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Health and Spirituality Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.


My adult son recently graduated from a prestigious college but is having trouble getting started on a future. He sees himself as depressed and is involved in therapy as well as several other self-help programs. What is the most helpful stance? Should I put pressure on him to get a job, put a deadline on him, be patient?


There could be a number of reasons why your son is having some difficulty. Let's assume, though, that his difficulty is not connected to something like a disabling depression or phobia. Let's assume that he is simply afraid.

More and more we are seeing young adults caught in the grip of fear about creating their own lives. As such, it becomes more common for young adults to be living at home into their late twenties and thirties. In part, this seems to be due to increasing emphasis we put on productivity as the primary source for good self-esteem. In part, too, there is a spiritual issue at work here. Your son hopefully is intent on making his life meaningful. Perhaps he fears failure in some manner, afraid that whatever he undertakes will ultimately have no impact.

It's good that he's working with a therapist. If stress builds up between the two of you, you might also consider consultation with a family therapist who can perhaps help you both explore the reasons behind his difficulty in leaving home.

As far as putting deadlines on him, I'd say that depends upon the effort you see him putting out to resolve the situation. Tough love is usually easier said than done but can have some impact. Keep in mind that the goal is to help your son leave home successfully. That may require a balance of patience and toughness.


Richard B. Patterson is a clinical psychologist in private practice in El Paso, TX. He is the author of three books on psychology and spirituality.


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