Mental Health Issues in Adolescence: The LAUNCH Program | MedStar Health

Our mission

Our mission is to provide compassionate, evidence-based services to emerging adults in the service of creating lives that are in line with their values.

Emerging adulthood, or the time period between the ages of 16 – 24 years, can be a confusing time to navigate for the individuals, parents, and family. Emerging adulthood is the period between adolescence and young adulthood in which individuals begin to gain greater independence.

As emerging adults are making the transition to adulthood, they are grappling with all the possibilities for them, self-exploration/identity, sorting out school and work activities, identifying their own value structure, and taking care of their emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
The LAUNCH Program is designed to meet the needs of emerging adults with mental health concerns through a combination of individual therapy, skills-based group therapy, medication management, parent coaching, and general case management/life coaching. We strive to collaboratively develop individualized treatment plans and to support our clients in making values-based decisions that move them towards their goals. Our program is built upon the idea that emerging adults have unique needs and engage with mental health services in flexible ways.

Components of the LAUNCH Program

The LAUNCH Program is a multidisciplinary outpatient clinic in the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital Department of Psychiatry. You and your individual therapist will work together to develop a comprehensive plan for treatment that may include some or all of the following components.

  • Individual therapy

    You and your individual therapist will work together to identify values-consistent life goals that will then inform and guide treatment. The schedule for individual therapy varies and you may meet with your therapist on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. We utilize evidence-based approaches to address psychological symptoms while concurrently working to help our clients build a values-consistent life.
  • Group therapy

    There are several options for group therapy. Each group is a skills group in contrast to a typical therapy group. The overarching goal of a skills group is to help each participant increase their own skill level to help cope with challenging life situations or psychological symptoms. The skills groups will typically cover one skill each week and ask each participant to complete a homework assignment.

    LAUNCH Group
    The Launch Group is a 16-week group that covers a variety of skills to aid in making the transition towards greater independence. Topics covered include mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, anxiety management, healthy social media use, healthy sexual behavior and substance use, and effective use of medications.

    Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Group
    Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a treatment developed to help manage intense emotions. The DBT skills group covers the following areas in depth: Mindfulness, Walking the Middle Path, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Emotion Regulation. The full course is 16 weeks.

  • Medication management

    Psychotropic medications are helpful for a variety of psychiatric conditions and may help alleviate obstacles that are interfering with your ability to reach your goals. Medication management starts with a psychiatric evaluation to assess the need for psychotropic medications. We provide ongoing medical evaluation and monitoring as needed.
  • Parent coaching

    As emerging adults work towards independence, parents face challenges too. Parents face questions about how much and what kind of support to offer, when is it the right time to let them try it on their own, and how to manage personal anxiety about the process, among others. We offer parent coaching to help with this transition. Therapists provide general support and concrete strategies to facilitate communication and build a stronger relationship with parents and emerging adults.

What can I expect from the LAUNCH Program?

Before beginning the LAUNCH program, you will undergo a psychiatric evaluation so that the team can develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

If you or your child is between the ages of 16 – 24 years and are interested, please call 202-944-5400 to schedule an appointment for a psychiatric evaluation.

  • Step 1: Psychiatric evaluation

    When you come in for an intake, you will meet with individually member of our treatment team. Depending upon your preference and the specifics of your situation, your parents may be asked to join the appointment or meet with the therapist individually. During this appointment, you will be asked a variety of questions about the reason you are seeking treatment, issues in your life that are bothering you, your background, social life, and what you might want to work on in treatment. You may be asked to fill out a series of questionnaires to give us more information about how you are feeling and thinking about things.

    Please note: An initial appointment is not a guarantee of treatment. Depending upon the needs of the individual, we work together to develop a plan that best meets the needs of the situation.
  • Step 2: Treatment plan

    After the initial psychiatric evaluation, we meet as a treatment team to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Following this appointment, we will meet with you to discuss the treatment recommendations. You and your therapist will take these treatment recommendations to develop a treatment plan collaboratively.
  • Step 3: Treatment

    Get started on treatment! This might be a combination of individual treatment, group therapy or medication management. You and your clinician will check in at regular intervals during the course of treatment to monitor progress.

Clinical faculty

  • Nauf Latef Azad, DO, MSc

    Dr. Azad is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist with particular clinical interests in infant and early childhood mental health, perinatal mental health, trauma, transitional age youth, eating disorders, school-based mental health, and collaborative care. She enjoys working with families in a collaborative 2-generation clinic based in the Appletree Schools providing care and support for underserved families. She also provides care for children of all ages in the Georgetown outpatient clinic for the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Azad joined the Department of Psychiatry at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in 2014, first as an adult psychiatry resident, then as a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow, and most recently as an attending physician. Dr. Azad completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and South Asian Studies at Wellesley College and then pursued a Master of Science in Global Health at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland prior to obtaining a medical degree at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine-NY.
  • Swati Chanani, MD

    Swati Chanani, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist working with transition-age adolescents and in school-based mental health. She completed a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University and a psychiatry residency at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Chanani received her medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Prior to that, she graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis earning an A.B. in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology.
  • William Cohen, MD

    Dr. Cohen joined the Department of Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in 2016. He provides clinical care on the inpatient psychiatric unit and in the outpatient clinic for the Department of Psychiatry. He teaches and provides clinical supervision for Georgetown medical students, psychiatry residents, and child psychiatry fellows. Dr. Cohen completed a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Georgetown University. He completed a psychiatry internship and residency in The Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, and he earned his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College. Prior to medical school he earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Wesleyan University and then worked in Utah as a wilderness therapy field instructor for adolescents. Particular areas of clinical and research interest include mood and anxiety disorders, emergency and disaster psychiatry, and adolescents and emerging adult aged populations.
  • Olivia Hamrah, MD

    Dr. Hamrah is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She works with emerging adults in the Launch Clinic, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic, and in school-based mental health through the MedStar Center for Wellbeing in School Environments (WISE). Her clinical and research focus is in early and first episode psychosis including the prevention of psychosis, treatment of clinical high-risk for psychosis, CBT for psychosis, and medication management of those experiencing a first episode of psychosis. Dr. Hamrah completed medical school at Georgetown University School of medicine, her adult psychiatry training at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and her fellowship training at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Prior to her medical training, Dr. Hamrah earned a BA in Physics and a BS in Chemistry at the University of Virginia and taught middle school physics and math at a public charter school in Washington, DC.

  • Jessica Ouyang, MD

    Dr. Ouyang is a pediatrician, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist who loves group therapy and DBT skills. She is thrilled to be leading LAUNCH's DBT Skills Group for teens and young adults. The best part of her work is meeting bright young minds and helping them feel more in charge of their decisions and their direction in life with the help of DBT skills.

  • Shyneice Porter, PhD, LMFT

    Dr. Porter is a relationship scientist with expertise in couple relationships, perinatal mental health, and adolescence and emerging adulthood. She provides clinical care in the outpatient clinic for the Department of Psychiatry and also teaches and supervises psychiatry residents and child psychiatry fellows. Her research interests include the mental health correlates of relationship challenges, the perinatal period, and adolescence/emerging adulthood. Dr. Porter is clinically trained as a marriage and family therapist and holds a PhD in Family Science (the study of close interpersonal relationships and all of the micro- and macro-level factors that influence them) with an emphasis in maternal and child health.

  • Jonathan Rivers, DSW, LICSW

    Dr. Rivers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker at the WISE Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He has extensive experience working with children and families in schools, community mental health centers, juvenile detention centers, and inpatient psychiatric settings. Dr. Rivers has a strong interest in advocacy work focused on the mental health and well-being of underserved populations and clinical interests that include trauma-informed care, school-based mental health, and work with emerging adults. Dr. Rivers received his doctoral degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and his master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

  • Kimberly Sims, PhD, LGSW

    Dr. Sims is a clinical social worker and former college professor with extensive experience working with adolescents and emerging adults. Her clinical and research interests include sexual trauma, intimate partner violence, racial and LGBTQ+ identity development, the history of psychotherapy, and group work. A trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist, Dr. Sims incorporates treatment modalities that leverage the mind-body connection into her practice. Prior to joining us, she was a crisis counselor at the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center for Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center.