top of page

Strategies for parents of high-anxiety youth who are failing to launch into adulthood

"The phenomenon of highly dependent adult children who are not actively engaged in productive occupational, educational, or vocational endeavors is common and challenging for all involved. Parent-based treatment can provide a practical and potentially efficacious solution that does not rely on direct participation of the adult child." -Eli Lebowitz

Does your adolescent or adult child have anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, a rigid style of thinking, an obsessive style of behaving, or even a diagnosis of OCD? Are they refusing to work or study and expecting you to resolve all their problems and keep them afloat in life? Are you far more desperate for your adolescent or young adult to get treatment than they are? In fact, are they deeply resistant to doing any kind of therapy whatsoever?

There is a relatively new behavioral treatment for those who are desperate (parents) and does not require therapy for the child, including overly dependent youth who have failed to launch into adulthood. Developed at Yale University by Eli Lebowitz and called SPACE, Supportive Parenting for Anxious Child Emotion, this treatment is a novel evidence-based approach for children...with applications to overly-dependent and anxious young adults.

SPACE has been successful at reducing anxiety and related disorders and supporting adolescents and young adults to engage in building a life worth living. It is a program for behavioral extinction and it is fully aligned with the concepts behind the DBT Family Workshop and family coaching.

SPACE protocols do not require parents to force their child to change thoughts or behaviors. Parents change their own behaviors (which may not be easy or simple) and de-accommodate the problematic behaviors of their child. Accommodations may have been in place for many years and even increased over time, motivated by a parent's desire to alleviate their child's suffering. The accommodations are understandable, in spite of the fact, that they enable the child's problematic thoughts and behaviors.

Lebowitz calls the new parental behavior "Non-Violent Resistance" that helps them firmly resist their urge (and the child's demands) to provide positive reward for problematic behavior, without escalating struggle or conflict. This is very similar to developing an "extinction plan" with "validation" and "cheerleading" taught in the DBT Family Workshop.

A SPACE coach works with one or both parents to target and analyze the behaviors to change and consider everything the parents do to accommodate those behaviors. They develop a plan regarding de-accommodation of the behaviors targeted for change. The parent announces the plan by communicating how they will change their own behavioral responses to their child. The parent practices validation and cheerleading to support the child's discomfort with the parent's new responses.

If you are interested in learning more about this approach, download the article below and/or click on the button to go to the TED talk by Eli Lebowitz on this subject. If you are interested in integrating SPACE protocols with DBT skills, please reach out to me at

Adult failure to launch EliLebowitz
Download PDF • 601KB

243 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page