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A Family’s Guide to a Love First Intervention

By Alanna Hilbink

You have choices when it comes to your loved one’s intervention. Any intervention should be carefully planned, guided, calm and loving. But within those guidelines, not all interventions are the same. There are a variety of intervention types, and one of these is called a Love First intervention.

What Is the Love First Model of Intervention?

A Love First intervention, as the name implies, puts love first. This intervention model emphasizes staying positive and supportive. It structures interventions around the goal of treatment and is based on the idea that addiction is a medical issue. It focuses on the power of a family coming together to express their love and concern. So how do you hold a Love First intervention? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Come together as a unified group
  • Voice your concerns and get all the facts on the table
  • Create a shared goal and message of support
  • Prepare letters expressing love, appreciation and concern
  • Practice reading these letters and responding to any and all potential reactions
  • Ask your loved one to participate in treatment
  • Commit to walking through recovery with them
  • Create a positive affirmation or image of what life will be like after active addiction is over

Jeff Jay, co-creator of Love First, emphasizes that all of these steps should be done with love and in order to reach the heart, not the brain, of your family member. “Addiction takes over the brain, and you can’t argue, reason or negotiate with addiction,” explains Jay. “But the person you love is still there, and his or her heart is the battleground.”1 You can reach out with love, and you can make a difference.

Jeff Jay

Want to hear more from Jeff Jay about making compassion the centerpiece of an intervention? Listen to his full interview  with the Recovery Unscripted podcast.

Do I Need to Hire a Professional?

Hugging at interventionJay first published the Love First model of intervention with the idea that it was something families could do together, at home and on their own. While this is always an option, if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused or just want a little extra support, it’s always a good idea to talk with a pro.

Working with an interventionist or other recovery specialist can increase your chance of success. It also takes a lot of the stress and uncertainty out of planning. When you hire an interventionist, you don’t have to have all the answers yourself. You don’t have to worry if you are saying the right thing. You don’t have to worry about figuring out how to communicate with someone who has become so difficult to reach. A professional will help you plan, review letters to make them the most effective and connect you to the right treatment resources for your family member. A professional can make sure you keep love first and that you do it in the best, safest and most successful way.

An interventionist will also help you take the next steps after an intervention. As the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence shares, “A substance use or addiction professional will take into account the particular circumstances surrounding the alcohol or drug use, suggest the best approach, and provide guidance for what type of treatment and follow-up plan is likely to work best.”2 A Love First intervention particularly emphasizes this “what comes after” phase and stays with families as they work through recovery together, before, during and after treatment. You don’t have to worry about finding the right treatment program, arranging travel or figuring out how to keep the family involved. This is all automatically part of the process.

Help with holding an intervention Check out 10 Tips on Holding an Intervention

A Love First Intervention and Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Intervention and professional support become even more important if your loved one has a co-occurring mental health issue complicating the situation — and chances are he or she does. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shares that in 2014, 7.9 million Americans struggled with both addiction and a mental health concern.3

A Love First intervention takes this fact into consideration. This intervention model is flexible. Group size, setting and specific approaches can be customized. Jay explains that, for example, a person with depression might benefit from seeing that they aren’t alone and isolated, and therefore might respond best to hearing messages of love and support from a large group of people. However, someone with anxiety may be best approached by just a few of his or her closest and most trusted family members.

What About Other Types of Interventions?

A Love First model of intervention isn’t your only choice, but it may be the best option for your family. The Johnson Model is the model most often seen on TV and in movies, and many other models take this more confrontational, although still loving, approach. Most models focus on the family, recognizing, like Love First, that this is where addiction has the greatest impact — and where the greatest healing can begin.

Most modern intervention models recognize addiction as a disease and share an understanding that recovery comes through support, not blame. No single approach to addiction recovery is right for everyone, but a Love First intervention can be a compassionate, loving and effective way to approach an addicted loved one.


1 Jay, Jeff. “#54: Keeping Love First with Jeff Jay.” Recovery Unscripted Podcast, March 7, 2018.

2Intervention — Tips and Guidelines.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, July 25, 2015.

3Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, September 20, 2017.

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