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Four best practices for addressing failure to launch and substance use in young adults

December 31, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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The overlap between "failure to launch" young adults—18-to-31 year olds opting to live under Mom and Dad’s roof and not advance their personal and professional lives—and substance abuse has become extremely common in our culture. The percentage of millennials living at home is 36%, up from 32% in 2007, according to data. 

Many factors contribute to this trend, says Paul Auchterlonie, CEO of Decision Point, including overall job availability and current cost of living, as well as what he calls the extension of adolescence well into the 20s. Thrown into the mix is the increased availability of substances, particularly opioids. 

Red flags to watch out for include failure to want or get a job; continuously extending cohabitation expectations; excuses about not following through with opportunities; and an overall lack of goal-setting and motivation.

Best practices 

Auchterlonie says it’s important to compartmentalize and understand the individual issues with which the client is presenting. “Motivational interviewing on the front end is critical,” he says. “A program should really assess and spend time doing a true, thorough assessment of the individual in order to know who’s coming in and what their needs are. A lot of times we’ll try to treat just the addiction or the lack of educational planning.”

Rather than singular approaches, Auchterlonie adds, have an overall strategy that addresses all of the individual’s issues simultaneously and appropriately. It’s critical to determine where they currently are, where they want to be (what goals and dreams they gave up on) and where they are going before being able to develop a successful treatment plan.  

And it's not just about the patient. Parents can often be enablers to the behavior without even realizing it, he says. Because this is a systemic problem, involving the family in the treatment process is necessary.

“It’s really about how we educate and address the issues going on in that system—in that [unique] family—and help them understand,” Auchterlonie says. “It’s important to keep the primary focus on the young person, but have a tight, secondary focus on the family and the overall goals that they have long-term.”

Finally, encourage young people in treatment to have fun and to seek out healthy alternatives to drug use.  

“Young people get in these habitual [cycles] where they’re relying on drinking and drugs to have a good time,” he says. “This whole concept of a healthy lifestyle and recovery and figuring out where you want to go in life, nothing is going to happen without being able to laugh at yourself and figuring out what healthy activities are fun for you. Those are just as important to me as the clinical [element].” 

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