How Are Failure-to-Launch Syndrome and Addiction Treated?

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When young adults reach their 20s, most have ambitions for the future, are working towards a career, and are not entirely dependent on their parents. They are able to navigate life as a functional, self-sufficient adult. However, some young adults stall in the developmental process.

Failure to launch syndrome is a term used to describe young adults (ages 18-28) who experience symptoms such as feeling stuck, lack of motivation, and isolation from their peers. While this is not an official mental health diagnosis, it is a commonly occurring phenomenon among otherwise capable young adults who remain dependent on their parents for too long.

Failure to launch syndrome isn’t just laziness–it is a phenomenon that can have devastating effects on a person’s well-being and personal development. Lack of motivation, low-self esteem, and isolation can increase the risk for substance abuse and addiction. This is one reason why failure-to-launch and addiction often occur at the same time.

Those who struggle with these conditions require specialized treatment that addresses the root causes and symptoms of both disorders. Treatment for failure to launch syndrome and addiction typically involves individualized therapy, life-skills training, and lifestyle changes.

What Therapies are Used in the Treatment of Failure to Launch Syndrome and Addiction?

Addiction therapies often include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing (MI), family therapy, biofeedback and neurofeedback, and many more. Fortunately, several of these therapies can also be tailored to treat failure to launch syndrome.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most widely used therapies in addiction treatment. This approach helps patients identify and change negative thought processes so they make better decisions and react to situations in a healthy way.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Commitment Therapy

MI helps patients identify internal sources of motivation–both for staying sober and staying motivated in daily life. Commitment therapy, on the other hand, helps increase patients’ abilities to stay present at the moment and dedicated to their responsibilities.

Family Behavior Therapy

Family therapy is helpful in the treatment of both addiction and failure to launch syndrome. It addresses the whole family’s concerns and makes sure the whole family unit gets the support it needs. However, family therapy also addresses the patterns of interaction between the patient and his or her family members. This can help improve family relationships, promote independence, and improve communication.

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

A type of therapy where biofeedback from brain activity is examined and changed to help reinforce healthy brain functioning.

Life-Skills Training and Career Counseling for Failure to Launch Syndrome

A major part of recovery involves learning and mastering essential life skills. Since lack of motivation or willingness can be problems among people with failure to launch syndrome, they may not have the same skills the average person does. Learning these skills in a therapeutic manner can help patients achieve independence and long-term sobriety.

Life skills training may include:

  • Nutritional counseling
  • Educational workshops
  • Goal setting
  • Organization and planning
  • Accountability
  • Acceptance
  • Adaptability
  • Stress management
  • Time management

Patients should also participate in career counseling. Since many with failure to launch syndrome are unemployed and lack the motivation or commitment to get and maintain a job, career counseling is very important. Career counseling helps patients explore and discover their interests, utilize their strengths, increase accountability, and develop a plan to meet work or educational goals.

Positive Lifestyle Changes

In addition to behavioral therapy and life-skills training, making positive lifestyle changes is essential in the treatment of and recovery from failure to launch and addiction. Lifestyle changes that can be highly beneficial include:

  • Regular sleep schedule
  • Planned routine
  • Healthy diet
  • Self-care
  • Work-life balance
  • Decreasing screen time

These changes can help promote motivation, independence, and overall health.

Supporting a Loved One Who Struggles With Failure to Launch and Substance Abuse

Friends and family may be tempted to help their loved ones in any way possible, however, it’s important to know that neither of these conditions can be “fixed” or “cured.” Both failure to launch and addiction require family support and, most importantly, professional counseling.

Still, there are things families should avoid doing. Families should avoid enabling bad behaviors. When it comes to addiction, enabling often comes in the form of covering up lies or allowing drug/alcohol use. When it comes to failure to launch syndrome, enabling usually comes in the form of paying someone else’s bills or providing capable individuals with the things they should be able to do themselves (food, shelter, etc.).

Healthy approaches families can take to support a loved one who is struggling include:

  • Actively provide encouragement and let the person know they are capable of reaching their goals
  • Help the individual identity and use their personal strengths
  • Don’t focus on the person’s weaknesses
  • Lead by example by engaging in healthy coping skills and self-care
  • Set boundaries
  • Encourage the individual to go to counseling
  • Participate in family therapy with the individual

Find Treatment for Failure to Launch Syndrome and Addiction Today

Here at New Jersey Interventions, we know how devastating it can be to watch someone who is so capable and full of opportunity throw their life away to drugs, alcohol, or mental health. That’s why our team is dedicated to helping individuals find the treatment they need to address the root causes of their struggles, heal the mind, body, and spirit, and create an actionable plan for the future.

If you or a loved one are in need of resources or assistance, please contact us today for a confidential, risk-free assessment. A specialist is available 24-hours a day to take your call and help you get the support you need.

Medically Reviewed: February 28, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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