top of page

When Adulthood Seems Out of Reach: Exploring the Challenges of Failure to Launch and when to seek therapy

Emily Turinas

3 min read

May 1



In today's society, the transition to adulthood is often perceived as a linear path marked by milestones such as completing education, securing a job, and becoming financially independent. However, for some individuals, the journey to adulthood is far from straightforward. In a phenomenon known as "failure to launch," young adults struggle to attain the necessary skills, resources, and mindset to successfully navigate the transition to independence. As psychologists, I recognize the complexities of this issue and frequently work with individuals who are left feeling stuck as their friends achieve the next milestones without them.

Understanding Failure to Launch

Failure to launch refers to the difficulty some young adults experience in transitioning to independent adulthood. This can manifest in various ways, including difficulty finding or maintaining employment, reliance on parents or caregivers for financial support, and a lack of motivation or direction in life. I often also see aspects of failure to launch when people struggle to get into romantic relationships and take that next step socially.

Failure to Launch Therapy

Contributing Factors

Several factors can contribute to failure to launch, including:

  • Economic Challenges: Financial barriers such as student loan debt, high housing costs, and limited job opportunities can hinder young adults' ability to achieve financial independence.

  • Mental Health Issues: Conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and executive function deficits can impact motivation, decision-making, and overall functioning, making it challenging to pursue goals and responsibilities.

  • Family Dynamics: Overprotective or enabling parenting styles, familial conflicts, and a lack of autonomy within the family unit can impede young adults' development of independence and self-sufficiency.

  • Cultural and Societal Pressures: Societal expectations, peer comparisons, and cultural norms regarding success and achievement can create undue pressure and anxiety, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy or failure.

  • COVID: Now this might seem strange, but I am seeing a lot of young adults who had COVID hit at a crucial time. It forced them to move back in with parents and not have the natural steps into adulthood we typically expect. Often I see people who were impacted by the lockdown in this way struggle to get back on track with their peers.

Challenges Faced by Individuals

Failure to launch can have significant implications for individuals' well-being and overall functioning. Some common challenges faced by those experiencing this phenomenon include:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Struggling to achieve independence and meet societal expectations can erode self-confidence and self-worth, leading to feelings of inadequacy or failure.

  • Dependence on Others: Reliance on parents or caregivers for financial, emotional, or practical support can create feelings of dependency and a sense of stagnation.

  • Limited Life Skills: Lack of experience or proficiency in essential life skills such as budgeting, time management, and problem-solving can hinder individuals' ability to function independently.

  • Social Isolation: Difficulty establishing social connections or maintaining relationships outside of the family unit can contribute to feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Strategies for Overcoming Failure to Launch and when to reach out for therapy

Overcoming failure to launch requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying factors contributing to the issue. Here are some strategies that individuals, families, and mental health professionals can consider:

  • Identify Underlying Issues: Conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify any underlying mental health issues, learning difficulties, or environmental factors contributing to the individual's challenges.

  • Develop Life Skills: Provide opportunities for the individual to learn and practice essential life skills such as financial management, time management, and communication.

  • Encourage Independence: Foster autonomy and self-sufficiency by gradually increasing responsibilities and encouraging the individual to take ownership of their decisions and actions.

  • Provide Supportive Environment: Create a supportive and nurturing environment that balances encouragement and accountability, allowing the individual to develop confidence and resilience.

  • Seek Professional Help: Consult with mental health professionals, failure to launch therapy can provide support and guidance tailored to the individual's needs.

Embracing the Journey

Failure to launch is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires compassion, understanding, and proactive intervention. By addressing underlying challenges, fostering independence, and providing support, individuals experiencing failure to launch can embark on a path toward self-discovery, growth, and fulfillment. At Live Oak Psychology, Dr. Emily Turinas is committed to supporting individuals as they navigate the challenges of adulthood and work towards building a meaningful and fulfilling life. If you are seeking professional therapy see if Emily Turinas PhD is a good fit for you. She is a psychologist who specializes in life transitions, specifically the transition to "adulting" for those in Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado. Schedule a free consultation today to see how Dr. Turinas could help you build clarity and direction in this next step of your life.

Emily Turinas

3 min read

May 1





Live Oak Psychology

Emily Turinas PhD


Book a Free Consultation

Austin Office-Westlake

2525 Wallingwood Drive 7D
Austin, Texas 78746

Denver Office-Glendale

1777 S Bellaire Street Suite 339
Denver, Colorado 80222

  • Psychology Today
  • LinkedIn

Psychology Today


bottom of page