Counseling and Lifespan Development

What does a counselor do?

Counselors address the emotional, mental, and behavioral needs of individuals, families, and communities. Some counselors specialize in working with specific difficulties, and others work with certain groups like children and young people. 

A licensed counselor can diagnose and treat mental health disorders. In a confidential setting, a counselor works with clients to find solutions to problems that cause emotional difficulty. They seek to improve communication skills, increase confidence, promote changes in behavior, and enhance mental health.

Counselors use active listening and a non-judgmental approach. They can be patient and stay calm in stressful situations. They help the client to talk about their feelings, have a clearer insight into their situation, and find ways to cope. They will empathize but also challenge when necessary.

Some of the issues counselors help with are:

  • Grief
  • Marital problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Behavioral problems in children and young people
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger management
  • Substance abuse
  • Life transitions

In general, counseling approaches are guided by theory and research, and these inform the method of practice. For example, creative therapy uses different art mediums to improve mood and other types of well-being. Art therapy is used as an innovative tool for self-expression without words. Artistic expression can release positive feelings and helps to reduce anxiety and other psychological symptoms.

Working as a counselor could lead to opportunities after further training, such as mental health counseling, psychotherapy, or psychology. Professional counselors can work in numerous settings, such as workplaces, schools, prisons, hospitals, or health centers.

Online master’s degree

Walsh University offers an online Master of Arts Counseling and Human Development – Clinical Mental Health Counselling program. The course will prepare you to become a licensed practitioner.

Lifespan development

Lifespan development examines how we grow and adapt from conception to end of life. It is an approach to understanding the cognitive, physiological, emotional, and social changes people go through throughout life. People live in a wide range of cultures with different customs and values, and this makes for a rich and diverse subject. It is important to understand which features of development are culturally based. There arethree facets of lifespan development, and they interlink throughout a person’s life. Lifespan Development is a lifelong process. A comprehensive understanding of the individual comes from the context of their development and the social and cultural context.  

This field has many different and complex facets but offers people a way to make discoveries and changes to their lives. It is a theoretical perspective with several fundamental and methodological concepts about the nature of human development. Individuals are faced with many opportunities, challenges, and situations that affect their development. Understanding that development is a lifelong process gives a broader perspective on the meaning of each event.

Childcare practices differ by culture, and varying approaches have been found to speed up or slow down the achievement of developmental milestones like sitting, crawling, and walking. The Aché people in Paraguay spend a lot of time foraging in forests. While foraging, the women carry their young children and seldom put them down because of the dangers in the forest. As a result, their children are late to walk. They walk around two years of age, whereas in Western countries, they walk around one year old. However, as they get older, the children are given more freedom, and their motor skills exceed Western children of the same age by about nine years old. They can climb trees that are 25 feet tall and use machetes to cut their way through the forest. Development is affected by various contexts which influence the timing of motor functions.

Physical development

Physical development includes body growth, hormonal changes, genetics, and the effects of deformities, diseases, and illnesses. Some deformities and diseases that impact development are inherited, while others come from lifestyle and environment or result from a predisposition activated by environmental factors. Genetics determine which traits are inherited from which biological parent. From birth to two years is the time of most motor changes, whereas adolescence and middle age see the most hormonal changes.

Physical development includes puberty, fertility, sexual health, menopause, and primary and secondary aging. Physical development also involves brain development, which enables motor coordination in children and more coordination between emotions and planning as adults as our brains develop. Good nutrition and exercise are important at every age and stage of life.

Physical activity can improve mental health, helping to decrease and prevent conditions like anxiety and depression. A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of poor mental health. All ages, genders, and races can experience these benefits. Young people with the most risk of mental illness may experience the most benefit.

Physical activity for young children can help with skill development. An understanding of the developmental stages can ensure that exercise is effective in promoting motor skills development which may, in turn, contribute to physical, social, and cognitive development. Physical education programs should encourage continued participation in physical activity. Adolescents should be offered suitable programs that relate to the physical and social-cultural changes they experience so that they embrace physical activity for life. Physical activity during puberty may contribute to bone development and prevent obesity.

Studies have found a positive connection between fundamental motor skills and physical activity in children and adolescents and a positive relation between fundamental motor skills and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Cognitive development

Cognitive development refers to the mental and emotional changes people experience during their life. Cognitive development relates to memory, language, and intelligence. Most cognitive growth occurs from birth to late childhood, and these changes become entrenched in early adulthood and start deteriorating in late adulthood. However, recent research is finding evidence of cognitive growth in later life. Emotional development includes changes in how people react to their emotions and respond to others. Mental health disorders can affect both cognitive and emotional development.

Different forms of intelligence change with age. Infants and toddlers will usually show rapid language development. Adolescents will learn to think logically about the abstract world and develop moral reasoning and practical intelligence. Older people may develop wisdom from experience over time.

Cognitive theories focus on the changes in our mental processes over time. The theory of cognitive development is about the nature and development of human intelligence and was first developed by Piaget. It is about the nature of knowledge and how people acquire and use it.

Piaget’s theory had four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. The stages occur across all cultures and always follow the same order. He believed child development is caused by maturing and interacting with the environment. The first stage is the sensory-motor stage which occurs from birth to two years old. The infant focuses on physical sensations and coordinating the body. The preoperational stage takes place between two and seven years. This is an intellectual development stage. Thinking is influenced by appearance rather than logical reasoning. The child is egocentric, believing that other people see the world as they do. The concrete operational stage takes place from seven to eleven years. The child can understand quantities, realize that people see the world differently, and can perform more inclusion tasks. The formal operational stage happens between twelve years and over. Adolescents can think abstractly and systematically, use higher-order reasoning, and solve theoretical problems.

Psychosocial development

Psychosocial development defines how a person’s personality develops and how social skills are learned from birth to adulthood. It relates to emotions, personality, self-esteem, and relationships. Early social interactions are primarily with family, but as people get older, they have more social influences from friends, work, and the community.

Psychosocial development can determine adult social and economic success and relates to outcomes such as divorce, having children, criminal behavior, illness, and mortality.

Erikson was a developmental psychologist who developed the theory of psychosocial development. There are eight stages:

  • Trust
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Accomplishment
  • Identity
  • Relationships
  • Contribution
  • Reflection

The first four stages happen during infancy and childhood, the fifth stage during adolescence, and the final three stages during adulthood to old age. Each stage contributes to the shaping of the human personality.

At each stage, we meet a crisis, and by dealing with the crisis, we develop strengths and characteristics that make us confident and healthy people. Erikson believed these crises are psychosocial because they are the psychological needs of the individual (psycho) against the needs of society (social). He considered his theory to be an aid to enhance thinking rather than factual analysis.

This model asserts that people grow and change throughout their lives, and personality is not only formed in childhood. Understanding ourselves and becoming more self-aware can be an important step forward. Counselors can refer to the eight stages of development and explore the clients’ past experiences to discover potential difficulties in their development. If someone has a negative experience during any particular stage, this can be addressed and worked on later in life.

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