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Ftl cartoonFor my long time email subscribers, you probably know that my speaking engagements and trainings for staff and families is original content, backed by current research. Today, I want to talk to you about  a subject I recently addressed at the Innovations in Recovery Conference in April—Failure to Launch ( FTL)—which in the literature may have gotten it wrong.

According to Psychology Today, the term “failure to launch,” is an increasingly popular way to describe the difficulties some young adults face when transitioning into the next phase of development—a stage which involves greater independence and responsibility.  Although this is how it is commonly thought of in industry, from my experience the seedling for this phenomena may have been planted in the early teen and young adult years by over-anxious and well-meaning parents (often called helicopter parents) who wanted a life much easier than they experienced for their offspring.

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.  – Albert Einstein

The effects of FTL can be clearly observed in 49-50-60 and, yes, even 70 years-old individuals who are in need of behavioral health care interventions. These individuals often still live at home or are supported by their parents and do not work. Even if they have been married and have children, they still act as if they were a child and take little responsibility for their financial well-being. 


Coupled with substance abuse, one easily discovers multiple issues such as process disorders (sex, shopping, hoarding, gambling), physical maladies (chronic pain, early onset dementia), legal issues ( DUI’s, theft, forgery, financial bankruptcy, compulsive spending or gambling ), and mental health (depression, anxiety, narcissistic personality or boarder line personality disorder, mania, etc.). Given the complexity of these issues, it is imperative to have a multi-pronged approach and create multiple entry points for interventions.

On the macro level, this requires us to think outside the box and requires us to collaborate with new health care partners. On a micro and mezzo level, this requires professionals to be taught from a strength-based perspective which says no matter what stage of life a client is in, it’s possible for them to grow, change and take responsibility to the extent possible for their lives and well being.

It requires strength, courage, conviction, knowledge, skills, and resources to reach this fascinating population.

If we stop, pause, and engage in meaningful collaboration with the behavioral health care field—and not just open houses and centers based on the latest insurance payments— we can do this!

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