Lauren Ford


Emerging adulthood is recognized as a growing developmental stage that varies within and across cultures. Existing research generally characterizes this period as one of identity exploration, instability, self-reflection, and optimism. For many in this cohort, life events that were once organized into a stable sequence such as entering the workforce, marriage, and having children are increasingly a highly individualized and somewhat unstructured trajectory. This lack of structure provides opportunities and potential challenges to those transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. To this end, experiential acceptance may be an important target skill for intervention in guiding emerging adults through this tumultuous period. Experiential acceptance is multiply defined in the literature, but is generally understood to be a present-focused approach that encourages a willingness to engage with one's moment-to-moment experience, nonjudgment of moment-to-moment experiencing, and nonattachment to thoughts or feelings. This focus may be useful for both therapists to use as an intervention tool in helping clients to form an integrated sense of self; a developmental task that is predictive of mental health in young adults. Despite the apparent fit between experiential acceptance and the emerging adult age range, no studies to date have explored experiential acceptance as an intervention with this population. Accordingly, the purpose of the current study was to qualitatively explore how therapists facilitate experiential acceptance with emerging adult clients. A sample of 5 client-therapist pairs from community counseling centers was selected, and two videotaped therapy sessions for each participant pair were analyzed. Inductive content analysis was employed, using open coding and abstraction methodology to create a hierarchy of themes. Results indicated that experiential acceptance, overall, was rarely employed by trainee therapists in psychotherapy sessions with emerging adults. The one parent theme that emerged across participants was termed Increasing Awareness. Comments aimed at increasing flexibility in thinking were also observed, but not across participants. It is hoped that this study will provide foundational information on experiential acceptance use in psychotherapy with emerging adults, which could be used to promote more attention to skill and theory integration in clinical training and spur future research on experiential acceptance use in therapy-as-usual.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Young adults -- Psychology; Acceptance and commitment therapy

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hall, Susan;