College Recovery Program for Young Adults in the Age of COVID

Participation in NYCFL’s College Recovery Program can be a life saver

By Audrey Freshman, PHD, LCSW and John McAteer, LCSW

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.

Learn more about our College Recovery Program though our website or by calling 212-712-8800 and speaking to someone from our team.

You can see the full article on Campus Drug


1 Active Minds (
National Survey on Drug Use and Health (
3 Association of Recovery in Higher Education (

Audrey Freshman, Ph.D., LCSW, CASAC

Dr. Freshman brings to NYCFL a vision that is derivative of a profession that has converged on all of the foundational theories, practices, and ideals that will continue to make our center the premier treatment facility for adolescents, young adults, and their families. Her life work has included a blend of psychiatric knowledge first gleaned at NYS Psychiatric Institute, followed by decades of practice in the field of substance use disorder. Most notably, Dr. Freshman served as Associate Director at a major Long Island-based nonprofit program targeting adolescents and young adults where she helped to create and oversee a school/family/community-based model of treatment. Since 2011, her knowledge of contemporary research- and evidence-based practices have been accelerated in her position as Director of Continuing Education and Director of the Postgraduate Program in Addictions at Adelphi University. During her tenure at Adelphi, she has been a leader in the academic field in offering the highest quality education and postgraduate certificate training, collaborating extensively with local and national treatment providers to meet the needs of mental health professionals throughout the tri-state area and beyond. Dr. Freshman has published and presented extensively on the subject of adolescent addiction and has conducted research on the intergenerational transmission of PTSD as a risk factor for substance use disorder. Dr. Freshman received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from New York University, her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and her doctorate in clinical social work from New York University.

John McAteer

John McAteer’s current position is enhanced by his prior experience as both an adjunct professor as well as the Director of Training and Evaluation at the Institute for Adolescent Trauma Treatment and Training at Adelphi University School of Social Work. He is certified in Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress and is an OASAS-certified trainer in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. Formerly on staff at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he has provided evidence-based training for substance use and mental health throughout the five boroughs. He is a frequent guest speaker on issues concerning the vaping epidemic. He received his bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University and his master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.