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.

    Tuesday, 4 – 5 p.m.

    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 28 weeks.

    Tuesday, 5 – 6 p.m.

  • 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 individually or in a group with other parents. In either modality, therapists provide general support and concrete strategies to facilitate communication and build a stronger relationship between 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.
  • 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.
  • Shana Simkin Shwachman, LCMFT

    Shana Simkin Shwachman, LCMFT, joined the Department of Psychiatry in 2019 as a clinical therapist. Trained in Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Shana incorporates mindfulness techniques into her practice with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. She takes a strengths-based perspective and helps families consider their challenges within the context of their relationships. Shana received a Masters in Couple and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University. Her clinical and research interests include mood and anxiety disorders, relationship challenges, and issues related to emerging adulthood.
  • Aditi Vijay, Ed. M, Ph.D.

    Dr. Vijay joined the Department of Psychiatry in 2016 as a clinical psychologist within the LAUNCH program for Emerging Adults.She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, her Master’s in Education, in Risk and Prevention, at Harvard University, and her doctorate in psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. She completed her internship at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland Consortium. Her clinical specialties include psychological issues related to emerging adulthood, the treatment of trauma, sexual victimization, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Her research focuses on factors in clinical supervision, process and outcome research in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, implementation of effective DBT programs in outpatient and residential settings, and the role of emotion regulation in psychopathology.

Parent group and resources

Our LAUNCH Parent Group covers psychoeducation about the emerging adult stage of development, skills-based strategies for supporting your emerging adult, mindfulness techniques for becoming a more effective parent, as well as validation and support for parents as they walk through this exciting and sometimes difficult stage with their child.

There is no fee to attend the group, although we ask for parents to commit to missing no more than two groups in the semester.

Priority will be given to parents of past or current Launch participants, although parents of emerging adults not in the Launch program will be considered if space allows. The group will be capped at eight participants in order to maximize the experience. Please contact us today if you are interested.

This group will be led by Joslyn Hills, LGPC, MEd, a psychotherapist and parent educator. She is the mother of two emerging adults, ages 20 and 23.

Resources

Books

  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter- And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, PhD
  • Parenting Your Emerging Adult: Launching Kids from 18-29 by Varda Konstam
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Classes and workshops

Treatment resources

Website

Videos

Join us

The MedStar Georgetown University Hospital LAUNCH Parent Group meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. at 2115 Wisconsin St. NW, Ste 200, Washington, D.C., 20007. Reserve your spot below.