Societal expectations of young adults

Societal expectations of young adults are high, they are expected to achieve independence, realize their potential, and fulfill the promise of their cultural heritage. Although such expectations are clear, help in achieving them is often lacking, particularly for youth without financial resources or familial support and for those with special needs. This is a developmental phase during which appropriate supports can make an especially important difference. I have decided that I would like to be a support within this age group, within an academic environment.

The chronological age at which adolescence occurs depends on individual and socio-cultural factors. The World Health Organization and the Society for Adolescent Medicine define adolescence as ages 10-24. Late adolescence (“young adulthood” in the United States) is defined as being from ages 18-24. (NHCHC, September, 2004) The hallmarks of late adolescence include achieving independence from parents, comfort with one’s body image, establishing sexual, ego, vocational and moral identities, and progression to abstract thinking. (NHCHC, September, 2004) In this stage, young adults are more likely to think about and plan for the future in a realistic manner, be open to questioning about behavior and goals, and be concerned about longer term health outcomes. This final stage of adolescent development – the late adolescent stage – is crucial to a normal outcome in adult functioning. It is a window of opportunity during which young adults can, with support, live to their potential and grow into a healthy responsibly functioning adult contributing to society, or, left to their own devices, face a future of dependency and marginalization.

Over the past semester I have often found myself comparing my life, (especially my life when I was a younger adult) and views to each and every theory as we have studied it. Surprisingly for me, I have almost always found a truth in each therapy that I can agree with. While I certainly do not agree with the Oedipal complex of Freud’s theory, I see the childhood as crucial to defining who a person becomes, and still quite relevant for my target population. I am not certain of the importance of dreams, but I do believe the unconscious holds some scary truths for individuals.

With all this said, I think I would use Adlerian Therapy to guide how I counsel my students. Unlike Freud, Adler stresses choice, responsibility and meaning in life and the striving for success, completion and perfection. Furthermore, Adlerian therapy considers factors such as everyday life and family dynamics to ascertain wellbeing.Individual psychology holds to the premise that humans’ main motivations are authority and power, and faultlessness. Adler parallels this with his belief that all significant issues in life (love, vocational aspirations) are social. I definitely anticipate seeing more than a few college students that would match well with this theoretical approach. This also seems like a quality fit because based on my own research, most late adolescents in a college environment are exploring their capacity to interpret, influence and create events, yet it hasn’t been that long since they weren’t as independent. Adler believed that human behavior was not determined solely by heredity and environment, and Adler’s life style assessment is holistic and systemic, again, a seemingly quality fit.

With each student, I would try to implement an Adlerian basis by gathering as much phenomenological information I could about his attitudes, thoughts, convictions and conclusions, and the world in which he lives from his perspective. I would utilize what is seen here as is the most influential method available for changing a person’s beliefs: encouragement; as I appreciate how Adler emphasizes goals and wants for the future. Since late adolescent is often the “break-a-way” point for many individuals, I believe that this would be the exact time to stress that the client/student may choose the direction of his or her life. I would encourage my students to try and understand themselves and gain insight into what they believe their purpose is in life, and help them to make better choices and take responsibility for what they make of themselves.

As a supplement to Adlerian therapy, I think it would be beneficial to analyze current behavior, emotions, and thoughts implicit in the client.Based on my research in class, it seems that Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) would be of use here. REBT attempts to bring these sometimes harmful factors to light, so that one could vigorously work with the client to consciously direct these characteristics, and thus, support their long-term goals. In keeping with my integrative perspective, I can therefore say that I also agree with the views of behavioral and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT).

Individual psychology, as acknowledged, embraces the premise that normal development is encompassed by family, society, and the drive for superiority. Like the Adlerian approach, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, (REBT) emphasizes the importance of goals, purposes, values and meaning in human existence. Ellis believes that our emotions stem mainly from our beliefs, evaluations, interpretations and reactions to life situations. We originally learn irrational beliefs from significant others during our childhood and we actively reinforce self-defeating beliefs, keeping ourselves emotionally disturbed by internalizing beliefs such as the “shoulds” “musts” and “oughts.” However, as discussed in class, people can be influenced differently within the same exactly family or community. Therefore, I think too, that something intrinsic is involved. REBT supports this, stating that humans develop because of innate biological and psychological tendencies that interact with social influences. (David D. et al. 2005) Behavior therapy even takes it a step further and explains how a person is influenced developmentally by their social environment. In this theory, human development is the process of learning. (Sundberg, 2001).

I think this would work well with my target population because REBT emphasizes the individual’s creation of his or her reality and the fact that the individual’s perception of reality is the deciding factor in determining behavior. (Cautilli et. al, 2006). I think that this “giving of control” to the late adolescent population could be fitting based on where most might be developmentally. Moreover, with REBT, my students will get the benefit of being taught self-acceptance. I distinctly remember my feelings as a late adolescent, struggling with the conflicting feelings of low self-esteem coupled with the desire to have my own new, strong identity. I believe I would have benefited from some of the techniques that REBT encompasses.

Equality is the founding premise in Adlerian counseling — the therapist does not subscribe to an air of superiority; it is based on empathy, support and cooperation, which is exactly the kind of relationship I want with my students and clients. I appreciate that within Adlerian theory, clients are allowed to develop an understanding of themselves and of others; I believe this enables them to adjust to different situations easily and effectively. By developing empathy and understanding, these individuals are made capable to proceed in life and function effectively in a variety of settings. Any type of academic environment is going to require flexibility, strength, and a mutual respect for differences, so within counseling, it might be prudent to emphasize and encourage this point. However, in keeping with my natural self, I will still incorporate aspects of REBT’s more directive approach. I agree with Ellis’s belief that the focus should be on working with thinking and acting, rather than primarily with expressing feeling. I think that expressing feeling is equally effective and highly therapeutic, but I sense that my target population would need both.

College enrollment among young adults is now at the highest it’s ever been-almost 40 percent, or 11.5 million, of adults aged 18 to 24. Overall student demographics, preparedness, and attitudes toward college have shifted greatly over the last three decades, coupled with an increase in the number of college students. But probably more important are developments in our society that have created vastly different conditions for the maturation and development of today’s teens and young adults. Stressful experiences in school and at home, combined with the unparalleled distractions of today’s mass media and entertainment industry, create an environment that has altered the rules for academic learning and life forever. (Hansen, 1998.) The advent of the GI Bill in 1944, which opened the doors to new types and much larger numbers of college students virtually transformed the entire demographic within a relatively short window of time. Higher education was once reserved for a privileged few, and universities were designed to further the learning of those who were well prepared to begin with. Not everything has changed for everyone, so it is crucial to have some relevant, viable tools to help this population cope, and excel.

In light of these facts, my hope is that that my theoretical approach can contribute to further research, self-actualization and growth, so that each student will be able to obtain their best path.


  • Cautilli, J. et. al. (2006). Resistance is not futile: an experimental analogue of the effects of consultee “resistance” on the consultant’s therapeutic behavior in the consultation process: a replication and extension. IJBCT, 2(3), 362-376.
  • David, D. et. al. (2005). A Synopsis of rational-emotive behavior therapy: fundamental and applied research. . Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 23.
  • Hansen, Edmund J. (1998) Essential Demographics of Today’s College Students. AAHE Bulletin, 51(3).
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council (2004). Homeless Young Adults aged 18-24 – Examining Service Delivery Adaptations.
  • Sundberg, N. (2001). Clinical psychology: evolving theory, practice, and research. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
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