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Transition Age Youth

Program Description

The transition from adolescence into mature adulthood is often a precarious time for young people, ages 14 to 30, living with serious mental health conditions, as these conditions may impede the development of skills and capacities essential for successful adult functioning.

Our research focuses on developing knowledge about developmentally appropriate and effective interventions to help transition age youth and emerging adults with serious mental health conditions. We emphasize mental health interventions and supports that help young people successfully complete their schooling and training, and achieve their adult career goals. We examine policy and systems issues and gaps, particularly as they may contribute to youth and young adults entering inappropriate service sectors or receiving inadequate, ineffective services.

We are interested in:

  • Developing and testing strategies that better engage transition age youth and emerging adults in psychotherapy
  • Developing and testing educational/training and employment/career support interventions
  • Malleable factors associated with success in schooling/training/employment that may inform targets of future interventions
  • Developing and testing interventions that improve access to effective mental health and substance abuse services and reduce involvement in the justice system
  • System features that facilitate or impede better collaboration between child and adult systems serving transition age youth and emerging adults
  • The Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research (Transitions ACR)
Research Bar
davis_research_thumbMaryann Davis, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor of Psychiatry
ellison_research_thumbMarsha Ellison, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
delman_research_thumbJonathan Delman, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H.


Ongoing Research Projects

Promoting Mental Health in the Transition from College to the Workplace

Title: Promoting Mental Health in the Transition from College to the Workplace 

Time Frame: 12/2/2016-11/30/2017 

Funder: The Jed Foundation (JED) 

Grant: JED Fdn/Promoting Mental Health Trans 

SPARC Personnel: Kathleen Biebel, Ph.D., Leonard Levin, M.A. Laura Golden, B.A., & Raphael Mizrahi, B.S.   

Description: The transition from college to the workplace can be a high-risk time fraught with emotional/developmental challenges and stressors that can lead or contribute to mental health problems such as depression. Graduating students who have a positive history of depression may be at particularly high risk of relapse. Moreover, individuals without a history of emotional challenges may experience a first episode of depression as they attempt to navigate this potentially stressful transition.  This project has two aims: (1) to forward our knowledge as a field by developing a rich understanding of the emotional needs of students during the transition from college into the workforce, and (2) to utilize the insights gleaned from Aim 1 to develop a comprehensive framework including a set of recommended practices and considerations that describe how colleges can best emotionally prepare students for the transition out of college and into the workplace.

Effectiveness Trial of Treatment to Reduce Serious Antisocial Behavior in Emerging Adults with Mental Illness

CO-PIs: Maryann Davis PhD, Ashli J Sheidow PhD
Project Director: Bernadette Shaw, MPH
Time Frame: April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2020

Funded by: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Grant# 1 R01 MH108793-01

The purpose of this study is to test the effectiveness of a promising intervention for emerging adults with mental illness and serious antisocial behavior for reducing antisocial behavior. It will test whether reductions in antisocial behavior are achieved through increasing self-regulation, engagement in school and/or work, stable housing, positive relationships, and reductions in mental health symptoms and  substance use. The intervention, Multisystemic Therapy for Emerging Adults (MST-EA), is an adaptation of MST, a well-established, effective intervention to reduce antisocial behavior in adolescents.

There are no antisocial behavior interventions that have any evidence of efficacy in emerging adults, with or without mental illness. A different approach for treatment of this population is needed. MST-EA targets factors that are particularly important during the emerging adult years, that are likely to support a more successful young adulthood. Developing an age tailored approach for young adults is aligned with Institute of Medicine conclusions.

The randomized controlled trial will compare outcomes in 17-21 year old participants assigned to receive MST-EA to those assigned to receive enhanced usual services. Outcomes are assessed through multiple sources, including participants, collaterals and archival records. This research is being conducted in the greater New Haven and Hartford CT areas, with the CT Department of Children and Families providing funding for the two MST-EA teams, which are contracted with the North American Family Institute.

Test - Translating Evidence to Support Transitions: Improving Outcomes of Youth in Transition with Psychiatric Disabilities by Use and Adoption of Best Practice Transition Planning

Title  TEST-Translating Evidence to Support Transitions: Improving Outcomes of Youth in Transition with Psychiatric Disabilities by Use and Adoption of Best Practice Transition Planning
Dates: 9/30/2015 – 9/29/2020
Funder:  NIDILRR
Funding: $748,557
PI: Marsha Ellison, Ph.D.
Co I: Kathleen Biebel, Ph.D.

The goal of the newly funded Translating Evidence to Support Transitions (TEST) grant is to increase the use and adoption of research-based best practices in transition planning services for high school students with EBD receiving special education services.  Outcomes from TEST include the development of guides and curricula for practicing and implementing best practices in transition planning for students with EBD. We anticipate wide scale adoption and use of TEST practices by special education transition teams across the US, which will in turn improve employment and education outcomes for this vulnerable group.  All TEST activities will be built on an implementation science framework and guided by knowledge translation principles.  Over the five year project timeline, data and feedback will be collected at each step in order to continually improve TEST materials.

Personnel: Co Investigators: Maryann Davis, Ph.D., Sloan Huckabee, Ph.D., Deanne Unruh, Ph.D., Catherine Fowler, Ph.D., David Test, Ph.D., Joann Starks, ME.d., Mary Wagner, Ph.D., UMMS Project Personnel: Lauren Davis, B.S., Laura Golden, B.A.

Now is the Time (NITT) Evaluation

Title: Now is the Time (NITT) Evaluation

Dates: 10/1/2014 - 9/30/2019 

Funder: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Funding: $1,540,741

PI: Maryann Davis, Ph.D.

Co-PI’s: Kathleen Biebel, Ph.D. Mason Haber, Ph.D., Colleen McKay, M.A., C.A.G.S.

Description: In support of the President’s “Now is the Time” (NITT) Plan, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced a new grant program, “Now is the Time” Healthy Transitions: Improving Life Trajectories for Youth and Young Adults with, or at Risk for, Serious Mental Health Conditions. The overall goal of HT will be to provide services and supports to address serious mental health conditions, co-occurring disorders, and risk for developing serious mental health conditions among youth 16 – 25 years old. This will be accomplished by increasing awareness, screening and detection, outreach and engagement, referrals to treatment, coordination of care and evidence-informed treatment for this age group. Healthy Transitions will: increase awareness about early indications of signs and symptoms for serious mental health concerns; identify action strategies to use when a serious mental health concern is detected; provide training to provider and community groups to improve services and supports specific to this age group; enhance peer and family supports, and develop effective services and interventions for youth, young adults and their families as these young people transition to adult roles and responsibilities. When needed, these services are to be continuous so that young people and their families experience a seamless transition across age groups. The NITT Evaluation makes use of available information and data to inform grantees and their stakeholders throughout the grant. Evaluators will support grantees and their partners in providing data for the evaluation, which will include process and outcome evaluation components.

A Career Development Manual for TAYYA

Title: A Career Development Manual for TAYYA
10/1/2012 - 9/30/2017
Funder: National Institutes of Health 
Funding: $554,374
PI: Marsha Ellison, Ph.D.

Description: A Manual and Training Program to Promote Careers among Transition Age Youth and Young Adults with Psychiatric Conditions. The UMDNJ Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions (UMDNJ) and UMass Medical School (UMMS) Transitions Research and Training Center (RTC) will be developing an innovative career development intervention, Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE). HYPE will be delineated and refined into a manual and training program to integrate Supported Education (SEd) with Supported Employment (SE) and other vocational services in order to adequately support transition age youth and young adults (TAYYA) with psychiatric conditions in achieving self-sufficient lives. In collaboration, both organizations are uniquely positioned to develop this intervention and the accompanying manual to assist SE services in integrating employment and educational supports. Such an approach will anticipate common barriers and issues these individuals face including the development of adequate supports for all of their vocational goals. The new manualized HYPE intervention will address the specific needs of TAYYA by helping them to positively launch their careers and develop an early employment history. The integration of educational pursuits will be integral because it is relevant to this developmental period, in which it is common for young adults to pursue both employment and education simultaneously. It is also necessary to prepare them for the demands of the workforce requiring advanced vocational, technical and/or post-secondary education.

Personnel: Maryann Davis, Ph.D., (Co-I)

Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood

Title: Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood
10/1/2014 - 9/30/2019
Funder: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Funding: $4,374,967
PI: Maryann Davis, Ph.D.
Description: Youth and young adults (Y&YAs) (ages 14 to 30) with SMHC often struggle to succeed in school and to subsequently transition to satisfying employment. The mission of this RRTC is to use the tools of research and knowledge translation to help ensure that policies, programs, and supports for Y&YAs with SMHC help them build the cornerstones that support successful long-term adult work lives. The Transitions RRTC will develop knowledge from state of the art rigorous research on education and employment in 14-30 year olds with SMHC. The research will be conducted in real world settings in partnership with Y&YAs with lived experience and informed by family input.

Three major research aims of the grant will move the field significantly forward.

  1. Identify the range of paths in the transition to employment, and the malleable factors that contribute to variability in educational and working success in this population. This fundamental research can inform policy and new interventions or better target adaptations of existing interventions.
  2. Develop and test interventions that have preliminary evidence of efficacy.
  3. Obtain a greater understanding of the ways in which state vocational rehabilitation, child mental health, and adult mental health agencies can better work together to enhance the transition to employment in this population.

Within this research, the RRTC will examine two sub-populations that are particularly vulnerable to poor transitions to employment; young parents, and those with justice system involvement.

Through state-of-the-science knowledge translation principles, the Transitions RTC will speed capacity-building for service providers and employers, and move findings into practice and policy.

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