Robert E. Reichlin, Ph.D.

Houston Psychologist ∙ Psychotherapist ∙ Geropsychologist ∙Bellaire, Texas

Psychotherapy and the Stages of Adulthood

Sunday, June 28th 2009

I specialize in working with adults of all ages. Accordingly, I see a wide range of difficulties, given that adulthood can last 60 or more years. In addition to working with younger adults (20-65) over the past 30 years, I have also worked intensively with men and women in their 80’s and 90’s. They have taught me that the challenges of life in one’s twenties or thirties are quite different from those facing someone in middle age or late adulthood. I have found that appreciating these distinctions and utilizing them in psychotherapy requires a sensitivity to the processes of adult development.

Emerging Adulthood
Young men and women in their twenties are faced with two significant tasks: they must launch a career, and emotionally separate sufficiently from their family of origin to establish adult relationships with peers and begin the task of finding a life partner. These are complex activities with many obstacles. Psychotherapy can be helpful in assisting the person in developing plans, focusing on vital issues, strengthening self-esteem, and overcoming the effects of self-defeating behaviors that make successful achievement and effective communication difficult. Creating healthy forms of self-care lays the foundation for healthy adulthood. See Robin Henig’s article: Also, see the Clark U.poll:

Middle Adulthood
Competing demands from many sources make mid-life (~30-60+) particularly difficult. One is often confronted by the consequences of decisions made in the past (e.g. career, spouse) as well as the limits of one’s talents, opportunities for achievement, and enjoyment of work. Responsibilities for family and to one’s life-partner are many. Psychotherapy may involve assisting the person in working through unresolved conflicts from the past, identifying new areas of growth, and tempering a mature and flexible self-esteem. Developing and strengthening self-care is essential to these tasks as well as those involving adapting to how one’s body is aging. Life transitions and mid-life crises test one’s ability to maintain continuity as well as to change and adapt to new circumstances. Learning to provide caregiving to elder parents or other family members becomes a necessity for many in this period of life. See my articles, “Longevity I” and “Cognitive Fitness I

Late Adulthood (Geriatric Psychology)
The challenge of late adulthood (70+) is to maintain a sense of vitality and openness to life while at the same time learning to compensate for physical difficulties and the losses of significant others that come with longevity. The kinds of difficulties people face at this time in life include coping with physical impairment and chronic illness, providing caregiving to a spouse or other loved one, grief over the loss of significant others, especially spouses, and loss of independence (e.g. no longer able to drive). Yet, this also a time of discovery where a person begins to see in clear relief the contours of a long life lived, of appreciating the complexities of that life, and that the lessons learned, were learned for good reason.

If you find that my perspective on the Stages of Adulthood resonates with your experience, and you are considering psychotherapy, please email or call me.

Contact Houston Psychologist Dr. Robert Reichlin at 281-813-7202;

Leave a Reply

Robert E. Reichlin, Ph.D.