Participation in NYCFL’s College Recovery Program can be a life saver
By Audrey Freshman, PHD, LCSW, CEO and Chief Clinical Officer at NYCFL, and John McAteer, LCSW, Coordinator of Young Adult Programming at NYCFL
New York Center for Living is a nonprofit treatment program licensed by the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. It is designed to offer mental health and substance use services to adolescents, young adults, and their families. We have both intensive and nonintensive levels of care to accommodate the varying needs of our clients. Our College Recovery Program supports our young adult clients seeking to attend college for the very first time or who have returned to college post a medical leave following a treatment episode. Our College Recovery Program has given us a window into the challenges that our young adults face while attending college in early recovery. We have seen these challenges compounded by increases in anxiety and depression associated with the isolation and dislocation created by the COVID pandemic.
Most of our adolescents dreamed of going off to college. They envisioned becoming more independent from their family as a major step in their transition to young adulthood. These past two years, however, upended these expectations. Instead, students were met with canceled public events, remote learning, and potential administrative consequences to attending unauthorized gatherings. The toll this has taken is much more complicated for the college students that we work with that may have less developed executive functioning skills, mental health and mood disorders, trauma, and difficulties with independent living. Each of these issues, either singularly or collectively, compound the likelihood of substance use and poor academic performance.
In fact, according to a study by ActiveMinds1 in April 2020 of 2,086 college students that all studied remotely for the past year, students reported an increase in stress and anxiety, disappointment or sadness, or felt lonely or isolated during the pandemic. This in turn coincided with an increase in the use of alcohol and drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health2, 54.9% of full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drank alcohol in the past month, which is over 10% higher than noncollege students of the same age. The use of marijuana, prescription stimulant medication, and other drugs has also increased.
At NYCFL, we understand that the opposite of addiction is connection during this critical developmental stage. We have responded to the loneliness and isolation by helping our students within our College Recovery Program to build a safety net for success. To prepare students in the College Recovery Program, we have leaned into the remote environment by creating a support team that accompanies the student whether living on campus, in sober living, or within their parent’s home. Regardless of their setting, they can continue to connect with and benefit from individual, family, and peer-to-peer group counseling, sober coaching, and psychiatric support, if needed. We also look to augment the scaffolding for the student by connecting with the resources embedded within the college community. We strived to link each student in advance with virtual sober support meetings within the local area of their college. We help to identify sober dorm spaces (if available) and create linkages to student counseling services and recovery supports on campus. Of course, we also seek to connect to academic support services as well. Our goal is to cultivate the same recovery community they have identified in their hometown to aid in the transition to life away from home.
On a more societal level, bridging from an identified sober support community to a new one is extremely difficult, which is why campus-based recovery communities are vital. According to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education3, there are over 100 Collegiate Recovery Programs and Collegiate Recovery Communities based at colleges across the United States. Their goal is to support students who have identified as potentially having an issue with alcohol or drugs through the development of specified campus community support, from sober living dorms to counseling and academic services.
Participation in NYCFL’s College Recovery Program can be a life saver for many of our clients. For example, one of our clients previously selected their college choice based upon the “party” atmosphere and substance use culture on campus. This resulted in three consecutive years of academic, social, and recovery challenges. Following treatment within our intensive program, they were able to achieve one year of sobriety. The transition back to college was naturally fraught with fear for both themselves and their family. Through the extensive therapeutic supports provided at NYCFL, coupled with the connections to the college recovery community, they are now back on campus and moving in the direction of academic success. Our motto at NYCFL is to “Turn Recovery into Self Discovery.” We can think of no better way than to help a client launch into young adulthood through the higher education process.
You can see the full article on Campus Drug Prevention.gov.
1 Active Minds (https://www.activeminds.org/)
2 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/homepage.cfm)
3 Association of Recovery in Higher Education (https://collegiaterecovery.org/)