Making decisions about college and career can be difficult enough for students. When you have clients with substance use and mental health disorders, they will often experience more anxiety around making these decisions. How can you help them make these decisions? How can you help them evaluate their interests and strengths and make informed decisions about their futures?
Turning Dreams Into Reality
As a child, your client may have had dreams of becoming an astronaut, a rock star, or a ballerina. For most adolescents, their dreams change significantly with their interests. Some teens will still dream big, choosing professions where only the smallest percentage of people find success. Other teens sell themselves short, perhaps choosing careers based on family or cultural stereotypes, but that will not allow them to reach their full potential.
As you are working with your client with substance use or mental health disorders, you can also discuss their plans for their future. Allow them to share their dreams and allow them to share their plans. When there is an obvious disparity between their dreams and their plans, help them to make their dreams and plans more realistic.
Honestly Evaluating Strengths
Adolescents who struggle with mental health typically fall into one of two categories: either they overestimate their abilities or underestimate their abilities. As a professional working with them, you have the opportunity to help them honestly evaluate their strengths and help them find the areas they excel in. No matter who they are or what they may have done in their lives, everyone has strengths. Helping them to realize what these strengths are and be realistic about them can help them make realistic choices about their future.
Reflecting on Limitations With Love
Just as everyone has strengths, everyone also has weaknesses. Too many adolescents are acutely aware of their limitations and are too hard on themselves for perceived flaws and weaknesses. As you help them inventory their strengths and weaknesses, be sure to help them inventory with love, both self-love on their part and compassion as a provider on your part. Focusing on strengths rather than disabilities or limitations will be helpful for most clients.
Overcoming Anxiety Surrounding Decision-Making
Making decisions can cause anxiety for anyone. The bigger the decision, the greater the anxiety. Imagine, then, being in treatment for addiction and/or mental health issues and trying to make decisions that could affect the rest of your life. That is exactly why anxiety is so real for them, but decision-making does not have to be only about the big picture.
Instead of focusing on the result in the distant future, help your clients make smaller choices now that keep options open for them in the future. Making decisions that have multiple outcomes allows them to feel that they are not locked into one decision or one future. Help them to realize that each choice they make may have consequences, but there are always other choices to make in the future if they do not like the choices they made in the past.
Making Realistic Choices
Part of making good choices is making realistic choices. Making realistic choices includes helping your clients make choices that support their:
- Mental wellness
- Future career choices
- Current financial situations
- Abilities and strengths
- Interests and desires
Being realistic about their recovery and mental wellness, first and foremost, is something you can help them understand. Especially for clients who are new to recovery or recently diagnosed with a mental health diagnosis, you can offer insights into what they can expect going forward day-to-day. Understanding that their lives and functioning may be different now than before treatment will help them make more realistic decisions about their future college and career choices.
Plans That Allow for Flexibility
Flexibility is an important life skill that will help your client as they go through life, but especially as they make these decisions about college and career. If they are not sure they want to attend college, encourage them to enroll in a community college. This allows them to still have the option to transfer to a four-year university if they choose to or drop out of college with minimal financial losses if they decide it is not for them.
Likewise, when choosing a career, they might choose a career path that gives them multiple options for growth, rather than pigeon-holing them into one pathway that they may decide they do not like. Making plans with the most options will give them the most flexibility for their future.
As you help your clients with addiction and mental health disorders prepare for college and careers, you can help them realistically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Anxiety can be lessened as you help them make realistic choices and plans that allow for flexibility in their future. Sustain Recovery strives to help adolescents with addiction and co-occurring mental health diagnoses be well prepared to transition back into life with our extended residential treatment program. This offers clients more options for now and for their future, giving them more time to build a support network before transitioning back home. We offer tutoring and school credit recovery programs so that they will not fall further behind in their education while they are in treatment. We also offer alumni support to help ensure that their recovery continues after treatment. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is a good fit for your client.