The Importance of Therapeutic Alliance for Transition-Aged Youth

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Transitioning youth with mental illness are among the most difficult populations to maintain in treatment, as the transition stage of development is often characterized by further deterioration of mental health and functional outcomes.1 Strong relationships with support systems and mental health service providers are important for a healthy transition to adulthood. During this critical developmental period, the therapeutic relationship can help youth navigate the challenges that come with the transition to adulthood and be a model for other healthy relationships in a youth’s life. Adolescence is a critical period to engage youth in treatment as many young people continue to face the mental health challenges they experienced in childhood, while additional disorders commonly conceptualized as adult disorders emerge. Almost 25% of youth have met criteria for a mental health disorder with severe impairment at some point in their lifetime.2 Yet youth with mental illness experience a serious decline in access to treatment and often drop out of treatment.3 Initial encounters with mental health services and providers therefore can have important implications for future service utilization.

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Focal Point: Youth, Young Adults, & Mental Health, v. 25, issue 1, p. 8-10