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. It's nice that some of us maintain enough altruism to volunteer as "experts." You stated that your step-son "has come along way" which suggests that he has some personal and social resources that have been utilized.  He attends AA 2 or 3 times a week which suggests that there's some motivation to keep himself on track.  Even though he only works part time, I'm assuming that means he is responsible enough to keep a job (of course that's pure conjecture and I don't know whether that's actually so). Given the options you've outlined here, personally I would be cautious about the military.  Does he have the capacity to stay in long enough to be taught discipline?  I took a look at JobCorp and, yes, there are a lot of complaints most of those coming from disgruntled former members.  I usually take that with a grain of salt - those who are dissatisfied are more likely to post than those who have found the program useful.  There is a review done by that I think might be a more accurate accounting.  They've reviewed 300 participants and in general the responses were positive.  Of the two choices, I think JobCorp is the one that has the greater probability for success.  Since he's willing to go in that direction, I would encourage him if I were in your situation.  I don't know how much you've included him in researching both the military and JobCorp, but another suggestion is helping him do so and see which one he would think as being the most useful.  Joel


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Joel Simon


General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.


Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website:

A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at

Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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