[By Heidi Grove, Regis University graduate of the MA in Counseling Program, co-founder of The Youth Connection.] In the previous articles of this series, (Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Method for Trust-Based Relationship Building, How Trust Based Relationship Play a Key Role in the Healing of Our Youth) we discussed how one can incorporate multiple theoretical philosophical approaches taught in a Master’s in Counseling program into practical application while working with disconnected youth populations. In addition to understanding the impact of Neurobiological Brain remapping as well as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, we have also incorporated the understanding of Erik Erickson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development.
According to Erickson, there are eight stages of human development in which each individual must complete set tasks as they develop throughout the life span. All eight stages are of importance, however, for the sake of this article we will only focus in-depth on a few and how they relate to the work we do with disconnected youth through our cycle of engagement model at The Youth Connection.
The first stage is infancy, in which children learn trust versus mistrust. If you recall from the first article, this is the stage that attachment is of the utmost importance as this is the stage that is most critical for the creation of healthy attachment.
Referring to the first article, the good news is that according to research by Dr. Daniel Siegel, when unhealthy attachment (lack of trust) occurs coupled with high levels of trauma, the brain reshapes its neurological pathways. The positive news is that this can be adjusted to a healthier and productive pathway once a positive relationship is introduced to the youth. Through the introduction of healthy, trust-based relationships, youth learn that there are people in this world that they can trust and can then associate (sub-consciously) that experience to how they relate to others that enter their lives throughout their life journeys.
The fifth stage of psychosocial development, according to Erickson, occurs during the time period of adolescence in which the individual must complete the task or Identity versus Role Confusion. During this task, the young person seeks out peer and social relationships. The individual either obtains a strong sense of self or struggles with their role in society. This is the stage in which individuals have an increased vulnerability to negative peer relationships such as street-engaged cultures and gang activity. There are multiple factors that should be accounted for during this phase that include environmental, which will be covered in the next article.
The sixth stage of psychosocial development occurs during the time period of young adulthood, in which the task is to either move towards isolation or intimacy.
As mentioned previously, if an individual has not learned the capacity to trust, the opportunities to be vulnerable with another decrease. Thus, TYC focuses on repairing past traumas as it relates to inter and intra personal relationships through building those trust-based relationships to assist in the movement of disconnected youth to obtain intimacy as opposed to isolation.
The eighth and final stage of psychosocial development occurs in the maturity phase (post retirement) the individual negotiates through ego integrity versus despair. During this phase the older individual either seeks out to pass on their wisdom to the next generation or becomes fixated on the trials and failures of their life.
By encouraging older individuals to become career mentors to the next generation we are encouraging them to pass on their expansive knowledge not only in the workforce, but life in general, through a one-on-one relationship with a disconnected youth whom is in transition from stability to success.
As you can see, understanding various theoretical approaches taught in a Master’s Program allows one to incorporate various orientations into practical application that allows communal impact to occur on a daily basis. In next month’s article, we will review and discuss the impacts of Generational Poverty and how we negotiate theory into practice.
Heidi Grove began her work in the advocacy field in 1998 when she worked at a local not-for-profit agency in Denver, which provides affordable services for Substance Abuse Treatment. From 2001 to 2008, Grove worked with Gang, Urban and Homeless youth; has presented research findings on youth populations at Local, State, National and International Conferences and her findings have been published in academic journals. In September of 2008, Mrs. Grove independently published her first book, which is a curriculum based intervention for Gang Involved youth. She received a Master of Arts in Counseling from Regis University and was nominated and awarded Regis University’s most prestigious Social Justice Award. Since graduation, Heidi Grove became the co-found of the nonprofit, The Youth Connection, supporting and caring for at-risk youth in Denver. She is currently a member of Chi Sigma Iota International Honors Society, and is a participant of multiple state and local committees that address: Juvenile justice, policy reform, and research.