that they made a mistake. Generally, the only real reason you should have for reallowing a person in your life who has openly crossed set boundaries would be if they enter a recovery program and have started to regain control over their substance misuse. 

Reaffirm Your Care & Willingness to Help

As you finish your intervention letter, reaffirm that you care about the individual and that you’re willing to help with their recovery journey. 

Even when you actively try to write your letter with empathy and avoid blaming language, it’s inevitable that it will make the person feel at least somewhat guarded and possibly even angry. Finish your letter by working to ease these negative emotions somewhat, reaffirming why you wrote that letter and that it’s out of concern for their physical and mental health. 

Leave an open invitation for them to talk with you about how to get treatment further and what treatments may work best for them. State that you will try to answer any and all questions they have.

A Word About Language in Intervention Letters

When it comes to addictions, emotions run high. Your mind may be filled with all of the angry thoughts and feelings you’ve held back for weeks, months, or even years. Do your best to keep these difficult feelings out of your letter. Remember, this is your opportunity to encourage someone with a very real disease to get help.

Good words and phrases to incorporate in your letter include the following:

  • I love you.
  • I care about you.
  • I am worried for you.
  • I want you to get better.
  • I miss you.
  • I am thankful for you.
  • We all love you.
  • It’s hard for me to say this, but I’m doing so to help you.

Intervention Sample Letter

The following is an example letter that utilizes all the above features. While you can use this letter as a guide, also remember that these letters should be highly personalized to the unique struggles and needs of the individual you’re writing for.

Dear John,

I know you don’t like talking about certain subjects, but I’ve been really worried about you lately. Your drinking has made it hard for you to do a lot of the things I know you love, and I also know it’s probably at least part of why you lost your job. 

You’ve tried to stop on your own but haven’t been able to, and I don’t blame you. Alcohol addiction is serious, and withdrawal from alcohol is an incredibly tough process to go through alone. But the reality is things are going to get worse if you can’t get help. Drinking is seriously hurting your body, and it’s making it hard for you to support yourself.

Intervention-type stuff can come with a lot of baggage, but I’m writing to tell you that I see you and that I want to help. I know that only you can know what it’s like to struggle with the stuff you do, but I’ve been reading up on what doctors and the latest research have to say about alcohol addiction. I at least know enough to tell you where the rehab centers near us are, and I have some ideas on how we can pay for them and make sure you have the time to get treated if you decide you’re open to this.

I can’t make you get help, even if I want you to get better, and I’m not going to try. This is your choice, but I hope you’ll at least be willing to talk with me once you’ve had time to process this letter. 

For now, I need to set some lines just to keep my family safe. I know that since you’ve been really struggling financially, you’ve been doing some illegal stuff. We don’t need to talk about that right now, but you need to know that I can’t have you taking anything from me or my family. Please help me keep them safe and secure. If you can’t do that, we won’t be able to help you anymore, and you won’t be able to come over until I’m sure you’re completely sober. 

I love you, brother. I am not here to judge you for problems that I have never had to deal with. But I want you to get help and am willing to be involved in that process. 

If you’re ready, let’s talk about some of the ways you can get treated for your addiction. It isn’t going to be easy, but it’s also much easier to manage an addiction with the help of addiction treatment experts than it is on your own. Even if you have your doubts, let’s at least talk about it.


Your brother, Mike

Dos & Don’ts of Intervention Letters

Planning and careful word choice are critical during interventions. Make sure you think about the words you put on paper. Keep some of the following dos and don’ts in mind as you write:

Do: Deliver Your Letter in a Calm Setting

Whether you intend to read your letter aloud in an actual intervention or just have the individual read it on their own, the message shouldn’t feel like a “gotcha” that you pull out during an argument or as some kind of punishment. 

For the best results, the message should be delivered during a calm, low-stress period of the person’s life, ideally while they’re sober. If something has recently happened that may be overwhelming, such as being fired or experiencing a breakup, wait to deliver the letter.

Don’t: Let Anger Get the Best of You

A person struggling with addiction may have done things that have made you angry or extremely disappointed in the past. Avoid letting any negative feelings bleed into your message. 

The goal of an intervention needs to be maximizing a person’s chance of getting help. If you feel you can’t put your anger aside right now, wait. Don’t deliver them any kind of message that may contain that anger.

Do: Keep Your Message Realistic

While it’s okay to be hopeful in an intervention letter, don’t make grand promises, especially about their recovery. Recovering from addiction is a lengthy, hard process that is going to present serious obstacles even once a person agrees to start that journey. 

Avoid claiming it will be easy or that recovery is going to come quick because that can seriously backfire if they go get treatment and realize it wasn’t correct.

Don’t: Ramble

An especially lengthy letter can muddy your intended message. While an intervention letter shouldn’t be extremely short, keep things focused on important points you need to cover. 

Keep in mind that some of what you want the individual to know is probably best discussed as a conversation, such as the actual logistical details of how they might get treatment. You can also send them a less personal letter or email with those details, such as contact information for providers, once they agree to get treatment or talk with you further.

Do: Familiarize Yourself With the Basics of Addiction

If you’ve never thoroughly researched addiction before, you likely have at least some misconceptions about it. Researching medical topics can be confusing for non-experts, but .gov and .edu resources are good places to start. These resources contain a lot of reliable, well-researched information, much of which is aimed at people without medical backgrounds. 

This information can ensure that you only make accurate claims when talking about addiction. It can also help you clear up any misconceptions a person may have about different addiction treatments.

Don’t: Forget Your Promises

Maybe the most important part of an intervention letter is making good on the help you promise to provide. 

If a person comes to you asking for help getting treatment, that may be your only chance to help them. If you fail to act the way you said you would in your letter, they may feel betrayed and like they overestimated the support they would have in their recovery journey. The distrust this sows may make it even harder for them to get help than before you wrote the letter. The journey ahead might just seem too tough.

Avoid promising anything you can’t deliver on. Don’t offer to drive them to treatment or watch their kids if you’re unable to do so. Be realistic in what you promise, and ensure that everything you write is true.

Do: Enlist Professional Help

If you are staging a full in-person intervention for your loved one, it can be worth it to get guidance from a professional interventionist. This professional will help you plan the event, choosing the team members that will be involved and helping participants write letters that will be read during the intervention.

When an interventionist leads the intervention, it takes some of the pressure off you and other participants during this emotional event. The professional can help to keep the conversation on track, and they can even immediately escort your loved one to treatment if they agree to get help.

Don’t: Bring Up Unrelated Issues

During an intervention, you have the person’s undivided attention. It’s tempting to use this time to talk about all of the disappointing moments between you and the person you love. For example, you may still be upset about an affair that happened long before the addiction began, or you may hold a grudge about something the person said to you while you were dating.

Keep your message focused tightly on the person’s substance abuse. Don’t bring up anything that isn’t part of the addiction.

Do: Prepare for Difficult Moments

Just as it’s not always easy to write an intervention letter, it’s not easy to hear them either. People who participate in interventions can become angry or hostile. Your interventionist can run practice sessions with you and help you learn how to handle conflict. Your interventionist may also intervene if things get too difficult.

If your conversation becomes so upsetting that you feel unsafe, it’s acceptable to quit and reschedule for a different time. It’s also smart to call for a 15-minute break to allow people to regain their composure.

In general, be prepared for this conversation to be difficult. If you know your talk will include some hard moments, you’ll be able to handle them with a little more grace.

Don’t: Use Accusatory Language

As you write your intervention letter, most statements should begin with the words “I think” or “I feel.” Steer clear of statements that begin with the word “you.”

Accusatory language (such as “you always” or “you never”) can seem like direct attacks against the person you love. Instead of convincing this person to get help, you could push them away from you and from treatment itself.

Updated May 7, 2024
  1. Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders (September 2022). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  2. Drug and Alcohol Interventions: Do They Work? (August 2014). Psychology Today.
  3. Language and Addiction: Choosing Words Wisely. (April 2013). American Journal of Public Health.
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