Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot

Second Advisor

Dr. Jan Lyddon

Third Advisor

Dr. Bruce Kocher


The psychiatric rehabilitation literature (Unger, 1987) indicates that few studies have been conducted about the adaptational demands associated with the transition to college for young adults with psychiatric disabilities who negotiate the university experience without the benefit o f a supported education program .

The purpose of this study was to describe how individual, social, and institutional factors contributed to the successful transition and adaptation to college life for students with psychiatric disabilities. The study sought to identify how students with psychiatric disabilities disclosed their illness in order to request support services and accommodations, and which services were essential or peripheral in this process. H ow these factors contributed to the employment preparation of students with psychiatric disabilities was also examined. Service providers and members of the students’ social network offered additional perspectives on college students with psychiatric disabilities, and the process of transitioning and adapting to college life.

A “snowball” sampling technique was used to select a ‘“purposive” sample of 19 informants (Yin, 1994). Five of these were students with psychiatric disabilities; nine were service providers from their respective service units; and five were social network members from the student’s local support network. Informants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format to answer research questions which were divided into four thematic areas: (1) Transitioning to College, (2) Adapting to College Life, (3) Requesting Support Services, and (4) Preparing for Employment. A case-study explanation-building process identified plausible and rival explanations for the multiple-cases in the study. Cognitive maps and checklist matrices identified factors relevant to a particular theme, and the relationships between elements comprising a particular factor.

A conceptual model emerged from the study to help explain the process of transitioning and adapting to college life, and the importance of support services and employment preparation for college students whose “principal diagnosis” fell within one of the following categories of psychiatric disability recognized in DSM-IV (1994): major depressive disorder, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and schizophrenic disorders.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access