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The importance of development psychology to the counseling approach

Updated on July 20, 2015

Introduction

Facilitating human development is a major goal of all counseling approaches and counselors should be aware of major findings in developmental psychology that are applicable to the counseling approach. Counselors would strive to understand these complex processes through which human behaviours are acquired and modified in order to intervene and to facilitate its smooth and orderly operation. Development consists of a set of psychological, social and physiological processes that influence the entire scope of human existence from birth to death. Typical physiological processes that define the physical organism and the environmental forces, including culture, that act on the individual are mediated by a set of psychological processes. Development combines growth, maturation and learning and is influenced by environmental factors.

What are the stages of development?

Is development a smooth or continuous process or does it occur in recognizably discrete stages?

Puberty could be considered to be relatively discrete events while other physiological processes take place very gradually and continuously. Society reinforces stages of development by organizing social institutions around them, namely, grade levels in school, legal ages for driving, drinking and marriage.

There are essentially five major life stages as identified by D.H. Blocher, organization, exploration, realization, stabilization and examination. Each stage has its expected social roles, coping behaviours and developmental tasks. This approach is useful to the counselor who accepts the general concept that cultural forces and maturational changes acting at particular times in the lives of human beings will result in particular kinds of problems, crises and behavior patterns.

Development can be viewed as a patterned, orderly, lifelong process that leads to effective behaviour, behaviour that permits long term control of the environment and control and control of the individual’s affective responses when the environment cannot be controlled. This process included gaining understanding, assigning meanings and organizing behaviour. Development is orderly but each individual develops in their own unique way.

Source

Organization

This period is dominated by the individual’s struggle to meet the emerging physical and emotional needs within a society that defines how these needs may be met.

The development of the ability to trust takes during the infancy period between birth and three years. This is formed in the primary relationship between the parent and child and is ultimately generalized toward others when parents and significant others demonstrate sensitivity, consistency and self-confidence. This development enables the infant to begin to defer immediate gratifications and to begin to behave as a separate but secure individual.

Once the infant emerges into early childhood between ages three and six, their world becomes more complex as new roles are imposed on them. Amongst them include those of sibling and playmate and to assure gender appropriate roles. The most important is the development of a sense of autonomy, the basis for a sense of separateness and responsibility essential in achieving independence. The individual will learn to make choices, assume responsibility for them and accept the consequences those choices imply. These coping behaviours acquired during this stage is cooperation, control and substitute behaviors.

The later childhood,, between ages six and twelve, stage of development sees the child’s social worl becoming rapidly more complex. New social roles such as student, helper, big brother or sister should be mastered as failure to do so will have drastic consequences to future development. The key developmental tasks are those of initiative and industry, learning to plan and attack tasks and the child must learn these skills to gain success. Mastery leads to acceptance by others and increases self-esteem and self-acceptance. This would naturally lead to a sense of personal responsibility and pride. The coping behaviours learned during this stage is mastery, value-relevant and work relevant behaviours.

Early adolescence, between twelve and fourteen, is known as a critical and painful stage in human development. The drastic physiological changes associated with puberty causes a profound equilibrium as the adolescent is confronted with a frightening new cluster of social role expectations that are usually and ambivalent.

Two prominent role expectation changes occur at this stage: peer roles and heterosexual roles.

Peer expectations will certainly carry more weight than those of family or school expectations, placing the adolescent in a position of acute choice anxiety. The adolescent will also become more involved in heterosexual relationships which are activated by powerful new biological needs. This results in the conflict between identity and role confusion as a sexual identity needs to be affirmed.

During the relative intimacy of such relationships the adolescent is able to mould a more profound identity by projecting and reflecting it upon others. The sense of belonging with the group and to belonging to someone of the opposite sex assists the adolescent to clarify his or her personal identity. The coping behaviours that need to be learned at this time are social, sex-appropriate and achievement-orientated behaviours.

Exploration

This stage begins in mid-adolescence and steers the individual through late adolescence and early adulthood. Individuals reach out for new values, ideals, motivations and purpose as they are intent on reaching out into the environment to find the elements to which they can relate their new found sense of physical maturity. Young adults reach out to establish new reciprocal relationships in friendship, courtship and dating, educational achievement and career development. These individuals must learn to give and receive in situations that call for mutuality and cooperation thus developing effective sexual behaviours, risk-taking behaviours and value consistent behaviours.

>This approach is useful to the counselor who accepts the general concept that cultural forces and maturational changes acting at particular times in the lives of human beings will result in particular kinds of problems, crises and behavior patterns.

Development can be viewed as a patterned, orderly, lifelong process that leads to effective behaviour, behaviour that permits long term control of the environment and control and control of the individual’s affective responses when the environment cannot be controlled. This process included gaining understanding, assigning meanings and organizing behaviour. Development is orderly but each individual develops in their own unique way.

Realization

The realization stages, ages thirty to fifty, represents the culmination of effective human development as physical maturation is complete, psychological growth has established a set of personality structures and patterns of behaviour that can support a high level of functioning. Individuals are likely to fill leadeship roles, helping roles, creative roles and accomplishment roles as they accept the responsibility to their families and the groups that are important to them. These individuals will focus on the development of unity and integration, harmony between the individual’s lifestyle and values of the individual’s culture. This harmony provides meaning to life and will overcome the existential despair that arises from the inevitability of death. The mature adult needs to learn coping behaviors such as discrimination, selective awareness, sensitivity and time reversal.

The stabilization stage, ages fifty to sixty-five, signifies the continuation and refinement of this high level of functioning. Controlled growth will continue to enhance the behaviour of the individual who reaps the rewards of previous experiences. A typical developmental task is recognizing the inevitability of change and developing a time perspective for observing and evaluating problems that go beyond the limits of one’s own life span. Coping behaviours learnt include change- orientated behaviours, value relevant behaviours of a self-transcending nature and sensitivity behaviours.

The examination stage, sixty-five plus, is characterized by reflection, active disengagement from events and embracing the roles of observer and mentor rather than active participant. There are the obvious changes of isolation and detachment which can deprive life of meaning and reality. Surrendering the role of authority and responsibility to take on the new role of retired person can produce devastating consequences in self-perception. The realities of death and retirement result in coping behaviours that include affiliative behaviours, productive leisure-time behaviours and personal enhancement behaviours.

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