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For an in-depth conversation with Chris about his clinical approach with transition age young adults, be sure to listen to episode 15 of the SKYlights podcast


Turning 18 is one of the biggest milestones that young people in our culture experience. Overnight, one goes from being labeled a child to an adult. However, the growth that occurs in that one day is not commensurate with cognitive development, the change in expectations, nor the decrease of dependency on others. Transition age young adult groups at Open Sky assist students age 18-20 in navigating these disparities.

Development of cognitive and emotional maturity takes time. Neurologists and psychologists have long studied how our brain develops. They’ve suggested that the corpus callosum, prefrontal cortex, and other neural structures continue developing into a person’s mid-20s. This development impacts things like impulse control1, mood regulation2,3, and long-term planning4,5. Because risk-taking behavior decreases over time, it is more likely that transition age young adults (age 18-20) will participate in dangerous behaviors than their older counterparts. Additionally, these behaviors can result in more extreme legal and relational repercussions than those under age 18.

We design our transition age young adult therapy to support the development of impulse control, emotional regulation, and assertive communication. As a therapist for this age group, I apply the psychological community’s understanding of neurological and social development to my efforts to support these unique students. I strive to provide tools that are integral to this stage of development – the tools that are necessary to make a more seamless leap into adulthood.

Students entering adulthood may be exerting their own choices, expressing their true desires and experiencing independence for the first time. They are transitioning out of high school and may be unemployed, starting new jobs, beginning college, or moving out of their parent’s home6. Many times, it is a combination of these changes. Especially in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, transition age young adults are often in limbo between independence and dependence on their parents. Unsurprisingly, this time after high school is often one of the most volatile times in a person’s life. Transition age young adults are going through a unique period of self-discovery.

Research has consistently shown that shared life experiences are a core component of productive group therapy7. Therefore, transition age students at Open Sky can count on being in a group with their peers, rather than with students who are significantly older or younger. These groups allow students to connect with their peers and grow alongside each other as they discuss the challenges and opportunities of adulthood.

Additionally, we understand that a crucial component to finding the right path is building relationships with people who have already been through the fires of self-discovery. Our team provides guidance and expectations appropriate for this age group. They are a solid support network for students as they find a sense of direction, learn how to honor their values, and discover what truly inspires them.

At Open Sky, we recognize that these first few years of adulthood are unique in terms of cognitive development, life experiences, and future direction. Transitioning from being a child at home to an adult on one’s own is challenging. Open Sky helps young adults and families navigate this unique transition so the students are prepared to lead themselves, their families, and their communities to their fullest potential.


  1. Steinberg, L. (2008). A social neuroscience perspective on adolescent risk taking. Developmental review28(1), 78-106.
  2. Tamnes, C. K., Østby, Y., Fjell, A. M., Westlye, L. T., Due-Tønnessen, P., & Walhovd, K. B. (2010). Brain maturation in adolescence and young adulthood: regional age-related changes in cortical thickness and white matter volume and microstructure. Cerebral cortex20(3), 534-548.
  3. Rudolph, M. D., Miranda-Domínguez, O., Cohen, A. O., Breiner, K., Steinberg, L., Bonnie, R. J., … & Richeson, J. A. (2017). At risk of being risky: The relationship between “brain age” under emotional states and risk preference. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience24, 93-106.
  4. Steinberg, L., Albert, D., Cauffman, E., Banich, M., Graham, S., & Woolard, J. (2008). Age differences in sensation seeking and impulsivity as indexed by behavior and self-report: evidence for a dual systems model. Developmental psychology44(6), 1764.
  5. Pujol, J., Vendrell, P., Junqué, C., Martí‐Vilalta, J. L., & Capdevila, A. (1993). When does human brain development end? Evidence of corpus callosum growth up to adulthood. Annals of neurology34(1), 71-75.
  6. Haslett, E. (2015). First house, first baby, first job: 25 life milestones and the ages you should achieve them.
  7. Humphreys, K. (2000). Community narratives and personal stories in Alcoholics Anonymous. Journal of community psychology28(5), 495-506.

December 30th, 2020

Chris Blankenship, LCSW | Assistant Clinical Director and Senior Therapist | Adolescent Boys and Transition Age Young Adults