First, thanks for your time.  I'm an expert on this website for occupational therapy/hand rehabilitation and I realize this takes time.  So thank you.

The background:  I have a 23 y/o step-son, my wife and I married 3 years ago.  She had him when she was 18.  He isn't the sharpest pencil in the box.  His Dad was minimally involved and a disappointment to say the least.  His Mom remarried another man (for 11 years) who gave him little attention as well.  He began smoking pot in high school and continued throughout his early 20's.  His father died when he was 19.  He has come a long way but remains challenged.

His current status is this:  Attends AA meetings 2-3 times per week.  Lives with us and works part-time.  Although he completed a few college courses his lack of motivation and overall low IQ (he tested in the low average range using a number of batteries that a psychologist administered) don't jive well with college.  He has been in and out of counseling for a number of years with a dx of depression and possible bipolar disorder however he is non-compliant with his medication regimen.  We are beyond frustrated but he shows glimpses of hope.  He has a low threshold for stress and chooses to work part-time rather than full-time.

At this point our options are this:  1.  Have him join the military.  It's the only thing that will teach him discipline and a trade.  Questionable whether this is the right answer psychologically and he will have a hard time getting in anyway due to his medical hx.  But he is willing.  We also question whether psychologically it is the right thing but he is non-compliant with his medications anyway and inconsistent med use may be worse than none at all.  2.  Send him to a program called JobCorp.  It's federally-funded and teaches trade skills.  He is also willing although we have reservations as to its effectiveness.

SO...he knows he needs to leave the home at this point because he is not willing to work full-time and our marriage can't take much more of this.  Any advice would be sincerely appreciated as we are not equipped with the skills to make ideal decisions with this kid.  Thanks for your time!!!

Hi Brian - I'm very familiar with your stepfamily situation. From your description, your stepson has inherited a group of psychological wounds:  /  //  //

Generally, GWCs need to heip true personal bottom before gaining stable motivation to heal:

Either of the programs you name may offer him some valuable life skills - BUT probably will not help him recognize, accept, and reduce the psychological wounds he inherited. The best option for you all is Family therapy with a veteran stepfamily counselor:  //

Scan these articles and discuss the with your wife:

If these raise new questions, please ask! - Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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