Lost Dreams Reawaken: How Cumberland Heights’ Young Adult Program is Encouraging a Return to College

Lost Dreams Reawaken

lost-dreams-reawaken-blog-cumberland-heights-young-adult-program-encouraging-return-collegeHow Cumberland Heights’ Young Adult Program is Encouraging a Return to College
Young adults are seeking treatment in higher numbers and with more acute addictions than ever before. Recognizing the need, Cumberland Heights has found promise in the Young Adult Program (YAP), integrating a flexible, peer-led approach to treatment with outstanding results.

Of the 18-24 year olds entering the program, over 50% have been to college with less than 5% completing a degree.

“The patients we see were unprepared for college and medicated their stress with substances,” said Dean Porterfield, Director of Adolescent and Young Men’s Services. “They’re dealing with a set of issues unique to their generation.”

In order to serve this population successfully, the treatment staff has adjusted their methods to suit specific challenges. By working through behavioral issues, rather than discharging challenging patients, the YAP is helping them see they are capable of learning effective ways of dealing with life’s stressors. The result is an over 90% treatment completion rate due to a staff focused on teaching healthy ways to work through issues – a key component missing before they came to treatment.

“Many of the guys we see have already failed or been kicked out of college,” said David Carrillo, Young Men’s Program Coordinator. “A lot of what we do is helping them learn their life isn’t over and that returning to college is still possible.”

For the young adult with a predisposition for addiction, starting college can be a recipe for disaster. A little test anxiety can quickly become a serious substance abuse disorder as young adults self-medicate the lonely, out-of-control feelings of trying to perform in a world they simply aren’t ready for. By the time they reach treatment, identity and self-esteem issues are acutely apparent.

“We start by setting goals and figuring out who they wanted to be before their addiction took hold,” said Kimberly Burrows, Young Women’s Primary Counselor.

Treating young adults can be tricky. Outward behaviors may be disruptive, manipulative and challenging. The staff focuses on creating a healthy community. Patients hold each other accountable, cutting through denial to treat the struggling person underneath. Throughout the treatment experience, these young adults are subtly inundated with messages that they can be successful. Many of the staff are young people as well, modeling a life of recovery with their own stories of returning to school.

For young adults seeing is believing. These programs incorporate the principle of fellowship, plugging their patients into healthy communities of young people who provide an example of success. They start the conversation about Collegiate Recovery Programs – on-campus support offerings for students in recovery – planting a seed that returning to college is not a lost dream. The result: a young adult with a foundation in their sobriety, a network of support and a newly (re)discovered dream for their future.


Nico Doorn is an Outreach Coordinator at Cumberland HeightsNico Doorn is an Outreach Coordinator at Cumberland Heights. He is a graduate of the Young Men’s Program, which he entered with a ninth grade education. He received the opportunity to attend Texas Tech University’s Collegiate Recovery Community and found a passion for helping young people pursue educational goals. Currently, he is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Human Development Counseling at Vanderbilt University. He is also very involved in Vanderbilt Recovery Support, where he serves as the Graduate Assistant for the program.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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