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Transition and Independent Living Programs

Sometimes young adults (typically ages 18-24) need extra support as they transition into independent living and adulthood. There are many types of programs that can help these young adults as they transition. Often, these programs include the features of long-term treatment, but with the goal of preparing young adults for independence.

In these programs, young adults can receive a combination of treatment and life skills. Trained staff will mentor young adults and help them learn independent living skills, maintain health and fitness, increase self-esteem, establish positive relationships, and manage moods and mental illness/addiction. Services offered in these programs typically include:

  • Crisis management
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Life skills training
  • Drug and alcohol counseling
  • Community networking
  • Social skills training

Transitional and independent living programs vary from program to program but typically individuals in these programs can expect to spend time (six to eight months) in an apartment or shared living community. There, they will learn to practice good self-care while working on career aspirations, establishing personal values and making good decisions. Many transition programs also have a specialty; for example, there are programs tailored to young adults on the autism spectrum who need assistance preparing for college and independent living. There are specialized programs to meet all types of needs, such as women-only or men-only, learning to live independently with a disability, etc.

Gap Year Programs

Taking a year off between high school and college is called a gap year. Gap year programs are becoming increasingly more common in the U.S. Young adults who enroll in a gap year program can choose from a range of programs that match their interests and goals. Hundreds of programs around the nation are available. Some emphasize research, volunteering, or college prep while others provide opportunities to study or volunteer abroad. There are also gap year programs for young adults living with mental, behavioral, emotional or learning challenges. These programs help these youth learn life skills and how to live independently while managing their unique challenges.

Gap year programs can help new adults discover their passions and educational/career aspirations. Programs vary greatly and can range from fairly inexpensive to quite costly. When looking into gap year programs, consider your individual needs (or the needs of your child) and find a program that matches those needs and your available financial resources. If you or your child plans to take a gap year, start looking into programs early as some programs fill up quickly.

Common Questions

Q: How can I find a good program for my loved one?

A: When making this difficult decision, it is important to have the best advice possible. Parents can work with an educational consultant or mental health professional to clarify needs and goals for the program. Parents can also reference membership associations like the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) or the Association of Children’s Residential Centers (ACRC) for reputable programs.

Q: How long will my loved one need to be in the program?

A: While programs will work to take an individualized approach for each client, typically young adult transition programs can range from 6-12+ months. Your loved one will need time to demonstrate stability, learn real life skills, and use those in their everyday lives.

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