Despite the best-laid plans and desires to implement life goals, some emerging adults have trouble making good things happen. They struggle more than seems necessary to succeed at work, school, and/or in relationships. These experiences – often categorized as “failure to launch" – can cause a lot of worry and confusion for individuals and their families.
If this is happening to you (or a family member), you might be feeling intense anger, fear, guilt, or shame. You might feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless. You might have lethargy – or, conversely, an anxious high energy. You might experience bouts of depression. Above all else, you could wonder: Why this is happening to me?
Please know that you can surmount these experiences, and get back on track. One way to do so? A therapy type known as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Here’s some more information on failure to launch, and how DBT can help you (or a loved one) overcome it.
Do I have failure to launch?
Though everyone’s experience is different, you may have failure to launch if you’re experiencing some, or all, of the following symptoms simultaneously:
- Low motivation and persistence levels
- Social anxiety
- Severe lack of confidence
- Easily prone to stress
- High, unreciprocated expectations of others
You may not know how to transform anxiety into excitement to gain motivation for action. You may feel that other people just got it and have left you in the lurch.
You could be right: There might, of course, be skill sets that you don’t yet have. You can learn them, and you can make your life work.
A brief introduction to DBT
DBT helps clients develop four central skill sets:
- Mindfulness: Being present in the moment, how to observe yourself and the world around you in way that’s curious and nonjudgmental
- Emotion regulation: Identifying your emotions as they occur; learning to manage your reactions to them
- Distress tolerance: Coping with unpleasant situations and emotions in healthy ways
- Relational effectiveness: Interacting with other people thoughtfully; resolving conflicts effectively
DBT can be practiced in individual or group settings.
DBT works for failure to launch in these ways
With failure to launch difficulties, you may need help clarifying values and attaining goals. It might be challenging to develop, sequence, and implement strategies and tactics to build a successful foundation across areas of your life.
DBT can help, since it teaches you how to:
- Capitalize on strengths to overcome struggles
- Improve the capacity to build a life of worth in all aspects of your life – including personal, professional, school, family, friends, hobbies, etc.
- Reduce non-life-affirming, non-effective behaviors by understanding their function and replacing them with more effective ones
If your child has failure to launch, know that you can help them, too!
Through support, conversation, action, and/or therapy, parents can help their children:
- By radically accepting the current reality and learning coping strategies to help with change.
- By understanding that development is non-linear and acquiring validation skills.
- By recognizing that growth is uneven and learning to harness successes to help in areas of difficulty.
- By experiencing a sense of hope for a life of worth for your child and yourselves.
- By helping your children develop independence and interdependence so that everyone becomes more effective.
If helpful, seek a professional who can help you understand the processes of teaching, learning, problem solving, emotional transformation, and self-generation of power and effectiveness.
Look for these qualities in a DBT therapist
When seeking a therapist for DBT to help you or your loved one overcome FTL, look for the following qualities:
- A good teacher.
- Someone who is committed, with passion, who will work hard with you to help you develop and implement practical solutions to your problems.
- Someone who uses examples, actions, and activities to help you build and refine a toolset that you put into active practice.
- Someone who wants the best for you and through the dynamic relationship can help foster effective change that you own.
- Someone who meets you where you are, and who can teach you skills to feel capable when being and doing in the real world.
- Someone who improves your ability to transfer your skills across domains of your life, and improve your senses of agency and purpose.
The best treatment for failure to launch needs to integrate three domains: Psychological, Educational, and Entrepreneurial. Together, these help build Self-Determination – the qualities of Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness.
Seek someone who will help you start to reap the benefits as soon as possible with tools to implement immediately. With the right assistance, you can reach your goals and learn to live with joy.