RANDY PATERSON, PhD

How to Treat Failure to Launch

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The world over, sociologists and mental health practitioners are noticing the increasing incidence of young people stuck at the transition between dependent adolescence and independent adulthood.

Called "hikikomori" in Japan (a term now being adopted by many of these individuals, regardless of their country of origin), NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) in Britain, and known mostly by the label "Failure to Launch" in North America, these individuals tend to have low or depressed mood, high levels of anxiety (particularly social anxiety), and significant avoidant tendencies.

Most live at home with parents, are not employed, have few friends or romantic relationships, and have little clarity about the future or their desires for life. Although potentially meeting diagnostic criteria for depression, social anxiety disorder, or avoidant personality, these individuals represent a distinct and surprisingly numerous population.

When I describe the problem at workshops on unrelated topics, a majority of clinicians report having seen clients in this situation. Yet the research literature is scanty and published treatment protocols are nonexistent. What do you do?

This course provides a description of the problem, assessment guidelines, strategies for getting the client on board with therapy, and, most importantly, a set of interventions that can be tailored to the needs of the individual client, using principles from cognitive behaviour therapy and a family systems approach. We consider how and when to involve family, what to do when the parents are the ones seeking treatment, and how we can parent and educate young people to avoid this problem appearing in the first place.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, trained and qualified mental health clinicians will:

  • Be able to recognize and describe the basic characteristics of the hikikomori population.
  • Identify many of the family dynamics that can contribute to the problem.
  • Link treatment strategies for these individuals with their presenting risk factors.
  • Be aware of strategies and considerations involved in incorporating family members in treatment.

Available Online

This course is also available as an on-demand course online here.

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