Difference between Tough Love & Love First Intervention Approaches?

How can you convince someone to enter an addiction treatment program, even when they aren’t ready to admit that they have an addiction? An intervention could be the answer. In this structured conversation, a person with an addiction has the opportunity to listen to caring family members describe what an addiction is, why they think the person has an addiction, and what can be done about it. This can be a very motivating conversation, and if it is done right, it could help to compel a person with an addiction to get better.

There are several ways to hold an intervention, and it is important to choose the right method to reach a person in need. These are two different types of interventions your family could choose from: a Tough Love intervention and a Love First intervention.

A Tough Love Intervention vs  The Love First Model

A Tough Love Intervention

Tough love drug addiction intervention methods to protected fence around the family

The Tough Love model is an old one. In fact, according to an article in Philly.com, the Tough Love program got its start back in the 1980s, when two drug-and-alcohol counselors tried to help their clients understand how to grab back a sense of power, even when someone in the family is in the grips of an addiction.To these counselors, fighting an addiction also means protecting the family from the damage an addiction can cause. They reason that people who have addictions do not really want to harm their families, but these addicted people may simply be unable to bend their habits in a different direction. They want to change, but they cannot. And without changing, the whole family is in jeopardy. A Tough Love intervention aims to stop that damage by creating a sort of protected fence around the family, so the contagion of addiction cannot seep through.

An intervention in the Tough Love model focuses on the problems and changes an addiction can cause. The family meets well before the intervention is scheduled to start, and they are encouraged to think about:

  • Money lost due to the addiction
  • Arrests caused by the addiction
  • The way the person has changed due to substance abuse
  • The fears they have about how the abuse will impact them in the future

Then, the family writes letters that contain these thoughts. The letters may contain expressions of love and support, but they often contain page after page about worry and fear and stress. Families are concerned about how the addiction will harm them, so they express that in their intervention letters.

In addition, an intervention letter in the Tough Love model contains some sort of threat or promise about what will happen if the addiction is not addressed. Professionals who follow this model call it a “consequence,” and they believe it is a vital part of what can motivate a person to get care. An interventionist interviewed for The Guardiansays common consequences cited in letters include reporting family members to the police, reporting family members to some sort of legislative body (to force a job loss), or suggesting that people with addictions will be followed by a private investigator if they will not enter treatment.

These steps seem extreme, and they are, but people who follow this model believe that addictions can also be extreme. They want people to get the right help in order to avoid those consequences. But families that follow this model may not feel compelled to think about what happens after the intervention. They may not seek out a treatment program just yet. They may not be at all convinced that their conversation will change anything.


The Love First Model

Substance abuse intervention love first model

The Love First intervention has its roots in the 2000s, when families were looking for help with addictions that did not involve threatening their children or cutting off ties with the people they loved. These families wanted an addiction to stop, but they did not feel that threats and consequences were the right approach to take. They wanted something softer and gentler, and they got it with Love First.

This intervention, according to a website created by its founders, is designed to boost the role of support in a standard intervention. The founders believe that most people who walk into an intervention expect to be attacked, ridiculed, and somehow shamed into getting the help they need. The founders of this intervention decided to turn that expectation upside down by creating a format that is focused on how much the family loves and supports the person who has an addiction.

An intervention in the Love First format begins with an expression of support and admiration. Families are encouraged to think about:

  • How much they admire the person with the addiction
  • A time in which the person had provided key support
  • Examples of amazing things the addicted person has done
  • Examples of the things the addicted person might do in the future

The founders suggest, on their website, that this form of letter will be surprising to the person who has the addiction. Those messages of pride and thanks can work to thaw the individual’s resistance, and they can allow the addicted person to listen to the rest of the letter with lowered defenses.

Before these letters are read, the family spends a great deal of time learning about what addictions are and how they work. They can use that research to guide what they write in their letters, and they can use that information to help them come up with good options for treatment.

A document provided by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports that some 85 percent of people approached by an intervention accept help that same day. That means families should be prepared with a next step, just in case the conversation goes well. Research in advance can help families to know just where the person should go for help, so the conversation can end and treatment can begin on the very same day. In a Love First intervention, the family expects success and they prepare for it.

Not the Only Option

While both of these intervention options are very different, and one or the other might seem like a perfect fit, it is worth remembering that these are not the only options for families dealing with addiction. For example, in Psychology Today, a writer reports on a different form of intervention that involves a person with an addiction meeting one-on-one with a counselor, with no family present. That could be a good option for addiction recovery too.

What is important is to get the conversation started. That is the best way to make the damage of an addiction clear. It could be what people need in order to get better.

We've helped over 9,000 people start recovery. Are you ready?
Let us help you get started with the rest of your life! Escape to the country to recovery in New Jersey’s premier drug rehab & treatment center. Located only an hour from New York City.