Explain the Psychological Basis for Well-Being

The literal meaning of Psychology from its Greek Etymology is “study of the soul”. A more contemporary definition from Chambers Dictionary is “science of the mind” or “the study of mind and behavior”. A fuller description is offered by the NHS “Psychology is a science based profession and is the study of people; how they think, how they act, react and interact. It is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation underlying them”.

The idea that there is a connection between the mind and well being can be traced back to Greek philosophers in the 4th Century BC.

The Physician Hippocrates theorized that mental disorders were of a physical (rather than divine) nature. Aristotle investigated psychological phenomena in De Anima and a loosely related collection of short works called the Parva Naturalia It seems that early Greek Philosophers appreciated that a specialist study of the soul/mind could help the physician and natural scientist to better understand human physical existence.

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Psychology largely remained as a subset of Philosophy from it’s Greek origins through to the late 16th Century when the latin word ‘psychologia’ emerged in Germany in relation to a separate science of investigation and understanding of the mind.In 1694 the French Philosopher Rene Descartes published “The Passion of the Soul”. It introduced the idea of dualism, which asserted that the mind and body were two separate entities that interact to form the human experience. This publication directly influenced scientists such as the physician Steven Blankaart (1650 – 1704) to develop Empiricism within his scientific research and who is also credited as being the first author to use the English word Psychology.

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Psychology developed rapidly during the 20th Century and established many new disciplines such as Psycho Analysis, Behaviorism, Personal, Developmental, Humanist and Cognitive.

The work of Sigmund Freud and his controversial model of Psychoanalysis exerted significant influence on the development of 20th Century Psychology, and in particular the Development and Personality Theorists.

The Psychological theories that this essay will examine in detail arise from 2 different disciplines:
Humanist Psychology – Abraham Maslow ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Unit M2c 1.3 Developmental Psychology – Erik Erikson “Psychosocial Development” A brief review of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief is also included.

This essay accepts the definition of wellbeing contained within health and social care standards:- “a subjective stage of being content and healthy”. Psychologists generally agree that wellbeing is multi-faceted and made up of a number of components including Social, Emotional, Cultural, Spiritual, Psychological, Physical, and Environmental. The value of the selected Psychological theories is that they bring a conceptual framework for understanding human development and personal growth from both Social and needsbased perspective. They provide, by implication, some ideas to hypothesize about a service users behavior in particular situations. This idea will be explored further at a later point in this essay. It’s important, however, to appreciate the limit to ones skill and not use a modest knowledge about Psychological Theory to ‘diagnose‘ a service user. Children’s Services has access to specialists such as Child Psychologists and sometimes a referral will be the most appropriate and safest decision to take.

According to humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, our actions and behaviours are motivated in order achieve certain needs. Maslow first introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and his subsequent book Motivation and Personality. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.

This hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security As people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship, and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority. Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential. Types of Needs

Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior. Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs (also known as D-needs), meaning that these needs arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.

Maslow termed the highest-level of the pyramid as growth needs (also known as being needs or B-needs). Growth needs do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.

Physiological Needs

These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.

Security Needs

These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health care, safe neighborhoods, and shelter from the environment.

Social Needs

These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow described these needs as less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups.

Esteem Needs

After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.

Self-actualizing Needs

This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.

Maslow subsequently revised his model to include stages of Cognitive and Aesthetic need that precede Self Actualization; and Transcendence that follows Self Actualization.

While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression.

For example, he notes that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.

Whilst Maslow’s theory is subject to criticism due to a lack of scientific basis, it is still a popular model within Psychology and other fields such as Education. Regardless of the criticisms, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents part of an important shift in Psychology. Rather than focusing on abnormal behavior and development, Maslow’s humanistic Psychology was focused on the development of healthy individuals. Returning to the definition of wellbeing, it can be seen that Maslow has provided a model that recognizes and values the actuality of Social, Emotional, Cultural, Spiritual, Psychological, Physical, and Environmental needs and concerns. The relevance of this model to Social Care is that it separates out individual needs from the usual age-related development models such as Attachment Theory, and Psychodynamic models of Personality Development. It provides the practitioner with a simple tool to review the care that is being planned or provided for any age service user.

For example – do we know that the service user has all of their physiological needs met? Can we be certain they have enough food to eat and somewhere appropriate to sleep? Do we know that their basic drives to eat, drink, sleep and excrete are all working normally? If the answer is YES – the practitioner can move up the pyramid and consider the service users safety needs. If the answer is NO – the immediate priority will to arrange basic physiological needs before considering anything else. This is certainly the experience of Camilla Batmanghelidj, CEO of the highly respected charity Kids Company, who understands that all children need love, food, safety and warmth before expecting them to do anything else. A practitioner experienced in working with Looked After Children will recognize that Esteem Needs are frequently an influence within the young person. It is widely recognised that LAC have low levels of self esteem and self confidence which in turn impact on their Cognitive (Academic) experiences. Maslow provides a very useful model to establish Outcomes related to Social needs in order to create a stronger foundation for Esteem needs. Maslow, in this respect, chimes with common sense. How can we expect a young person to do well academically if they have low self esteem and do not feel loved and valued in their social world?

Maslow clearly demonstrates that wellbeing has a Psychological basis and provides the practitioner with a model to develop positive outcomes for individuals. Erik Erikson – Psychosocial Development. Also known as the 8 stages of Development.

Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Much like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages. Unlike Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. One of the main elements of Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory is the development of ego identity. Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction. According to Erikson, our ego identity is constantly changing due to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others. When psychologists talk about identity, they are referring to all of the beliefs, ideals, and values that help shape and guide a person’s behavior. The formation of identity is something that begins in childhood and becomes particularly important during adolescence, but it is a process that continues throughout life. Our personal identity gives each of us an integrated and cohesive sense of self that endures and continues to grow as we age.

In addition to ego identity, Erikson also believed that a sense of competence motivates behaviors and actions. Each stage in Erikson’s theory is concerned with becoming competent in an area of life. If the stage is handled well, the person will feel a sense of mastery, which is sometimes referred to as ego strength or ego quality. If the stage is managed poorly, the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy. In each stage, Erikson believed people experience a conflict that serves as a turning point in development. In Erikson’s view, these conflicts are centered on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality. During these times, the potential for personal growth is high, but so is the potential for failure. Each stage builds upon the successful completion of earlier stages. The challenges of stages not successfully completed may be expected to reappear as problems in the future.

However, mastery of a stage is not required to advance to the next stage. Erikson’s stage theory characterizes an individual advancing through the eight life stages as a function of negotiating his or her biological forces and sociocultural forces. Erikson believed that the stages of a person’s development are linked to their social and cognitive development rather then being purely led by their physical needs. He was also interested in how the culture and society an individual lives in could influence their development.The following table, sourced from summarises the 8 Developmental Stages; the Basic Conflict that is to be mastered; Important Events of the Stage; and the potential Outcomes.

One enduring value of Erikson’s theory is that it illuminates why individuals who have been thwarted in the healthy resolution of early phases (such as in learning healthy levels of trust and autonomy in toddlerhood) can experience such difficulty when the same Basic Conflict arises at later developmental stages. This is very apparent to practitioners working with Looked After Children who have been badly let down by care givers in their first years of life. There is frequently an issue of mistrust towards an individual

practitioner and the entire service that is providing their care and support. It is widely recognized that the trust that may have taken weeks to establish can be lost in an instant. Erikson’s theory can provide an insight into the behavior of service users. For example disruptive behavior linked to new social or academic situations may indicate earlier issues in the Industry/Inferiority Stage. The skillful practitioner may wish to be mindful to always encourage and commend the young person for their accomplishments and abilities and ensure that colleagues and teachers are also involved in this process. The purpose will be to help the young person to develop a belief in their own competence rather than continue to feel a failure and inferior. Erikson’s theory also provides a useful guide to assess caring practices in terms of their ability to nurture and facilitate healthy emotional and cognitive development.

Erikson clearly demonstrates that wellbeing has a Psychological basis and provides the practitioner with a model to develop positive outcomes for individuals. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss American medical practitioner and psychiatrist. She was a pioneer in near death studies and the author of a ground breaking book ‘On Death and Dying’ (first published 1969). The book discussed her theory of 5 Stages of Grief. Kubler-Ross was born in 1926 and died in 2004.

The 5 stages of grief is a hypothesis which argues that when a person is faced with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate, he or she will experience a series of emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages are popularly known by the acronym DABDA. The hypothesis was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. Motivated by the lack of curriculum in medical schools, at the time, addressing the subject of death and dying, Kubler-Ross started a project about death when she became an instructor at the University of Chicago’s medical school. This evolved into a series of seminars; those interviews, along with her previous research, led to her book. Her work revolutionized how the U.S. medical field took care of the terminally ill. In the decades since her book’s publication, Kubler-Ross’ concept has become largely accepted by the general public; however, its validity has yet to be consistently supported by the majority of research studies that have examined it.

Kübler-Ross noted that these stages are not meant to be a complete list of all possible emotions that could be felt, and, they can occur in any order. Her hypothesis holds that not everyone who experiences a life-threatening/-altering event feels all five of the responses, as reactions to personal losses of any kind are as unique as the person experiencing them.

The 5 stages include:
Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.” Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage. Kubler Ross recommends that family members and health professionals not prolong denial by distorting the truth about the person’s condition. In doing so, they prevent the dying person from adjusting to impending death and hinder necessary arrangements, for social supports, for bringing closure, and for making decisions about medical interventions. Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?” Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.

Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…” The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can we still be friends?..” when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death. Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”

During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the ‘aftermath’. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.” In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person’s situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.

Kübler-Ross originally developed this model based on her observations of people suffering from terminal illness. She later expanded her theory to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, or drug addiction. Supporting her theory, many (both sufferers and therapists) have reported the usefulness of the Kübler-Ross Model in a wide variety of situations where people were experiencing a significant loss. The application of the theory is intended to help the sufferer to fully resolve each stage, then help them transition to the next – at the appropriate time – rather than getting stuck in a particular phase or continually bouncing around from one unresolved phase to another. The subsections below give a few specific examples of how the model can be applied in different situations. These are just some of the many benefits that Kübler-Ross hoped her model would provide.

The value of the Kubler-Ross Model for the social care practitioner is, as with Ericsson and Maslow, to provide a useful framework to to better understand the behavior and emotional reality of a service user. Furthermore, it is intended to be a collaborative model that the practitioner and the service user can discuss together.


All of the Theories demonstrate that wellbeing has a Psychological basis. They each demonstrate that “a subjective stage of being content and healthy” is related to the history of a person’s life and their current situation. They provide the creative practitioner with a framework to better understand the behavior of a service user and are therefore better equipped to consider their immediate and long term care to ensure positive outcomes.


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arist otle-psychology/#7
http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychistory.htm http://psychology.about.com/od/psychology101/u/psychology-theories.htm http://www.ekrfoundation.org/five-stages-of-grief/

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Explain the Psychological Basis for Well-Being. (2016, Apr 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/explain-the-psychological-basis-for-well-being-essay

Explain the Psychological Basis for Well-Being

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