In brief form explain why knowledge of human development over the lifespan is important for counsellors to be aware of. Learning about human growth and development signalled, to me, the importance of assessing and considering developmental goals when working with both children and adults. Life-span development theories provide a useful place to start when offering emotional support as a Counsellor. Understanding an individual’s previous stages of development and environment can give the Counselor and Client a common place from which to begin the counselling process.
Essentially, the life-span development approach addresses the basic ‘nature vs nurture’ debate by allowing for both. Just as our physicals selves are determined by both genetics and lifestyle, so are our emotional selves. Considering cognitive, biological, and socio-emotional development throughout life will provide context, guideposts, and reasonable expectations for Counsellors. Knowledge of human development over a lifespan is important for counselors to be aware of because it allows them to identify natural stages and cycles that individuals will commonly go through in their lifetime.
This can help counsellors to identify what is normal and what is abnormal. Being aware of these abnormalities/normalities could save the counsellor a great of time in the assessment and interview process, the formulation of treatment goals and could ultimately change the treatment plan. As a Professional Counsellor, I plan to consider life-span development to specialize in counselling a specific type of person with hopes of becoming well-versed, and therefore more helpful, in the types of experiences that group faces. Personality can be better understood if it is examined developmentally” (Santrock, 2006, p. 45).
Give two short examples of how developmental knowledge would help a counsellor deal with two specific types of adult issues. A client comes to me for stress related symptoms and during the assessment I learn that he is 22, halfway through his first year of graduate school and the first time he’s away from his home town, 2,000 kilometers away. Since he falls within the norm, I may want to delve into some related issues to also be able to cross them off a list that I use to form my diagnosis and treatment plan.
Had he not been in the 19-25 age range, my assessment goals would be different. If I were asked to counsel a group, I could employ a standard set of questionnaires for everyone to fill out. From there I could ascertain many important characteristics, feelings, longings which they all had in common. I could use the lifespan to formulate a generational perspective to better relate to where they are at in this part of their life cycle. Acquiring a rich amount information in a short period of time could be very valuable in guiding the group towards their goal with compassion and empathy.
Development through the lifespan is a concept of how people develop throughout the lifetime. Typically, this involves a sequence of stages and describes important factors that are likely to influence development. BENEFITS: Criteria for mental health, with characteristics of unhealthy or disordered emotional functioning either explicitly or implicitly stated. This information is important in helping people set realistic treatment goals and in assessing progress. Information on how to promote healthy development and help people reduce symptoms and enhance their coping skills and satisfaction with their lives.
A description of the role of the effective counselor and the desired relationship between client and counselor. Nearly all theories of counseling currently recognize the powerful impact of the therapeutic alliance and offer clinicians ways to collaborate effectively with their clients. A safe and healing environment and a caring, skilled, and trustworthy counselor are essential to successful treatment. Strategies and interventions that counselors can use to help people achieve their counseling goals. Examples include reflections of feeling, modification of cognitive distortions, and systematic desensitization.
Information on treatment parameters such as duration and frequency of sessions; whether to use individual, group, or family treatment; and benefits of medication and other adjunct services. Delineation of those people who are most likely to benefit from this treatment approach. Adaptation throughout life depends on how each of us negotiates the internal and external factors that enhance or constrain our abilities to reach our full potentials. The essence of lifespan development is in how we build on our strengths to transcend these limitations over time.
While a developmental perspective has been at the heart of psychotherapeutic practice since its early Freudian beginnings, the view of development as a process spanning from birth to death is relatively recent. According to Sugarman (2001), the emphasis on childhood during much of the 20th century reflected prevailing restrictive notions of what constituted “development”, as only changes that were “sequential, unidirectional, universal, irreversible, and end-state or goal-directed” were seen to count as development.
Developmental theories have increasingly expanded beyond these confines, however, and since the 1980s it has been possible to talk of a whole life-span perspective (Baltes, Reese & Lipsitt, 1980) which shares certain underlying principles, formulated by Baltes (1987, cited in Sugarman, 2001) as the seven tenets of this orientation. These can be summarized as viewing development as a lifelong process which is multidimensional and multidirectional, shows plasticity, involves both gains and losses, is interactive, culturally and historically embedded, and the study of which is multidisciplinary.
While such a view of development broadens the scope both for the researcher and the practitioner, it also entails that there is no one “correct” way of development, something that places particular demands on Counselling Psychologists. We need to be open-minded and able to embrace complex and contradictory notions of development on the one hand, and be improvement-orientated on the other, so changes are inevitably evaluated, i. e. measured against some ideal.
While these challenges are met differently by different approaches to counselling and psychotherapy, Sugarman (2001, p. ) points out that there is overlap between different perspectives, as they describe “common themes if not of perfection, then at least of successful ageing”. Across different therapy models, the practitioner – like the life span researcher – is involved in “finding, co-constructing and interpreting the stories people create and use to describe and understand their lives” (Sugarman, 2003,p. 316). How the story is constructed is influenced by the practitioner’s orientation, but the goal is ultimately to help the client make their own choices.
Evaluating some events as negative does not entail being concerned with eliminating negatives, as, for example in a “disease” model (Sugarman, 2001). In the life-span approach, negative events are rather viewed as necessary parts of life that provide the opportunity for growth (Sugarman, 2003). The move from development as something occurring only in childhood to a continuous process spanning from birth to death brings the subject of death itself to attention. If death is merely the endpoint of the life span and of development, it could easily be discarded as a subject of interest.
However, even if we see death as nothing more than the end of life, as its destination, then it follows that the life course is a movement towards death and that death is in some sense present throughout life. One fundamental existential truth is that we must die. This certainty in life is also the most incomprehensible truth for us to come to terms with, as, in the philosopher Herbert Fingarette’s words (1996), “in our consciousness [we] will never know death firsthand” (p. ). Freud (1915, as cited in Fingarette, 1996, p. 150) wrote similarly: “At bottom, no one believes in his own death. Or, what comes to the same, in the Unconscious, each of us is convinced of his immortality. ” This also suggests that we have a tendency to deny death, something that according to Yalom (1980, p. 59) occurs not only in the client but also in the therapist and, as he claims, “there is collective denial in the entire field of psychotherapy”.
There may also be denial in the study of life-span development, as Sugarman (2001) makes scarce mention of death throughout her otherwise authoritative text on the subject. This seems odd considering that not only the structure of the life course is determined by our expectation of death but also the meanings we attach to life. In fact, as Fingarette explains, our conceptions of life and death can be seen as mutually influencing each other: “A mirror, too, is empty, without content, yet it reflects us back to ourselves in a reverse image.
To try to contemplate the meaning of my death is in fact to reveal to myself the meaning of my life. ” (p. 5) Death awareness thus sharpens our awareness of life, and making sense of death involves making sense of life, as, for example, through constructing our life story, an activity that requires a sense of authorship. For Yalom (1980, p. 31), who bases his thinking partly on Heidegger, “death is the condition that makes it possible for us to live life in an authentic fashion”.
Death awareness is then worth facilitating in Counselling Psychology practice, as it helps clients re-evaluate life and make important changes towards a more fulfilled life. There is ample literature promoting a positive view of death, e. g. Kubler-Ross (1975) who describes death as “the final stage of growth” and “the key to the door of life” (p. 164). She believes that growth is the purpose of living and that we all have an inner source of love and strength which connects us with the eternal and that we live more fully when we are aware of this source.
Stephen Levine (1986) takes this perspective further and encourages the reader to prepare to die by letting go of their sense of self, something that can be practised through meditation and through accepting and even welcoming pain. Both authors may be over-optimistic but they have something to teach all practitioners of psychotherapy and counselling about openness and compassion. Levine thinks that therapists can only give what they have got themselves and that how they deal with their own suffering determines the depth at which they are available to the client.
A completely open relationship towards pain and death may only be possible for a fervent religious believer, but Yalom (1980) warns that faith may also act as a defence against death anxiety. According to Yalom, we cope with death anxiety by employing more or less healthy defences, and it is neither possible nor desirable for the therapist to completely eliminate death anxiety in the client, as some anxiety is necessary for life-enhancing death awareness.
Instead it is the rapist’s task to facilitate a “sense of certainty and mastery” (p. 189) through enabling the client to create a coherent structure out of their life events. This would be in line with the above-mentioned goals formulated by Sugarman (2003) and indicates how death awareness can enhance life-span awareness and promote a more conscious narrative re-framing in Counselling Psychology practice. While death awareness and anxiety are relevant themes throughout life, they assume particular importance in mid-life.
The term “mid-life crisis” was coined by Jaques (1965), who conducted a biographical study of over 300 major artists and found a marked increase in the death rate between the ages of 35 and 39 as well as a definite change in the quality and content of creative output. It has to be noted here that due to an increase in longevity, “mid-life” would now occur at a later stage, so a definition of this phase in terms of a specific age range must be viewed with caution on account of historical changes alone.
Furthermore, rather than trying to determine an exact period at which mid-life occurs, researchers now tend to see it as an “ageless” phase, characterized more by themes and on texts (Biggs, 2003). However, Jaques” general observations regarding the differences between an artist’s early productions and those later in life may still be of interest today. Specifically, he notices a “hot-from-the-fire creativity” during the artist’s youth and more of a “sculpted creativity” as of the late thirties (Jaques, 1965, p. 503).
To achieve the greater serenity of mature work, the artist is seen to undergo a “mid-life crisis“. Jaques regards this crisis as arising from depressive anxieties due to an awareness of one’s own inevitable death on entering the second half of life. Coming from a psychoanalytic perspective, he views youthful idealism as arising from the unconscious denial of human mortality and destructiveness (what Freud called the “death instinct”) and argues that “constructive resignation” (p. 505) to these inevitable truths at mid-life can lead to mature creativity.
However, this requires the painful working-through of a depressive crisis. While Sugarman (2001) comments that only a minority of people actually experience a crisis of such proportions, Counselling Psychology clients are more likely to be among this minority. However, Kleinberg (1995, as cited in Biggs, 2003) has observed that many mid-life clients enter therapy to deal with “stagnation” rather than a crisis, although issues around ageing and finitude are also present. A more comprehensive approach to mid-life has been presented by Levinson et al. 1978), whose stage theory of the „seasons of a man’s life? has particularly illuminated the developmental tasks of the “mid-life transition” (p. 191), a term based on Jung’s description of the divide between the first and second halves of life, the “noon of life” (p. 33).
According to Levinson – whose theory is restricted to men, although much could apply to women too – this is a time of disillusionment, as the current life structure and the self need to be modified and some fundamental polarities, i. . young/old, destruction/creation, masculine/feminine and attachment/separateness, need to be resolved in preparation for middle age. Similar to Jaques (1965), Le Vinson emphasises that the illusion of one’s immortality must be given up, a painful process that may, however, lead to greater maturity: “Slowly the omnipotent Young hero recedes, and in his place emerges a middle-aged man with more knowledge of his limitations as well as greater real power and authority” (p. 218).
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