6 Tricks for Writing an Intervention Letter to Your Teenager
Shelly’s downward spiral started at age 14 with a few pills for her anxiety – now 15 years old, she pops pills regularly and drinks heavily most days.
Her family and friends are extremely concerned. Shelly doesn’t see the extent of her issues and denies having a problem. Her loved ones know it’s time to stage an intervention.
Words Really Matter
A professional interventionist sets everything up and tells each of Shelly’s loved ones to write her a letter. As they write these letters, they’re told to keep the following essential aspects in mind:
- Love, Not Hate: Shelly needs to feel love from her friends and family. It‘s crucial for her to know they care about her. Each letter opens with how much they love Shelly and how important she is in their lives. They make no statements that judge, condemn or accuse.
- Pride, Not Punishment: After expressing love for Shelly, the letters mention things she’s done to make them proud. They also talk about times when Shelly was a source of support or encouragement for them.Her sister’s letter reads: “I’ve always looked up to you, Shelly. When I was being bullied, you were the one who taught me how to stand up for myself. When I was scared about giving a speech in class, you encouraged me and gave me the confidence I needed to get through it.” Each person mentions a positive impact Shelly made in their lives. They don’t mention wanting to punish Shelly, or that she deserves to pay for her actions. Instead, the statements focus in on Shelly’s previous and potential impact in their lives.
- Specifics, Not Vague Ideas: Following this encouragement, the letters give specific examples of Shelly’s destructive behavior. Her best friend voices her concerns, “You are the one I talk to about everything. But now, when I call, you’re high or drunk. Sometimes you are passed out and can’t talk at all. When we hang out, you sneak away to snort a pill or a drink. You don’t think I notice, but I know you aren’t just going to the bathroom.” Afterward, Shelly’s loved ones offer specific suggestions for treatment. They give her information about a teen rehab facility. They explain what’s involved and what she can expect. This provides her with information in concrete terms, rather than a vague “We think you need some help.”
- Support, Not Solitary Confinement: Once they tell Shelly about rehab, they reassure her that she isn’t being sent away because she’s bad. She won’t be alone in the process. They tell her they’re going to be there for her and plan to visit her in treatment.
- Action, Not Ending: Each letter concludes with a call to action. Rather than a simple “Love, Mom,” the letters end with requests for Shelly to accept help. Her dad writes, “I love you and don’t like seeing these drugs hurt you. I’m here to help. We all are. Will you accept our help? Love, Dad”