Launched & Unraveled: What To Do When Substance Use or Emotional Issues Disrupt College Plans with Joanna Lilley

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Launched & Unraveled: What To Do When Substance Use or Emotional Issues Disrupt College Plans with Joanna Lilley

The transition from high school to college is never easy and some teens get to this phase in life and stall or “bomb out” with emotional challenges like anxiety and depression, or use substances to cope with the stress and demands of college life. 

Parents can find themselves writing huge tuition checks for college semesters that may end up unfinished and questioning what to do with their young adult student who isn’t thriving. It’s a frustrating place to be when other kids seem to be doing fine and yours is barely making it through, but what options are there?

This episode will be a welcome dose of reality and hope for you if your student is unraveling as they leave high school, struggle in college or are just stalled altogether. 

Joanna is a consultant who specializes in these floundering young people, helping them navigate the path through higher education, which may not look like the stereotypical 4-years on a college campus. Joanna delivers a ton of value and information in our conversation, so listen in to hear:

  • why some students are better off taking a year away from college to deal with their emotional or substance use issues
  • why it’s important and helpful to have someone who isn’t the parent helping to work out a solution when college isn’t working out
  • 3  legal documents she recommends to all parents of college kids
  • the 3 universal end-goals parents have when they engage with her in a consulting capacity
  • the concept of bringing the floor up to meet a young adult rather than letting them fall to rock-bottom
  • the question all parents have when they start working with her


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SPEAKERS: Brenda Zane, Joanna Lilley
Welcome. I am so glad that you’re listening today. Today’s episode is going to be incredibly helpful to any parent who has a teen who is either in the process of transitioning from high school to college, or who has gone off to college and is struggling or who has bombed out altogether. There is this term failure to launch that’s often used for teens in this phase, but I think it’s really negative. And it’s I kind of like to think of them instead as being stalled or launched but unraveling. And when you consider what COVID has done to disrupt the college experience, it is even more complex. My guest today specializes in helping families in this exact scenario. It’s all she does. So she knows it very, very well. I got to have a conversation with Joanna Lilley who has a private practice, Lilley Consulting, and Joanna holds a master’s degree in counseling from West Virginia University. She is also a nationally certified counselor. And before she got into the consulting field, she worked with struggling adolescents and young adults for over 10 years. She worked with both state run and private wilderness therapy programs, and she also coached students on academic probation. She also served on a university treatment team for students who deferred college suspension by opting to go into an in house recovery program. And then after all of that, she made the professional leap to start supporting this young adult population and their families in a consulting capacity. She is a straight shooter super honest, direct. And fun, and I know you will get so much out of this. So please listen to now to this really informative and enlightening conversation with Joanna Lilley. 
Welcome Joanna to hope stream. I’m so glad to have you here today. And for you to take the time. I know people in your role are incredibly busy. And it seems like there’s always fires to put out. So I really appreciate you kind of coordinating off a chunk of time for me today and to share everything that you do with our listeners. So thank you for being here.
Joanna  05:32
Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Brenda.
Brenda  05:34
I do like to start off my podcast with just a fun question to let people get to know you, Joanna a little bit better personally. And so I’d love to ask you, what did you think you wanted to be when you were growing up?
Joanna  05:50
Um, I it’s funny how, you know, in reflection, when I was in, specifically in high school, I remember being very business driven. So like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I know that I’m going to be a successful businesswoman. That was like my naivete. There was no…
Brenda  06:13
How cool!
Joanna  06:15
It’s totally full, full circle, because I actually entered college as a business major. And that lasted for a total of seven days. Because I did not like my economics class and was like, I need to do something that really sparks joy for me. And so when a very different route, but here I am, you know, almost 20 years later, as a as an entrepreneur, you know, I see myself as a successful business owner. So it’s ironic that I’m actually where I thought I would be, certainly did not think that I would be owning a consulting practice. But that was my life’s journey for me to get where I wanted to be. But it’s kind of funny. Other than that, I have no idea what I wanted to be when I was, you know, like an elementary or middle school, I think that was just, you know, maybe an artist or something like that. And I still do art on the side. So, you know, everything’s kind of full circle.
Brenda  07:13
That is super cool. So there was just something in you that you knew you were gonna have that business sense, and but you found a way to really marry it with a passion of yours that sounds like,
Joanna  07:23
Brenda  07:24
Well, I always love to hear the background, because people have such interesting paths to getting to where they are. And I would love if you could just maybe give some background on your path to get where you are. And like you said, you didn’t imagine you’d be owning a consulting company. But how did you become interested in working with families and with young people? I always think it’s fascinating, because the work that you do, you’re really intersecting with people during their life in a really, really challenging time. So this is not like you’re a wedding planner, or something, you know, somebody who’s doing like, really fun, like coming alongside people when they’re in the best time of their lives. So how did how did that come to be for you?
Joanna  08:07
Right? Well, again, it circles back to my undergraduate experience. One of my degrees was actually in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. And so I actually, upon graduation, worked seasonally and continued to find myself drawn towards these therapeutic populations. So I actually worked for a wilderness therapy program as a field staff. I also worked for the Department of Children and Family Services as a seasonal wilderness staff for a state run wilderness program. I also worked in short term adolescent residential treatment program, actually, that was kind of the heaviest time of my, like, early adulthood years, because I would do a week, you know, eight days on at a wilderness therapy program, and then my six days off, or not resting and recharging it was actually spending six days working at this short term, adolescent residential program. So needless to say, it was really heavy.  
Joanna  09:10
But I constantly found myself drawn towards the crisis, or like how to get through the crisis. And so, you know, I didn’t want to be field staff forever and no knock to those who that is their life’s calling. It was not mine. And so I actually went back and got my master’s in counseling thinking that maybe one day I’ll come back and be a wilderness therapist. But it’s funny how everything kind of plays out because up until grad school, I’d only ever worked with adolescents. And then while in grad school, I actually had an assistantship coaching students that were struggling academically, so working with young adults for the first time and so realizing that just because you’re legally 18 does not mean that developmentally you are an adult. And so having these just amazing and eye opening conversations with these young people that were struggling not because they weren’t academically capable it was because they were dealing with mental health issues. They were dealing with grief and trauma, they were dealing with addiction or some, you know, substance abuse. I mean, it was the existential crisis, to a tee for these young people. 
Joanna  10:24
And I saw, I just fell in love, quite honestly, with working with this young population. Again, it was like, I felt like I was still working with my adolescents. But here they are, legally, in a place where I don’t have to communicate with parents, it is like they are an adult, but how do you navigate some of the complexities of, you know, the reality of adulthood? And what can happen to you that maybe your parents can’t help with. And so I totally veered off course, here, I was going to grad school thinking, I’m just going to get my master’s, just get my master’s – and go back to working with adolescents again. And it was just like, no way I have to see where this takes me. So I actually ended up working in higher education for five years. Same thing coaching students, but it really was like, how do I get in to help some of these young people get connected to the resources on campus, and then off campus. And so the more I did that, the more I became a little bit jet jaded, quite honestly. 
Joanna  11:30
And I have no problem being transparent and talking about this, that higher education really is a, it’s a business. And so for the students that were struggling at the end of the day, if they could hack it, then they could hack it, if they couldn’t, then the university had no, no real agenda to try to save them to stay other than the fact that they would be paying tuition. And so that is really where the lightbulb started to go off for me, because at that point, too, now, I’m like, 10 years past, working in wilderness therapy, knowing that consultants existed, but only having the lens of consultants that worked with adolescents. And here I am saying, I don’t want to work for higher ed anymore. I know there are still some amazing programs that exist that are helping with, you know, just doing a fantastic job with mental health treatment with addiction treatment with, you know, trauma work. Also, knowing too, that there are some really shady programs that also exist in wanting to be avoidant, and helping navigate young people getting connected to the ethical placements. The placements that were will truly be like the place to help them rather than the start of multiple placements. 
Joanna  12:49
I just kind of took this giant leap of faith, leaving higher ed like, I’m going to start this practice, I am working at one university, and I’m seeing hundreds of students leave. And I still call them students, because that’s who I work with, I work with college students that are taking a break from college, because it’s not where they need to be. And a lot of them are struggling because they do need to get help. And they’ve managed to make it all the way through to higher ed. And then they’re just starting to unravel. And so I’m just eating up the experience, being able to help these young people get stable and sober and redirect to where they need to be. And then also simultaneously working with the parents to learn how to actually become a parent of a young adult. And that looks like me not doing the coaching me connecting them to their own therapists or their own parent coaches, or their own parent trainers, or whatever resource they need to also make their own transition. So I am, I’m loving my job. Totally.
Brenda  13:51
That is so cool. So wow, there’s a lot in there. I guess the first thing that that strikes me is that you’ve really seen this from all different angles- from the wilderness angle, you know, with younger adolescents, and then, as a therapist, and then in residential treatment, so you’ve kind of seen kids and young adults in lots of different phases. And I think that’s really important. Because you have a, you have a really good context for if you’re dealing with somebody who’s a little bit older, maybe in their early 20s, you kind of know where they might have come from and some of those struggles that they might have encountered, which is super valuable. And and I love that you said you’re sort of drawn to the crisis or helping people get through the crisis because I think a lot of people can look at, like the work that you do or that I do and say why in the world would anybody want to do that? Just doesn’t sound fun. But I think there is something really satisfying and rewarding and helping those people and when you see the changes. Maybe you can just kind of break down exactly what it is you do. So we know you work with college students are these, how does this happen? Is does a student actually get in touch with you? Or is it typically a parent? Or what is that scenario usually look like when you get engaged with a family?
Joanna  15:18
Yeah, it’s it is typically the parent. However, the young adults are involved in communicating with me directly. And so whether that’s, and I should actually back up and say, I have had a handful of young adults that have contacted me directly, and then circled back to their parents and said, I need to, we need this person to help us navigate this process. Oh, that’s cool. Um, it’s obviously very different. When it’s the young adult, that’s, that’s the one driving it. I feel like that’s, it is. It’s not the anomaly, but it is fewer and far between, it’s usually the parents that are contacting me as their young adult is, you know, signing the paperwork, as we speak, to take a leave of absence or a medical leave from their college campus, and the parents are terrified. What is happening? Where do we go? What do we do? And how quickly can this happened. And so that is where I kind of lean in really hard to just kind of assessing the situation, being able to connect as quickly as possible to the young adult knowing sometimes, too, that that direct line of communication actually does not happen until they already land in residential level of care, whatever it is, kind of the level of care that they need. And that is also a little bit of an anomaly. Because it’s often the parents contacting me, me connecting with a young adult, and then having a voice in the choice and the process, but also hearing from me, not their parents, why are these programs or why is this program being recommended to me, so I can really kind of break that down for them from a clinical perspective, from a, hey, this is what you told me you wanted for goals, this placement, or these people are actually going to be able to get you to where you want to be, in addition to providing that clinical level of care, or whatever type of treatment modality it is that they need to kind of work through. So I’ll hit pause there and let you ask me more questions about, you know, what does it look like beyond that? Or any questions that you might have?
Brenda  17:33
I think that’s, that’s really interesting. Because I think that is a little different than when you have somebody who’s maybe 15, right, or 16. And a lot of times, that is just the parents and, and a consultant is not interacting with the young person, because they are so you know, resistant to anything. But it sounds like the the scenario that you’re working with, and I’ve seen this with, with actually so many personal friends, and I hear it a lot in my work is that, you know, we send our kid off to college, we thought that that was going to be the right thing. And they just like bombed that first year, and nothing was working out, or I showed up for a visit. And you know, there was the apartment was a mess. And there’s tinfoil all over. And I know they’re smoking Percocet and like there’s, there’s just so many things that go wrong in that can go wrong in that first year, which has to be a so scary for the parents to know that your kid potentially is, you know, you’re not seeing them all the time. Maybe they’re all the way across the country in a different state. And also for the kid to feel like man, I’m supposed to be doing this and my friends are doing well and thriving in college. And I’m not, that is that pretty typical of what you’re seeing.
Joanna  18:52
100%, that shame exists from the parents perspective of like, Oh, my gosh, should we have done something differently? Or should we have seen the writing on the wall and then the perspective of the young adult, like you just said, that they are comparing their experience to everybody else? And more often than not, I don’t want to use this as an excuse. I actually feel like it’s really valid social media has really put on blast this image that life is awesome, right? College is awesome. You know, your friends or your high school classmates, regardless of whether or not they’re friends. They seem to be thriving. So why am I not thriving? Why do I feel lonely? Why do I feel disconnected? Why am I struggling? And that’s where you get kind of this imposter syndrome or shame spiral that some of these young adults are just kind of they’re in it, and they can’t get out of it. And that’s when the parents show up and they see the you know, that they’ve lost weight or that they’re clearly you know, using some sort of stuff. sense or they’re not actually going to class, like you, the list goes on. And for me, too, I think the most important piece when a parent is contacting me, is to come across non judgmental, because that has nothing to do with them and their parenting. And it has nothing to do with their young adult being a failure. As a college student, it’s like actually, this experience that they’re going through, believe it or not, is normal, like that is the transition to higher education is really hard for most students. And it looks very different for every student and for every family. And so just really trying to be an empath, and kind of a calming presence, when parents are really concerned about what’s happening, and what’s going to happen next.
Brenda  20:52
And do you see are there things that you could say to a parent, because I think a lot of times, at least what I see is the scenario where the the child has gone off to college, either in another state, or far enough? Where the kid the parents aren’t seeing them? How does a parent kind of keep tabs on how well their students doing? Because, you know, I think a lot of kids are really, really good at hiding or at, you know, powering through because they think they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Are there things that you think parents should be either kind of listening for or watching for, if they’re not in contact with them, just to kind of get, you know, check in and see how they’re doing?
Joanna  21:35
Yeah, absolutely, I’m actually, from a proactive lens, I tell parents, it gets a fine line, I should say that of you being involved and, and being overly involved and also being disconnected. And there’s a lot of trust, especially if you’re writing a really large check for you to be in a school and it does not matter how functional they were in, in high school, like, you know, straight A student, no substance use, nobody is immune to how transition will impact them in higher education. So from a proactive perspective, I actually tell parents, you need to have them check that FERPA box that allows you as a parent to view their grades, it also gives you the ability to communicate directly with their faculty and with their academic advisor. Now, here’s where I’m saying, you know, tread lightly, this this is not giving you permission to reach out to a professor and because you see that their greatest posted and you want to challenge that grade? No.
Brenda  22:46
Right, not a helicopter parent pass.
Joanna  22:51
But if you’re if you’re not getting a response from you know, if you’re texting your kid or they’re not they’re not responding to you at all, or you’re actually genuinely nervous, right? There’s something in your gut telling you something’s wrong, you can reach out to the professor’s and say, are they showing up? Because if they’re not showing up, then that’s a red flag. Same with their academic advisor, have you heard anything from my kid. And if they’re saying actually, they’ve no showed the last three appointments, again, red flags, same thing. Like, in addition to the FERPA release, I am encouraging a lot of parents to also have a medical power of attorney signed as well as having a Psychiatric Advanced Directive. I actually have an article on my website that says these are the top six forms, I’m just telling you, the top three of those six that I feel like need to be filled out. But the number one that I get from parents all the time is when they are contacted by the university. And this is University dependent, not every university will actually alert a parent if their child is hospitalized. Some are a little bit more like, you know what this is this is a HIPAA violation that we would rather actually kind of experience like reaching out to the parents rather than the parents not knowing that they were ever hospitalized. parents can’t No matter how much you beg, if they are in the hospital and you find out about it, unless they have a release signed. None of those hospital staff can speak to you, period. They cannot tell you what happened. They cannot tell you what’s going on. And this is this is the difference between parenting a child and parenting an adult. So from a proactive stance, and that’s, again really important to mention that nobody’s immune. So just because you’re straight A student or your you know, collegiate level, athletic child is going off to college and they’re going to be awesome is not going to keep them away from the public. possibility of being hospitalized for alcohol, like an overdose, right like that. Nobody thinks that that’s going to happen. And it happens. So being prepared so that you have the ability to communicate if something feels wrong, or if you’re just genuinely concerned about your kid.
Brenda  25:21
I think what you said about trusting your intuition, and I know moms in particular, we have this, and I know some dads do, too, that you just sense, something’s wrong, either it’s in their voice, or it’s just that maybe it’s that sixth sense. So I think that is really important to highlight in and I will link out to in the show notes, your, your forms, because I experienced that with my son when he had an overdose at 19. And you are as the parent, you’re just stuck, it’s the worst place to be. So that is so important. And especially if if they’re off to college, and you you honestly don’t know, a there’s so many pressures with drinking and all that, but then be like my son in an ending up taking something that has fentanyl in it, and they don’t know it. So it could even be the first time they ever take anything, right, and it lands them up in the hospital. So thank you for, for putting those out there that is really, really smart. 
Brenda  26:27
And so I think a lot of people, when they, when they talk about these kids, there’s this failure to launch label, which I hate, and I’m sure you probably do, too, you probably have a much better, much better term for it. But it does seem to be just that that group of kids who are just not getting traction, and so you’re seeing them and and I’m just curious of how that conversation kind of goes when you’re brought in maybe by a parent, and you’re talking to this kid? What is that conversation? Like? Like, what are you offering? or What are you saying, because I’m wondering if parents are, are thinking like, my kid would never engage in a conversation with a consultant, or, you know, we’re gonna have to, I’d love to talk about this, we’re gonna have to do an intervention to get them, you know, to do something. And I think as a parent, we go to all these extremes in our minds, too, because we’re just so desperate to get them back on track. So I’d love to kind of be a fly on the wall in your office. And in here how that goes.
Yeah, I’m giggling because I actually have this conversation, often, not just the like, the actual conversation, but the the topic of, you know, parents will, will say, like, I need you to talk to our daughter. So she can have buy in. And I’m very quick to say, I just want to be clear that by speaking directly with me, is not going to convince your daughter that she’s going to want to go to treatment. Right? In fact, nobody is going to be excited. And I challenge any parent that you know, is listening to your podcast that actually has a very willing young adult to go to treatment. I think there are some, there’s a spectrum of willingness of somebody who’s acknowledging Yes, I need help. But there’s never this excitement. There’s never this like, yes, you know, it’s, it’s not camp, right. Like we’re talking about intense, like deep clinical work. That’s that is anxiety inducing, because we’re talking about actually processing our traumas are actually talking about some of our biggest fears and breaking patterns, or rather changing or remoulding patterns. 
Joanna  28:54
So I’m really clear on the front end with parents about, Look, I’ll talk to your child and I want to actually talk to your child and I’m, I’m saying the word child, knowing that it isn’t a great child. But just to be clear. And a lot of my work is actually directed towards the parents of What are you saying, right? How are you saying it? What boundaries are you holding or not holding? Because that’s also going to help or hurt this process. And ultimately, what it comes down to with parents, it really falls into like three ultimate like end goals. One, I want my adult child to be interdependent, and living separate from us as parents. So like, Hey, we did our job as parents up until the age of 18. And now they’re here and it’s their 26 like we’ve extended this process like can we can we please get them out of the home right? The second piece is not just getting them out and being interrupted. interdependent, but wanting them to actually be like happy, even though obviously that’s fleeting. But just being excited about living their life, right having a job that they like being a part of a community engaged in hobbies, like you name it, where they have, like, the communication that they have between the adult child and the parent is not about sending money, or, you know, life sucks, it’s like, I want to tell you about what I just did, oh, I want to talk to you in a happy place about the things that are really filling my cup. Like, that’s what a parent wants. 
And then the last thing really is to go into, you know, I should preface this by saying this kind of morbid parents are, are a part of the crisis is that what if, what if something happens to me? Or what if something happens to us, and our child is not actually able to take care of themselves if they’re not ready yet. So there’s that sense of urgency because nobody knows when they’re gonna go. So this idea of parents, they’re like, Oh, my gosh, you know, like, I need my kid, I need my adult child to be okay, if something were to happen to me. And oftentimes, that’s what kind of fast tracks the process. And so that’s where I kind of transition into boundary holding, eviction notices, getting parents connected to parent coaches, or parent trainers, or ultimately getting them connected to an interventionist if we need to go that route. And then doing research on placements. having conversations with a young adult or not, depending on their willingness to engage, and then getting them where they need to be and helping the parents kind of navigate that process as smoothly as possible, knowing that there is no single way to do it. And it might take longer than we originally anticipate, or it might be a lot faster than we originally anticipated. But it always comes down to kind of those, those initial three points. 
Brenda  32:07
that’s really interesting. I had never really thought about that third point. But I think you’re right, you do get to, you get to a place of thinking, I really need them to be independent, and healthy, thriving, you know, and content with their life and engaged in their life. Because you as the as the parent, you kind of need to go on with your own life, and maybe you’re starting to have health issues. So that’s this is really, really interesting. And we mentioned it a little bit, we were chatting before we started recording about interventions, because I do think parents, especially if you haven’t, if your child is not living with you, and so things, you know, you’re not seeing the day to day. And you’re thinking oh my gosh, I’ve got to get somebody in there to just kind of swoop in and confront them and get them into some sort of treatment, I think that can be a tempting alternative to look at, especially think, and I’m aging myself, the whole MTV intervention show, which I think is actually still on, I saw an ad for it the other day, which is shocking. That show’s been on forever. But I think people see that and it’s like, oh, you know, everybody got around, and we and we got them in a treatment. And, you know, I have conflicting thoughts on that. I’d love to hear from you. A Is that something that families are still doing? And is that the right route to go? If you’ve got a kid who’s really actively engaged in substance use, and you know, you’re not having a lot of luck? Maybe, you know, bringing somebody in? What can that look like?
Joanna  33:48
Yeah. So just for me, you know, when it is a, like poly substance user or addiction really is kind of the primary focus more often than not, we’re going to, we’re going to look at bringing the floor up to meet them, which to me is introducing an interventionist rather than waiting for them to hit rock bottom, the parents, without the facilitation of an interventionists just approaching their child and saying, we love you, we care about you, we need you to get you to we need to get you into treatment. It may or may not work. So having that professional who can actually, like you said, facilitate the conversation, facilitate the confrontation, and get them lovingly into that right placement. That’s going to get them the help that they need in the moment. 
Joanna  34:43
For me, a lot of my clients actually, yes, I do have a handful of young people that are struggling with addiction, but the majority of them actually are struggling with substance use as a way of self medication. So I actually get a client that is really struggling with depression, or they’re really struggling with anxiety. And then they just so happened to be smoking a lot of weed. So it’s, and that’s also a slippery slope, because then you factor in, how are you consuming that? What is the dosage and now we’re looking that we’re now we’re like, like almost toeing the line or kind of falling into this place of like, this could be a, like a psychotic break type situation, and how do we avoid it? But with that primary focus being the mental health, sometimes the idea of intervention is actually, you know, it seems a moot point like, well, how, why would I bring somebody in that doesn’t have a clinical background, to facilitate this intervention with my young adult, because their focus is not on addiction. So actually, in my rebuttal to that with families, is that I actually use a handful of interventionists that are clinically trained, so former therapists that want to come in knowing that the primary struggle for this young adult that we’re working with is their mental health, it’s not the substance use. So it’s not just like, use an interventionist to use an interventionist. It’s a be, it’s almost like be intentional with who you’re bringing in, based on the needs for that young adult, I actually matched the intervention, interventionists with the family, and the young adult, it’s not just like, Oh, I’m just gonna bring in somebody local to do this. I really am just as intentional with that as I am with finding those treatment recommendations.
Brenda  36:46
That’s, that is really interesting. In in thinking about actually bringing somebody in from a therapeutic standpoint, because it Yes, the substances are obviously a problem. But I think, hopefully, by now, people are really understanding that if there is a substance use problem, that is the band aid that they’re using, for four different problems. And so that makes a lot of sense if somebody is if a parent is considering this, to really think about who is that person that will be in the room with you? And what training do they have to look beyond and to be able to talk to your person, your loved one about not just, Hey, man, this substances really screwing up your life and ours, but you know, let’s, let’s deal with that, in addition to some of the other issues, so really, that’s really, really good information.
Joanna  37:38
Yeah, whatever their training is, whether it’s an actual model for an intervention, like Arise or Love First or being trained as an interventionist is important. And just for me, in the work that I do, it’s really important that I am connecting the family with like, if I can, nine out of 10 times, it’s going to be that clinically trained professional, who happens to be an interventionist, but very clearly, their approach is going to be different than somebody who has, you know, a background in, you know, in recovery themselves, and has never officially been trained in any type of, you know, intervention techniques. So, just being really, really careful and really mindful of who you’re bringing in, because no intervention is guaranteed. I think that’s also really important for me to mention, like, yes, we’re gonna pay for this professional and they’re gonna swoop in, and there’s always the possibility that it doesn’t work. So making sure that you’re actually doing that that legwork on the front end to have the right interventionists can absolutely make or break that experience.
Brenda  38:51
Right. And like you were saying, trying to do some of the work earlier on, perhaps even looking at is college even the right thing for you right now. So that you’re, you’re actually doing some work ahead of time to prevent the need to have an intervention down the road. And obviously, hindsight is beautiful. But, you know, I do think that some parents, you know, having I, you know, teenagers right now, there’s a lot of pressure from the parent standpoint, to get those kids into college and to be able to say, oh, Johnny is at blah, blah, blah, or Susan went to blah, blah, blah. And so, it could be that we as parents are not really looking at what does our kid actually need right now. And it may not be four year college even though that’s the preferred route and the route that everybody likes to talk about, and post on social media, here’s my kid with their acceptance letter and sweatshirt for XYZ school and, and is COVID. I would be curious to know as COVID sort of helping this or hurting the situation just with college now being like, ooh, is at a place where I want my kid to go our families Oh, you mean like maybe there’s a little more leeway to explore other options? Or what are you seeing around that?
Joanna  40:10
You know, it’s mixed. I thought, for sure, I would see. And I mean, just, you know, statistically across the US a lot of colleges, we’re seeing anywhere from 10 to 15 to 20% drops in their enrollment, this fall, which is, you know, that has a significant financial impact on them operating as a business. And a lot of those young people were deferring or just choosing not to enroll all together, but all said and done 10 to 15 to 20%. That’s a small percentage of the actual incoming and existing college student population. I just thought I would see way more like gap your alternatives, or you know, like just staying at home and working or you know, doing whatever doing something other than taking college classes online or enrolling, like moving into the residence hall and, and taking classes. 
Joanna  41:09
But I’m still seeing plenty of parents that have helped move their college kid into the residence hall at insert name of, you know, a prestigious university. And they went in knowing that four of the five classes were online, but they were just holding on to that one in person class. And then two weeks into the semester, it’s completely online. And now, parents are feeling duped. And I’m, I’m just sitting here, quite honestly, kind of flabbergasted by all of it. Like, where did you think in any of this, like a pandemic, that college would be like college for your kid. So to me, I have seen so many young people that this this fall alone, made it seven days, two weeks, you know, like right now, maybe five weeks into the semester, and they’re already, they’re past the point of homesickness. They’re toeing the line with depression, parents are very regretful with encouraging them to go to college. 
Joanna  42:16
Obviously, from a financial place, they’re pretty pissed at themselves for paying for a semester of tuition that’s most likely going to go down the drain. It’s a different world right now. And it’s actually a better world for somebody that’s struggling with any type of mental health issue to actually enroll in some of these young adult transitional programs. Because they’re a micro community. They’re clinically, like they have the staff that they need, a small caseload, their COVID protocols are kind of through the roof. And all of those young people are taking classes online, but they have in person academic support, because it’s such an insulated community. So they’re actually the most successful of all of these current college students, rather than the young people that just enrolled to enroll for the fall and are really struggling right now. So it’s a Yeah, it’s a it’s a completely different world in higher education. And as much as I wish that I could say that my business was not thriving. Right now, it’s the exact opposite. And a lot of it has to do with young people that still chose to go to college, or try to push on or parents that tried to push on. And now we’re kind of at this crossroads where it’s, it’s getting kind of ugly.
Brenda  43:36
That is really true, I can see. And I’ve seen in some of my friends that dilemma, because it’s so hard to let go of that vision that you have as a parent and what you experienced. And it sounds kind of silly, but I think it’s really true is you really want that for your child, and you think it’s going to happen. And so you’ve got to let go of that outcome. And know it could look very different for your kid. And it could be amazing and awesome if they go off and try one of these different options. And we’ll point people to your website so they can get in touch with you about what some of those options are. Because there are some really great, great things where they can find that group of people who might be just like them, and they won’t feel like they’re the failure to launch because they’re doing great in that environment. So yeah, that’s I think this is just thrown everybody for a loop. Like what is going on? 
Joanna  44:31
I used to say, and I still say it but now kind of tongue in cheek. The college isn’t going anywhere. And I say that tongue in cheek now because really, there are a lot of colleges that are struggling financially and may not be in existence here in the next couple of years. But the reality is higher education as an industry is not going to go away. So getting a college degree, whether you’re 18, whether you’re 21 or whether you’re 38 like applying to college will be the same no matter your age. And so it is really hard to let go of this image of what we’ve been kind of hammered into believing is this is the path that you must take to be successful when in reality, it is a path that will get you to success. But there are plenty of other kind of, you know, routes that you can take to get there that don’t involve immediately going to college. And just right now, with the pandemic, I mean that social connectedness plays a big role in our happiness. And if we are physically isolated, even on while on campus, it’s not good for mental health. And then from a parent’s perspective, whether you’ve got a kid who’s in college, 30 minutes away, or 3000 miles away, you feel helpless. 
Brenda  45:54
It is so hard. And it’ll be interesting, as you know, in the next few years to see what happens with this cohort of students. And, I’m hoping that maybe it will open up people’s minds a little bit to say, Oh, you didn’t go the typical four years because of COVID. And so you did this instead. And wow, look at how that turned out. That’s great. Like you had this amazing experience, wherever it was. And so hopefully, I’m hoping that that will trickle a little bit. Two of my four boys have not gone the traditional route. And it’s been great for them, you know, it’s, it’s harder as a parent, because it’s like, oh, no, my kids aren’t in college right now, or whatever it is. But there’s some really awesome stuff that they can be doing. 
Brenda  46:43
So I’m glad that somebody like you has in mind all of these different options. And probably that’s just a relief for a parent to pick up the phone and call you and to hear oh my gosh, they don’t have to go to this for your college right away. Or, here, five other things that they could be doing. That might be really therapeutic for them. So that when they do decide to go and do something like a four year college, they’re just gonna, like, rock it out, because they’re in such a better space totally. Is there like a question that every time you pick up the phone, a parent’s gonna ask or even one of the young adults that you work with? Like, is there a question that people always ask you or something that you would just love to tell people kind of once and for all like, this is something that I think is really important for people to know.
Joanna  47:31
Parents are more often that not, there’s no single question, I should say that they ask but ultimately, what I’m, what they’re collectively seeking his validation and verification that their kid can be okay, at some point. And so if that means taking a break from college, I get it all the time where like, if they take a break, though, I’m afraid that they’re not going to go back. And it’s like, actually, kind of like, to your point right now Brenda’s like, if they take a break, they might actually come back healthier, and more driven, and actually end up costing you a lot less money in tuition dollars, because they were able to do it in three years, rather than kind of stretch it out to where they’re stumbling and fumbling through the academic process and, and continuing to feel like they’re failing, which is never a good confidence booster. So I get that often about, you know, like, if if we do get help, like, how are they going to get back to school? And then, for me specifically, actually, I do get a lot of, even though I work with college students, so this is kind of a sidebar, they also assume that I will be helping with transfer applications. Which I don’t do, I’m not a college consultant. I am a therapeutic consultant that works with college aged young people.
Brenda  48:58
Good distinction.
Joanna  49:00
Yes, I do work with a handful of college consultants that I will refer my families to if they’re adamant about working with a college consultant for the transfer process. And I have vetted those people thoroughly. Also, most of them are clinically trained. So wanting to have, again, somebody that’s going to be kind of joining the process and you know, just be really aware of, of what their journey could have looked like and really wanting to help connect them to the right community that’s going to allow them to be successful, not just academically, but socially and emotionally. Yeah. So as much as I want and I should say as much as I know about the admissions process. All of the like resources that are on campus or like how young people would be connected and do kind of searching to find majors. I don’t do that. My work is really like the sandwiching of let me help you get stable and sober once you’re actually leaving higher ed, to get the resources that you need, then the middle of the sandwich being those college consultants and or a program that’s going to actually have an academic support to kind of help them figure out where they want to go. And then on the back end, I’ll actually help to make sure from a therapeutic lens, that the new town and college environment that they’re transitioning to has the off campus resources that will be kind of pieced together to make sure that they’re successful, both on campus and off campus. 
Brenda  50:40
So important. It sounds like – I’m kind of I’m a visual person, so I’m kind of thinking of, like, This kid is on a path, and the parents think the path is going to be straight. And then there’s a detour, for whatever reason, could be lots of different reasons. But there’s a detour and you’re sort of that guide, who takes them on the detour and finds the right route for them. And then, you know, they’ll go back to whatever path, maybe it’s a new path. But you’re really that person when when things are not staying on track. And it’s not your typical college consultant, because I think a lot of parents might get confused about that, as they say, Well, I worked with a college consultant, but you’re saying is no, I am like a special breed of consultant to who’s really going to take your child and find the right detour for them to get what they need, so that they can get back on and keep going on does that is that in the realm of right,
Joanna  51:38
As a visual person, myself, I was actually picturing that, yes, I’m constantly hearing that life is not this, like linear, you know, Point A to Point B line, I love that you mentioned either linking them back to the original path or creating a new path, because I think that’s the the ladder is almost the most important because oftentimes, parents will also see the like getting their adult child connected to a resource, or some sort of program is going to be this quick fix to get them back on the track that they’re originally on. 
Joanna  52:13
And I’m also very quick to remind parents that it may not like the expectations that you have for a young adult might need to be revised. In fact, letting go of the expectations that you have for young adult might be the most important thing that you do right now. And just being accepting of where their journey is actually taking them. That might be the game changer of them also being happy with themselves rather than looking to you as the parent and and seeking that approval. Like Mom, are you ashamed of where I am right now? Um, am I continuing to disappoint you? Because I ended up having to leave said name of university, you know, there’s just a lot of this, you know, the acceptance of how life is not this. Yes, smooth journey. And as much as we think it is, it’s not, it’s not a straight line, it’s a plate full of spaghetti, and you don’t know where it starts, and you don’t know where it ends.
Brenda  53:14
that is this really, really good visual. I know, we’ve had a lot of spaghetti in our family. So I love that. I know that you mentioned you have a podcast series that I would love to know about. And then also, are there any other resources like books or websites or you know, speakers or anything that you recommend to parents, if they’re, you know, a lot of times we’re hungry to like soak up information. So I’d love to hear some of the thoughts that you have on that.
Joanna  53:43
Oh, my goodness, yes, I’m a total giver of all resources. I’ll actually start with the books because I think that’s top of mind for me for probably the top three books that I’m encouraging parents to connect with, and I’ve got a bookshelf full so this is like top tier, you got to pick your favorites. Yeah, I got to pick my favorites. Um, the first one is called The Campus Cure, which is actually a handbook created by Dr. Marsha Morris, who is a psychiatrist at the University of Florida, who basically put together a handbook for parents for college students transitioning like what to expect and when to act. I love this book. I cannot speak highly enough and I wish every single parent of a college student which says a lot for me to say that is I wish every single parent of a college student read this book, because it truly could make our break. more young people being successful on campus is huge because it talks about not just the like, you know, sight like a total end of the spectrum. I’m where we’re talking about a psychiatric crisis or a sexual assault, to the very beginning where it is homesickness, or perfectionism, or something that feels almost like it doesn’t deserve a chapter in a book. But it is so profound in the transition. And it doesn’t just talk about like, what does this look like? It also talks about from a parent perspective, how do you react? How are you supposed to respond? or What can your response look like? And from a mental health professional on a large college campus, what her role in that process looks like. So shout out to Dr. Marsha Morris.
Brenda  55:41
that sounds amazing.
Joanna  55:43
And then, probably my two other top books, I think, are really important How To Raise An Adult. That’s kind of a no brainer, I wish a lot of high school parents of high school parents of high school students read that book, because it is really focused on that, like the impending transition of continuing to parent a child. And once they turn 18, how that transition looks for, you know, the adult parenting and now adult, even though again, developmentally, they might be 18, but they’re acting like they’re 12. How do you still shift the parenting approach. 
Joanna  56:25
And then similar to that, there is a book and I’m totally forgetting the title. But it is something about like How to Hold Boundaries For Your Young Adult Children, it is very religiously focused. And so for anybody that uses that, or really like, hold on to that in their life, this book can be really helpful for somebody that doesn’t view themselves as, as religious. I still think the book can be profound, especially if you have somebody who’s over the age of 18. And living in your life, whether it’s in your house, or you’re still financing parts of their life, and they continue to disappoint you or you continue to find yourself in the situation where you’re like, dang it, I did it again, like how did I not hold this boundary? It is, it’s written actually, from the perspective of a mother who was struggling with an adult child almost in his 30s, who was really wrestling with addiction, and how she continued to do these things, thinking that she was helping him, when in hindsight, she was actually enabling his addiction. And so talking about that process, and like I said, just if you’re not religious, just kind of skim through some of that stuff. But the actual meat and the content for the boundary holding for your young adult children is pretty profound. That’s incredible.
Brenda  57:45
Yeah, I’ll get the name from you. We’ll follow up and put that in the show notes as well. 
Joanna 57:50
So the podcasts that I am running, it’s really a series of interviews. I’ve asked people that have had but nonlinear life in their emerging adulthood years to be willing to talk about their journey. And and then kind of fast forward to Where are you now? viewing yourself? or asking them kind of point blank, do you view yourself as successful in quote, because that is subjective, whoever it is that you’re asking, and then asked them to give one piece of advice to a young adult, or a parent of a young adult that is struggling right now. And so the stories, every single story is different. Every step, every single answer to the question about being successful is different. And every piece of advice for that young adult, or the parent is different. And so I think it just paints this picture of, like, I’m trying to normalize that going to college at 18 and having your life figured out and having a smooth ride, and you get your diploma at 21. And then you get this job and life is, you know, sunshine and rainbows. That is not realistic. Right. So that is what this podcast is about. 
Brenda  59:10
Super cool. And we’ll also link to that in the show notes. So that is really cool. I think that’s going to help a lot of parents say, okay, maybe it can look a little different.
Joanna  59:28
Yeah, yeah, that was that was the whole point I wanted. I wanted college students themselves to hear Yes. And I also wanted parents to hear it like it’s gonna be okay. That’s the thing. That’s super helpful.
Brenda  59:39
So good, awesome. Well, this is been so helpful for me. And also, I know it’s gonna be super helpful for parents. So thank you very, very much for the time I know your days are extremely busy and often filled with crisis phone calls. So thank you for carving out the time.
Joanna  1:00:00
Appreciate it. Brenda, this has been amazing. Thank you.
Brenda  1:00:02
If you’re a mom listening to this and thinking, there must be other moms out there listening to, I can tell you that there are thousands of other moms that are searching for this same information. And for a more personal connection. You can find me and a bunch of these moms by going to my website, And there you will get lots of information about a really special online community of moms called The Stream. We have regular calls and chat sessions. We do a monthly yoga class for stress and anxiety. And it’s all positively focused. It is not on Facebook, and it’s completely confidential. Membership is on a pay what you can model, so if you want to join this community, and you need the support, you are in. 
You might also want to download my free ebook called HINDSIGHT: Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs. It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll meet you right back here next week.

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