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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.

Research Bar
davis_research_thumbMaryann Davis, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
ellison_research_thumbMarsha Ellison, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
mckay thumbColleen E. McKay, MA., C.A.G.S.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Kathryn Sabella, Ph.D.
delman_research_thumbJonathan Delman, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H.

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)

Ongoing Research

Developing Implementation and Fidelity Monitoring Tools for the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) Program

Dates: 9/1/2020-8/31/2023
Funder: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
Project Number: 90IFDV0014
Funding: $598,632.00
PI: Kathryn Sabella, PhD

Description: This project develops, tests, and refines standardized implementation products for the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT), an innovative program that supports high school students returning from an extended absence due to mental health crises. Most schools are ill-prepared to adequately support students’ unique clinical, social, and academic needs during this transition. The BRYT program provides integrated and individualized supports for these students and their families. A preliminary evaluation of BRYT showed positive outcomes as a result of BRYT participation and BRYT’s implementation in over 100 high schools to-date establishes it as a feasible intervention. However, BRYT currently lacks the specific and standardized tools required to implement and evaluate BRYT in a future fully powered randomized control trial. This project produces: a BRYT intervention logic model and a BRYT implementation package including includes a BRYT manual, a BRYT training and technical assistance plan and fidelity measures and protocols. Development activities include: (1) focus groups and interviews with BRYT stakeholders to finalize the BRYT logic model; (2) partnering with BRYT stakeholders to develop the BRYT implementation package; and (3) piloting and iteratively refining the implementation package with active feedback from BRYT stakeholders. Project outcomes foster the establishment the proof of concept of the BRYT intervention (i.e., BRYT logic model) and the proof of concept and proof of product of the BRYT implementation package. This project is a collaboration of the Brookline Center and the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research, Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center (iSPARC) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Schools.

The Learning & Working During the Transition to Adulthood Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (2019-2024)

Title: The Learning & Working During the Transition to Adulthood Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (2019-2024)
Dates: 10/1/2019-9/30/2024
Funder:  National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
Funding: $ 4,374,975
PI: Maryann Davis, Ph.D.
Director of Research: Kathryn Sabella, Ph.D.
Director of Knowledge Translation: Marsha Ellison, Ph.D.
Director of Operations: Amanda Costa, B.S.

Description: The Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood RRTC (L&W RRTC) will develop and share new knowledge about core concepts, interventions, and policies to improve the transition to employment for the 6.5 million 14-30-year-olds with Serious Mental Health Conditions (SMHC) in the U.S. The need to improve their transition to employment is urgent. This population struggles greatly to complete secondary school, attain postsecondary credentials, and secure employment. Failure to successfully enter the labor market may begin a lifetime of employment related challenges and contribute to a life of poverty and dependence on Federal benefits.

The mission of the L&W 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 proposed RRTC will conduct a coordinated and comprehensive set of activities that will; (1) further the evidence base for interventions that build these capacities, (2) explore factors that contribute to successful transitions to employment in vulnerable subgroups of Y&YAs with SMHC, (3) provide national statistics on how Y&YAs with SMHC and their vulnerable subgroups are faring in education and employment, and (4) explore barriers and facilitators to access that Y&YAs with SMHC have to WIOA-mandated services for students with disabilities and to Career and Technical Education. Through state of the science knowledge translation processes, the L&W RRTC will speed capacity-building for service providers, the movement of findings into practice and policy, and prepare the future research workforce in this area.  The L&W RRTC’s activities are deeply embedded in the participatory involvement of Y&YAs with SMHC, their families, service providers and policy experts.

National Policy Development Center for Preparing Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities for Employment

Title: National Policy Development Center for Preparing Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities for Employment
Dates: 10/1/2019-9/30/2023
Funder: U.S. Dept. of Labor
Funding: $750,000
PI: Marsha Langer Ellison, Ph.D.

Description:  The Transitions to Adulthood Research Center (Transitions Center) at UMass Medical School is part of a new nationwide policy initiative to improve employment outcomes for teenagers and young adults with disabilities, including a focus on those with mental health disabilities.  The Council of State Governments is leading the grant in partnership with the Transitions Center and the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University.

The Transitions Center will conduct research to develop a national portrait of how states are addressing Pre-employment Transition Services, particularly to youth with mental health conditions.  This will be followed by case studies of model states.

Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE): Creating Economic Self-Sufficiency

Title: Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE): Creating Economic Self-Sufficiency
Dates: 9/30/2018-9/29/2023
Funder: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
Funding: $2,374,954
PI(s): Michelle G. Mullen, MS, CRC, CPRP and Marsha Langer Ellison, Ph.D.

Description: The goal of this project is to create a career development program, Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE), to improve the negative education and employment outcomes of young adults with mental health conditions (MHC). The HYPE program aims to minimize disruptions of post-secondary education and promote degree completion to drive competitive employment in meaningful careers and financial self-sufficiency. Project activities include: (1) conducting a fully-powered randomized trial testing HYPE’s efficacy; (2) establishing implementation sites meeting HYPE fidelity standards; (3) providing high quality HYPE-coordinated postsecondary education and employment services; (4) recruiting and retaining college students; (5) and collecting and analyzing data on HYPE recipients and an active control group of college students over two years related to academic progression and performance, and employment in benefitted jobs. Project outcomes include developing HYPE data and products in preparation for wider implementation, and scale-up testing and adoption. Dissemination products include a mobile application on accommodations; peer-reviewed publications, policy white paper, and cost-analysis; informational tip sheets, webinars, presentations; and HYPE webpage.

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.

Description: 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.

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