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Does the ‘Love First’ Intervention Approach Work?

The Love First intervention approach involves family members and friends trying to get someone with a substance use disorder the professional assistance they need.

The Love First approach is less confrontational than other types of interventions.

It is an effective form of intervention that can work particularly well for some people.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention occurs when family members, close friends, coworkers, or other individuals come together to try to persuade a person with a substance use disorder to go into treatment to address it. The idea of the intervention is to get the person to commit to getting treatment.

The intervention is typically planned, rehearsed, and organized beforehand. It will often include a professional interventionist (a person trained in performing interventions) or some type of addiction therapist.

What Is a Love First Intervention?

The Love First intervention was developed by certified interventionist professional Jeff Jay and his wife, Debra Jay, in 2000.

The approach to organizing a Love First intervention will most often begin with a relative or other loved one recruiting three to seven other people to discuss the person’s substance abuse with them. The team meets several times to come up with a plan to encourage the person to get help.

Who Can Be Part of the Team?

The Love First intervention team can consist of spouses or romantic partners, relatives, very close friends, coworkers, or other people who know the person with the substance abuse problem intimately.

This particular type of intervention suggests a limit of three to seven team members to maintain the level of intimacy of the personalized approach that this intervention requires. There should be no fewer than three people and no more than seven people.

The team members are usually people who are very close to the person and directly feel the effects of the person’s substance abuse. The developers of this approach recommend not using children.

How Does the Process Work? Steps 1 to 3

According to the book written by the Jays, there is a general process that is used to organize a Love First intervention.

Form the team. The only limitations are that there should be no more than seven members and no fewer than three members; small children should not be involved; and every member of the team has direct contact with the person with the substance abuse issue and is directly affected by their substance abuse.

Choose key personnel. The next step is to choose a leader (chairperson) and a detail person. Although the chairperson can be anyone, it is generally suggested that the chairperson be a trained professional, such as a professional interventionist.

A professional interventionist is someone trained in performing interventions. They typically have some type of certification.

The detail person is in charge of handling the details of the intervention. This person serves as a liaison between the team and the chairperson. They record all details of the meetings, make sure everyone is performing their function, and confirm that the intervention is organized and rehearsed.

Write a letter. In the next step, the team members must write a letter to the person with the substance abuse problem. The letter has four sections:

  1. The first part of the letter should be a description of the relationship between the person with a substance use disorder and the person writing the letter, highlighting the important aspects of the relationship and how much love is present.
  2. The second part of the letter discusses specific aspects of the person’s substance abuse that directly impacted the person writing the letter. Careful attention is made not to make the descriptions aggressive or confrontational.

  3. The third part of the letter states how substance abuse is affecting both the person with the substance abuse issue and the team member and their relationship.

The final part of the letter is referred to as the “bottom line.” This is placed on a separate sheet of paper and lists three consequences that will take place if the person does not get help for their substance abuse issue. Consequences can vary depending on the person’s relationship with the affected individual.

What Kinds of Consequences Are Given?

The types of consequences will vary greatly. The consequences are dependent on the relationship that the member of the team has with the person. 
This could mean some individuals may choose not to have any more contact with the person if they do not seek treatment; others may withdraw financial aid or social support; and others may use the court system to stop the person from interacting with their children.

The consequences need to be substantial enough to motivate the individual to consider getting treatment.

The entire letter should be direct and concise. It is typically recommended that it is only one to two pages long.

Steps 4 to 7

The remaining part of the Love First intervention preparation includes the following steps:

Read and edit the letters. Team members then read and reread the letters repeatedly until the letters are considered acceptable by the entire team. It is important to remove references to anger, hostility, blame, and judgments in the letters. Make sure they express love and concern. Often, letters are rewritten several times.

The team decides the order in which the letters will be read to the person when the intervention is carried out. Each person reads their own letter.

Prepare for objections. As the team continues to meet, and the letters are finalized, team members begin to discuss the types of objections the person with the substance abuse issue will have and plan responses to these objections. This allows the intervention to move smoothly.

Prepare treatment alternatives for the person. Team members do all the research regarding available treatment options. The options should be agreed upon by the entire intervention team. The admission process, financial aspects, and other arrangements are made before the intervention is performed.

Rehearse the intervention. The team members rehearse the entire intervention ahead of time. The details of when and where the intervention will take place are decided upon. One member is chosen to bring the person to the intervention, as the person is not informed that an intervention will take place until it begins.

Performing the Intervention

The team should perform the intervention when it is likely that the person will be the most receptive. If the person is under the influence of drugs or intoxicated, it’s not the right time. Often, when someone is suffering from a hangover or the aftereffects of drug use, they may be more receptive to this type of discussion.

If the person becomes confrontational or aggressive at any point in the process, the team stops the intervention and waits for the person to calm down until they continue. 
If the person agrees to enter a treatment program, they are immediately taken to the designated program. If they reject treatment, the consequences of not getting help are enacted. Further interventions can be performed later if needed.

After the Intervention

If the person enters treatment, team members are expected to continue to provide support as needed.

The intervention does not simply stop with the person entering treatment. Team members provide ongoing support.

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Does the Love First Intervention Work?

Aside from anecdotal evidence and a few small scattered studies, there is very little research that attempts to look at the effectiveness of one intervention type versus another.

This type of research is difficult to implement in much the same way that researching the effectiveness of 12-step groups can be problematic due to issues with anonymity, the personalized nature of these interventions, and the subjectivity involved in the outcomes.

Some research suggests that similar types of interventions may be effective. In addition, even though people who support the use of the Love First intervention consider its major strength to be its nonconfrontational approach, most of the research has suggested that the overall outcomes for coercive and noncoercive approaches to get people into treatment for substance abuse issues are relatively equivalent.
However, the strengths of the Love First approach are its emphasis on organization, uniformity of purpose among intervention team members, follow-up support, and demand for an immediate response from the person with the substance abuse problem.

Since this approach can be complicated and difficult to organize, it is strongly suggested that you enlist the help of a professional interventionist familiar with the Love First approach.

Sources

(1986) Merits of simple intervention. In Treating Addictive Behaviors (pp. 375-387). Springer Publishing. Retrieved June 2019 from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4613-2191-0_19

(2018) Love First Clinical Intervention. Love First, Inc. Retrieved June 2019 from https://lovefirst.net/clinical-intervention/

(2010) Love First: A Family's Guide to Intervention. Simon and Schuster. (January 2004) Outcomes with the ARISE approach to engaging reluctant drug‐and alcohol‐dependent individuals in treatment. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved June 2019 from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/ADA-200037533

(January 2018) Principles of effective treatment. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved June 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

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