Archive for Counseling

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 8

This is the eighth and final post in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here. To see the sixth post on stage 6, go here. To see the seventh post on stage 7, go here.

Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair

(Age 65+)

Remember When?

One of our favorite things to do during family get-togethers, holidays, birthday is reminisce.

As a child I thought our family had all the jokes, but thankfully and beautifully, I grew up and found out every family has their own stories and jokes that are both hilarious and heartwarming.  It is beautiful to sit with any family during a meal and hear not only the updates of how everyone is doing but to go back in time and experience an old story for the first time or for the hundredth time and giggle away.  Watching everyone get excited about sharing a forgotten detail is fun; listening to people add emphasis to an impossible happenstance or outcome is hilarious.  These are some of the best ways to connect with family, whether they are your family or someone else’s.

As adults mature, reflection time can be a gratifying activity.  Looking back on accomplishments can bring a sense of pride, feelings of contentment and satisfaction.  Gratitude usually follows, just for the experiences, places visited, and especially the relationships and connections encountered.

At the age of 65, adults enter into Erik Erikson’s Final Stage of PsychoSocial Development, Maturity.  Maturity or late adulthood carries a conflict between integrity and despair.  The pinnacle of this stage is looking back on one’s entire life – all of the experiences, situations and relationships, in a positive light.  Erikson posits that coming to terms with and accepting oneself fully, helps create a sense of integrity and completeness.

Living a life of acceptance for the self, assuming responsibility for one’s life, without the possibility of undoing any decision or action, and being okay with it all is crucial to satisfaction with self and with life.

For those unable to achieve this; feeling regret or wishing for second chances to do something over, leads to despair.  Feeling that life is unfinished, incomplete or that the self is unrealized can lead to a fear of death.  Failing to resolve life’s challenges can leave a person with unfulfilled desires which can lead to a blaming stance.  Sometimes bitterness or even disgust are felt.

When a person has successfully faced life’s challenges or has learned through his or her mistakes, they may realize in late adulthood that what they went through, gave them wisdom.  They own their decisions, their emotions, and have no regrets, which in turn brings peace of mind.

In therapy, the counselor would help the person in this stage resolve any previously unsuccessful psychodevelopmental stages using a variety of theoretical approaches – existential, psychodynamic, trauma-oriented, and attachment oriented, to name a few. Resolving old issues helps make the person in this stage more free to embrace a hopeful and satisfied stance at the end of life.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Michelle Browning

Leave a Comment (0) →

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 7

This post is the seventh in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here. To see the sixth post on stage 6, go here.

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

This stage typically occurs between age 31 and 60 (adulthood).  The main focus of this stage is becoming a productive member of society.  This is defined by procreation and taking responsibility for caring for one’s own children and the children of others.  

In addition to getting married and raising children, this stage is characterized by being a contributing member of society and fully accepting responsibility for developing the next generation. Passing on the cultural norms and values not only to your own children but in an altruistic way helps to develop society as a whole.

Generativity refers to being productive and creative. Whether it’s creating yourself and those around you or producing new and innovative products that ultimately help society, generativity is about continuing to improve and always working to become something new, something better and realizing one’s full potential. Generativity is a product of a well-developed ego (or self-concept) and the ability to have healthy intimate relationships with others.    

The opposite of generativity is self-absorption, stagnation and underdeveloped ego strength.   Stagnation is when a person is too self-absorbed and self-indulgent to care for the needs of others or society.  In the unsuccessful completion of this stage, generativity and productivity have given way to self-centeredness and provincialism and the most basic strength of adulthood, caring for others, has been set aside.   

Although there are lots of therapeutic approaches to helping someone stuck in stagnation and self-absorption, one approach might be to begin by addressing ego strength.  Feeling good about one’s self and being happy with who we are is vitally important to being able to develop and maintain intimate relationships.  Generativity is built out of hope for a better future and the confidence to produce that future.       

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, RL Turner

Leave a Comment (0) →

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 6

This post is the sixth in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here.

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation

This stage refers to the ages between 18 and 35/40 and presuming the individual has successfully established an identity based on the first 5 stages, the young adult is now able to form close and meaningful relationships with another person outside of their family of origin. These intimate relationships are not exclusive to romantic relationships, as in this stage the young adult also develops in his/her ability to engage in finding satisfying work.

In this stage the young adult grows in the virtue of love in the sense that s/he is able to take the love received as a child and begin to love and care for others. The challenges in this stage involve finding a balance between maintaining autonomy while also being attached to others. When the young adult fails to achieve intimacy this can result in alienation, isolation, loneliness, and depression. This failure may be due to a fear of commitment and avoiding intimacy (that can be due to unsuccessful completions of earlier stages). Isolation involves self-absorption that can inhibit the ability to develop deep relationships.

In therapy, the counselor may work with the young adult to identify their own set of values versus those of their parents as a means of developing a sense of self. This may involve repairing insecure attachment styles. After this, the counselor would then work on teaching the young adult how to relate to others emotionally, intellectually, physically and/or spiritually.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Lorrie Saldivar

Leave a Comment (0) →

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 5

This post is the fifth in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here.

Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion

Have you ever looked back on your teenage years and thought, “what was I thinking dressing like that?!” Or perhaps, do you have the same thoughts about your current teenage child? Or do you wonder why all of a sudden their friends seem to matter so much more to them than their own family members?

Rest assured, these are all natural aspects to this psychosocial developmental stage, which spans the age range of 12-18 years. In this stage, the teenager is seeking to figure out his identity – what he values, what circles he will move in, what his interests are, what he will commit to in life. This is all part of forming an identity. Teenagers are more interested in spending time with friends and on their interests as they form the foundation for the sort of person they are going to be in the adult world. 

What others say and how they react to a teenager is very important in this stage. Teenagers remain very sensitive to the reinforcement (positive or negative) and encouragement that they will receive from their family, friends, teachers, and coaches. That’s why a deep sense of relationship needs to be fostered with your teenager so that he feels comfortable coming to you with the “tough stuff.”

At the same time, teenagers require enough freedom to make more choices than they were allowed in the past. Of course, with choices comes more responsibility, and a teenager should be made well aware of that. If a teenager is blocked from having more freedom to choose and move about as he will, he might end up fighting against that by hiding what he is doing or making choices that he knows others would disapprove of. 

In short, a teenager coming to a sense of solid identity needs more freedom, more responsibility, and deeper and encouraging relationships with those who can guide him rightly. If a teenager does not end up successfully forming an identity at this stage, he ends up having role confusion: he is not sure of who he is, what he likes, what values he is committed to, what his interests in career options are, and he is left feeling disappointed and confused about who he is and lacking a sense of direction.

In therapy, the counselor would encourage parents to shift perspective and allow more freedom for their teenager and/or form deeper relationships with their teenager (according to what is lacking). At the same time, the counselor would probably give more autonomy to the teenager in sessions – making it clear that she will only share what is absolutely necessary with the parents. A counselor can help a teenager process through old relational processes that block the teenager’s ability to make social connections and help them become more aware of their strengths and interests and encourage their development and exploration within the context of the therapeutic relationship.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Niki Montecillo, Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 4

This post is the fourth in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here.

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority

In Erikson’s 4th stage, Industry vs. Inferiority (typically ages 6-12), the task is achieving competence.  If all goes well enough, children begin to build a sense of who they are (self esteem) based upon what they can do, building upon earlier developmental milestones.

“Look what I can do!” “I won!” And similar exclamations reflect the sense of achievement and need for that to be recognized that is typical of this stage.  Winning and losing are a big deal.  Learning to spell, memorize facts, complete a craft or science project, run fast, etc, build confidence especially when tasks are achievable and encouraged by caregivers.  If caregivers expect more than is achievable, don’t recognize achievements, or discount achievements a sense of failure, shame, or inferiority may follow.  Sad face!

If earlier developmental stages were completed less than optimally, individuals can begin to lean heavily on competence to compensate for earlier gaps in development. For example, if someone lacks a solid foundation in Trust vs. Mistrust, s/he may more easily gravitate toward over-focus on achieving in work or school, saying friends or relationships are not worth it.  Conversely, a foundation of good friendships and trusting relationships can temper the urge to win at any cost in the pursuit of competence and self esteem.

Stuckness later in life related to this stage can look like becoming easily discouraged or insecure when faced with a task/challenge, preoccupation with ‘winning’ or being good enough, and/or low self esteem.  Focus on “I’m really good at ….” or competition with others without good sportsmanship can also be indicative of disrupted development in this area.

Healthy or complete-enough development in this stage includes having a balanced and generally accurate view of self – seeing ones own talents, strengths and weaknesses, and knowing others have talents, strengths and weaknesses, too.  Being willing to try new things, persevere through long or complicated tasks, and try again after failure are all indications that development in this area is strong.

Therapy-related focus for individuals struggling with issues related to industry vs. inferiority may include SMART goals, enhancing and celebrating small successes, and healing unprocessed memories related to early experiences of self as incompetent or inferior.  You can support loved ones by encouraging their efforts and small success, letting go of comparisons, and accepting their talents, strengths and weaknesses as well as your own.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Jennifer Madere

Leave a Comment (0) →

Erikson’s Theory: Stage 3

This post is the third in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here.

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

This stage spans the age range of 3-5 years old, otherwise known as the preschool years. Assuming that the first two stages have been successfully achieved, then the 3-5 year old trusts the world and has a healthy sense of autonomy (as much as could be expected from a 3 year old generally – feeding, toileting, etc).

In the preschool years, children begin to become more deeply involved in their play; this is how they explore the world and express themselves. This makes sense, doesn’t it? Do you remember being obsessed with trains and acting out scenarios, or playing with a baby doll, or building something out of blocks? That was exploratory and expressive play!

Initiative vs. guilt could also be understood as “I’m a good kid who can try things, sometimes succeeding, sometimes making mistakes” vs. “I’m a bad kid who has bad ideas”. At this stage it is important that parents and caretakers encourage their children (when reasonable) to make some of their own choices: what they play with, who they play with, what they’re interested in. This builds up a child’s sense of initiative, or security in one’s own abilities and decision-making skills. If the answer to any child-led idea or direction is often put down or squelched, then the tendency is for the child to assume that they are a nuisance and therefore “bad.”

How do you help your 3-5 year old pass successfully through this stage?

1. Take the time to notice what your child is doing in their play


“You really know how to take care of that doll” emphasizes your child’s ability to nurture and empathize with others.

“That tower game is hard to get right, but you keep trying anyway!” emphasizes your child’s ability to be persistent and hard-working.

2. Listen to your child’s ideas and treat them seriously

3. Make an effort to compromise with your child on ideas they might have

In therapy, the counselor would help your child achieve these goals through play therapy and by coaching parents in developing the parenting skills they need to foster initiative in their preschool-aged children.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Niki Montecillo

Leave a Comment (0) →

Spring Suicide Awareness

It’s widely known that antidepressants (SSRIs) pose a risk to increased suicidality, especially when a person is just starting to take antidepressants or the dosage taken is increased.  That’s strange, isn’t it? Does not compute!  During those weeks it takes for the antidepressant to reach full effect, some people experienced increased agitation as serotonin levels increase, giving energy to act on thoughts that they previously did not have the energy to carry out.

It turns out that sunshine, specifically increased exposure to daylight, may have a similar effect on serotonin levels for some people.  See article (   ) Statistically, suicide rates are higher in the Spring – sadly, many in the Central Texas area have seen this all too well among teens and young adults in recent years .  Perhaps it’s not just Spring Break, upcoming exams or filing taxes that causes this agitation.

Through formal learning and witnessing clients’ experience, I see that the most difficult part of a journey is often not at the bottom of the proverbial valley. Rather, the most difficult part is often when we’re about half way up the slope and find ourselves fatigued, frustrated, and invested enough in what we’re doing that we’re irritated we’re not “there yet.”  Since we can’t yet see the results of the climb, it’s common to wonder if we can or should keep moving toward the goal at the top.  Similarly, we may hopefully begin a project, and give up or wane in enthusiasm when an obstacle is encountered and makes the initial goal seem (or actually be) impossible to reach.

When someone is agitated or discouraged, connection to others is one of the most important preventative factors.  Connection to supportive others provides hope that the current struggles will pass, or if they don’t, others will be with them through the struggle.  It’s important to take suicidal thoughts seriously and seek professional or emergency help when needed. For more information: or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1(800) 273-8255.


By: Jennifer A. Madere, LPC-S.

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, Jennifer Madere

Leave a Comment (0) →

Counselors Are Just People

Counselors and therapists are simply people that have spent time working on their emotional and mental health. The work of looking inward can impart wonderful healing, which compels counselors to share that gift with the world.  It’s a beautiful cycle…

One can find healing in a friendship, a counseling relationship, a spiritual journey, or even through reading a book in which the reader identifies with the hero or heroine and adopts healing by proxy.

Healing creates a “pay-it-forward” cycle.  “I was healed and now I want to bring others to such a point.  In turn, I hope their healing will affect those around them.”

Counselors are just people.  They have families and friends that they love and sometimes argue with. They may have inner conflict about a situation and worry about it or get frustrated with it. Counselors have learned many tools to cope with difficulties, but prior to using those tools, they are human and experience the same human emotions as everyone else.

I wrote this piece because sometimes clients feel as if I have all of the answers, that I never experience anger or anxiety, and that my life is easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Counselors are just people that want to help people with being… “people”.

Posted in: Counseling, Michelle Browning, Relationships

Leave a Comment (0) →