Brian Louie


The path to adulthood has traditionally been marked by demographic transitions, such as graduating from college, attaining employment, becoming married, and having a child. Previous models of development have conceptualized adolescence as a time of identity exploration and consolidation. However, in the US, as well as many other countries, the timeline for attaining the aforementioned markers has been delayed. Additionally, a significant portion of individuals between the ages of 18 to 29, across several counties, report not seeing themselves fully as adults, and ascribing internal changes, such as taking responsibility for one’s actions, as more indicative of adulthood status. Emerging adulthood has been conceived as a distinct developmental period between adolescence and adulthood. It has been conceptualized as a time for self-focus, identity exploration, possibilities, instability, and feeling in-between. Research on emerging adulthood has shown this to be a time of increased well-being, as well as increased risk for mental health issues. However, little research has been conducted connecting emerging adulthood with psychotherapy. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively investigate what themes occurred related to the transition to adulthood among emerging adults who were receiving psychotherapy. The sample consisted of 10 videotaped therapy sessions from an archival database; two sessions for each of five client participants who received services from an outpatient community counseling center. Using an open coding and content analysis approach to analyze transcripts of the taped sessions, two Parent Themes emerged from the sessions, Self-Development and Interpersonal Relationships. These themes and their corresponding content supported existing models of emerging adulthood, and demonstrated that the developmental processes related to this period are relevant to clinicians. Additionally, the findings pointed to potential areas of future research including the need to study emerging adults who are parents and whether and how feeling in-between adolescence and adulthood relates to clinical presentations in this population.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Adulthood -- Psychological aspects; Interpersonal relations -- Psychological aspects; Self-culture

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hall, Susan;