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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Vocational Supports for Emerging Adults

Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood
Vocational Supports for Emerging Adults

Emerging adulthood is a critical developmental period during which there are important role changes in multiple realms, including education, work, and interpersonal relationships. Young adults (ages 17-30) with serious mental health conditions (SMHC) represent a very large population with strikingly poor outcomes. Pre-existing mental health problems and the development of psychopathology during this age can substantially interfere with a youth’s ability to master the challenges of this period, leading to increased psychiatric impairment and failure to meet developmental milestones. Research has documented that these young adults have serious struggles in both school and work, often even more so than other disability groups. Additionally, the movement from adolescence to adulthood for young people with SMHC is made more difficult because it spans the ages that child and adult service systems address. Due to the division of mental health services into adult and child/adolescent-oriented systems, many youth “fall through the cracks” and fail to receive appropriate mental health, rehabilitation, and other needed services during their transition into adulthood. Thus, it is vital to develop appropriate services to address not only the behavioral and mental health needs of this population, but also support success in meeting appropriate developmental milestones.

The goal of this pilot study is to develop and gather preliminary data on the effectiveness of an adjunct to therapy called a Life Coach, based on the Chamberlain mentoring model for juvenile delinquents and a curriculum for teaching independence to emerging adults. The role of the Life Coach is to provide one-on-one support to the young adult in meeting vocational, educational, and social goals during the transition to adulthood. The Life Coach as an adjunct has the potential to address the unmet developmental needs of young adults receiving mental health treatment. In this pilot, the Life Coach will be an adjunct to Multisystemic Therapy for Emerging Adults (MST-EA) who have both SMHC and criminal justice involvement. This study pilots two versions of the Life Coach, one in which the Life Coaches have additional curriculum focused on vocational issues and the other in which Life Coaches have a standard curriculum and clients are referred to state vocational rehabilitation services for vocational needs.

For more information, please contact Maryann Davis (Principal Investigator) by phone at 5088568718, or by e-mail at

Principal Investigator
Maryann Davis, Ph.D.

MUSC Principal Investigator
Ashli J. Sheidow, Ph.D.

Michael McCart, Ph.D.
Kristyn Zajac, Ph.D.     

Funding Agencies
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)

Connecticut Department of Children and Families

Research Partners
Center for Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood, University of Massachusetts Medical School

North American Family Institute (NAFI)

Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services

Start Date - End Date
October 2010 - September 2014



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