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 Guardian says 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.