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What do you do in your life to avoid stagnation?


Running Head: Psychosocial Development Case Study Analysis                                                                      1







Psychosocial Development Case Study Analysis

Dr. Damian Q. Laster, Msc.D., M.Ed.


Survey of Research in Human Development for Professional Counselors




Psychosocial Development Case Study Analysis                                                                                                     2


       This assignment required an analysis of “The Case of Marie”, a financially self-sufficient, 68 year old, retired small business owner of mixed Scottish and American-Indian race, dealing with depression and grief from the death of her husband of 47 years, who was her best friend.  He died of cancer 5 years ago.  Now, at age 68, she has moved from her town, where she had lived all her life, to a smaller town to be closer to her two daughters, Lisa and Toni.  Lisa, age 50, and Toni, in her mid-40s.  Both daughters each have a young child.  The grandchildren present Marie with physical problems and occasional stress, as a result of her age and physical condition.  In fact, Marie underwent knee replacement surgery, yet is still mobile and able to socialize, though she prefers to be in her own home.  She does not prefer to take prescribed pain medications for knee problems unless she is in debilitating pain, as her daughter is addicted to pain medication for an injury she suffered on her job.   Marie complains about possible future loss of her memory.  She has reported that she “feels like she has no purpose”.

       This analysis will examine these issues as they relate to later adulthood, and the integrity versus despair, and generativity versus stagnation stages of development, from my perspective as a future professional mental health counselor.  I will also offer holistic care concepts and metaphysical insight to shed light on Marie’s knee injury, and help her understand the symbolic perspectives that accompany life issues whose understanding can help heal mental blocks and her physical condition. 

Later Adulthood

       New opportunities emerge for growth at each life stage (Newman and Newman, 2012, p. 529).  Optimally, elderly people develop coping strategies for the changes that come with adapting to aging.

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Age 60 marks the beginning of what is referred to as Later Adulthood.  The search for personal meaning in life happens when achievement and power give way to experimenting with new activities, roles and relationships.  At this stage adults have demonstrated their ability to adapt to life’s crises, and have accumulated a wealth of life experience to be able to construct personally satisfying answers to questions about the meaning of life (Newman and Newman, 2012, p. 528).

       While patterns of aging are not universal and vary greatly among the elderly, there is an intricate interrelationship between social, emotional, physical and intellectual (mental) development which, when recognized and nurtured, can help the elderly invent a new life structure for themselves that allows for a sense of belonging, satisfaction, and an openness to enthusiastically experience art, foods, and new ideas.  Being optimistic and taking advantage of the unpredictability of life at that age, even under stress and uncertain situations, can offer the opportunity to give Marie an ironic sense of control over her life (McConatha, McConatha, Jackson, & Bergen, 1998).


Integrity versus Despair

       Being able to accept the facts of one’s life and then to reconcile and integrate those events of life in a meaningful way yields a sense of integrity for Marie.  As a counselor, I would begin by helping her remember the successes she experienced in middle adulthood.  Her goals of being a successful business owner who worked hard, and had good relationships with the people she encountered there were realized.  Her husband was her best friend, so recalling some of the wonderful experiences they shared while raising two independent daughters can help her appreciate and accumulate personal satisfaction,

Psychosocial Development Case Study Analysis                                                                                                     4


and contentment with her life, now that she is in the later adulthood stage of living (Newman and Newman, 2012).



       I observed several possible sources of Marie’s depression. 

  1. The death of her husband
  2. Retirement
  3. Her living arrangements have changed
  4. Her knee injury, and fear of pain medications
  5. A daughter addicted to pain medications
  6. Stress associated with grandchildren
  7. Fear of memory loss
  8. Lack of a sense of purpose



       Studies show that retired people do not participate in community event more than working people (Olsen & Berry, 2011).  But there is a strong association between participating in several activities while in retirement and less distress in life (Olsen & Berry, 2011).  Helping Marie adjust to retirement by

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exploring new activities of interest, and finding personal or community groups can provide a source of enthusiasm toward taking action to attend predictable activities into which she can channel physical, mental and emotional energy.  Many elderly people find new sources of enjoyment with family and perhaps new friends that they make.  The freedom to develop new interests without having to go to work allows the possibility of spending perhaps more time with the family.  However, if Marie still wants to work, then she can still work by her own choice or volunteer at a place of her choosing, and work whenever is convenient to her new life (Newman and Newman, 2012) and avoid the pitfall of isolation.



       As a widow, Marie, like all other widows, has an opportunity to learn to function in her household, as well as socially, without the presence of her husband (Newman and Newman, 2012).  She is lucky to be financially secure and not have the problems that can accompany lack of money.  I would help her begin to replace the comfort and security she experienced while with her husband by finding ways for her to function independently.  Activities like driving, shopping, gardening, housekeeping, managing home repairs, preparing meals and making decisions for herself can help her realize that she is self-sufficient (O’Bryant & Morgan, 1990).




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       Perhaps in her spare time she can create art objects like scrap books or photo albums that allow her to look-back fondly on the life she and her husband shared while he was alive.  Yet, at the same time, Marie can be reminded that the death of her husband now gives her the opportunity to redefine herself, and to develop a new repertoire of behaviors that will help to strengthen her ego.  She can use her husband’s death to recognize value in her own life and share those emotions with her daughter and grandchildren inspiring them, as well as her own self, as they recount the life of integrity that her husband lived (Newman and Newman, 2012).


Living Arrangements/Cultural Values

       Roberto (1986) has found that factors like a person’s age, and the number of friends and family influence successful development through later adulthood, also referred to as the late maturity stage of development.  Marie already has a ready-made support system now that she has moved and is living closer to her daughters and grandchildren. 

       Living arrangements and cultural values associated with independence and individualism or interdependence or collectivism could be at play here in Marie’s case (Newman and Newman, 2012).  She has reported that she “feels more comfortable in her own home”.  I suppose this could mean that she prefers to live alone at this point in her life, though closer to her daughters’ families.  I might inform Marie about the statistics that explain the various living arrangement decisions that are made by widows all over the world to best suit their personal needs. Interstate migration among the elderly has increased since the mid-1960s (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004b).  I could offer suggestions for Marie’s daughters to help Marie adjust to her new home.  They could help her decorate it in a way that is personal and satisfying to her.  Her grandchildren could help.     

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Physical Condition/Knee Problems

       As a mental health counselor, I intend to bring metaphysical perspectives, techniques and strategies to be used alongside traditional clinical approaches.  Alternative, holistic and spiritual approaches are able to help clients perhaps to see their life from new perspectives, given their willingness and to receive such information.  I am fully aware that there are those who might not be open to receiving such information.  However, getting to know my clients and tailoring a personal counseling style that could foster the sharing of such information is one of my worthwhile goals toward being effective in helping clients “generate” new levels of consciousness awareness that could spur greater well-being and lift the veils of depression and despair.

       For example, I would help Marie and perhaps even her daughters to come to understand the possible spiritual significance and symbolism that might be associated with Marie’s knee injury.

They might be surprised to learn that knees represent “pride and ego”.  From a Chinese Medicine point of view and American authors and alternative therapy healers like Louise L. Hay (1984) shared that not surrendering to the Will of God or the Universe when confronted with the opportunity to move forward with ease in life could leave a person feeling unsure and vulnerable.  Marie, in dealing with retirement and the death of her beloved husband, might be experiencing fears associated with moving forward in her life, and is resisting change that accompanies later adulthood.  Perhaps in psychotherapy, Marie could explore whether she is “stuck in the ego”.  Further, those who practice strategies that address energetic anatomy could use understanding of “energy medicine” to help Marie uncover whether there are symptoms of kidney dysfunction

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resulting from an imbalance of energy moving through that area of her body, as sore, stiff knees are indicative of kidney problems.

       Even though Marie has already received knee surgery, she could still benefit from making changes in her consciousness that allow her to affirm and accept the “flow of life”, and be more “flexible” in her decision-making (Hay, 1984, 1987, 2004).  The knee is said to be where we assimilate new knowledge and new learning from an energetic/spiritual level.  This is one reason why people “kneel” to pray or ask for something.  Interesting, right?

       Marie loves to read.  Perhaps, informing her about books like Louise L. Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, and Carolyn Myss’ “Why People Don’t Heal, and How They Can” can provide and stimulate a new sense of aliveness and interest beyond her current state of awareness.  Carolyn Myss (1997) shared that when we create illnesses (knee problems or injuries, etc.) we are changing the speed at which our lives are moving.   Marie’s knee injury might be providing her with a sense of safety in not confronting her issues of depression, etc. 

       Working with her physical therapist while healing her emotional state can help Marie change her thoughts and her thinking about her life to more optimistic ones which can help her release repressed energies that are likely hindering her state of balance and well-being.  Perhaps as Marie heals internal issues she will need less medication for knee pain.


Cognition/Fear of Memory Loss

       In the aftermath of unpleasant life events like the death of her husband, Marie said she was “profoundly shaken by this loss”.  She also said that she becomes “depressed and anxious around

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the anniversary of his death”.  The elderly encounter reminders and memories that they would prefer not to think about (Anderson & Reinholz et al., 2011).  When this happens, they, like Marie often try to suppress or inhibit unwanted memories from awareness.  There are techniques which can be used to help the elderly intentionally suppress unwanted memories through inhibitory control (Anderson & Reinholz et al., 2011).

       Generally speaking, frequency of contact with children and neighbors, volunteer activity, and marital status predict slower memory decline (Ertel, Glymour &Berkman , 2008).  Although Marie is no longer married, counseling her family about her condition and helping them come up with ways to ease her comfort level when the grandchildren are in her presence will allow all of them to get along better.  Even Marie, as a grandmother, can learn a style of grandparenting that improves their relationship by increasing her interest level in being part of their lives (Newman and Newman, 2012).  Multigenerational family bonds, provided the family members permit and support those interactions, can add vitality to Marie’s life, rather than being a hindrance intergenerational solidarity (Bengston, 2011).  The children can be taught to respect their grandmother’s personal boundaries given her physical condition.

       Many grandparents play an especially important role to the family in times of family stress (Landy-Meyer, 1999; Goodman, 2003; Mills, Gomez-Smith, & DeLeon, 2005).  Calling Marie into quality interactions with her family can also be a way to help alleviate her depression and generate a new sense of belonging, given her enhanced mental state of awareness about her life as an elderly woman.


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       Cognitive functioning in later adulthood is multidimensional and varies among individuals as well as differences within the same person (McArdle et al. 2002).  Speed of processing, reaction- time, and short and long-term memory are all affected in later adulthood (Newman and Newman, 2012).  Marie’s fears are likely irrational as there is no evidence that she is losing her memory.  Studies show evidence that people in their sixties and seventies continue to improve performance in memory tasks, motor-speed and visual attention (Krampe & Charness, 2006); Yang, Krampe, & Baltes, 2006). 

       Again, redirecting Marie’s energies to new roles and activities will help alleviate her fears and keep her active and strong physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.



       Marie is experiencing what many people in later adulthood experience, particularly after losing a loved one, retiring from work, relocating to a new home, experiencing illness and/or decreased physical mobility.  As a result her life has lost meaning.  Even her surviving family members have become a burden to her.  With proper counseling for her and her family, Marie can be helped to restore a fullness of living by becoming active again, accepting the flow of life, and re-experiencing the joy of living.  Perhaps she might even one day consider the possibility of romance and sexual intimacy with a partner of her choosing.  By observing the positive changes Marie is making in her life, and participating in Marie’s counseling, her daughters and grandchildren can heal as well.



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Anderson M., Reinholz, J., Kuhl, J., Brice, A., Mayr U. (2011).  Intentional suppression of unwanted

       memories.  Journal of Psychology and Aging, Vol 26(2), 397-405.

Bengston, V. L. (2001). Beyond the nuclear family:  The increasing importance of multigenerational

       bonds.  Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 1-16.

Ertel, K., Glymour, M., Berkman, L., (2008). Effects of social integration on preserving memory function

       in a nationally representative U.S. elderly population. American Journal of Public Health, 98(7),1215-


Hay, L., (1984, 1987, 2004).  You can heal your life. Hay House, Inc. Carlsbad, California, New York City,

       London, Sydney, Johannesburg, Vancouver, Hong Kong, New Delhi. 

Krampe, R. T., & Charness N. (2006). Aging and expertise.  In K. A. Ericsson, N, Charness, P. Feltovich, &

       R. Hoffman (eds.), Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance (pp. 725-744). New

       York: Cambridge University Press.

Landy-Meyer, L., (1999). Research into action: Recommended intervention strategies for grandparent

       caregivers.  Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 48, 381-389.

McArdle, J. J., Ferrer-Caja, E., Hamagami, F., & Woodcock, R. W. (2002).  Comparative longitudinal

       structural analysis of the growth of multiple intellectual abilities over the lifespan.  Developmental

       Psychology, 38, 115-142.

McConatha, J. T., McConatha, D., Jackson, J. A., & Bergen, A. (1998).  The control factor: Life satisfaction

       in later adulthood.  Journal of Clinical Geropsychology, 4, 159-168.

Myss, C. (1997). Why people don’t heal and how they can. Three Rivers Press, New York.

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Newman B.M. & Newman, P.R. (2012).  Development through life: A psychosocial approach. (11 ed.).

       Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

O’Bryant, S. L. & Morgan, L. A. (1990). Recent widows kin support and orientation to self-sufficiency.  The

     Gerontologist, 30, 391-398.

Olesen, S., Berry, H. (2011). Community participation and mental health during retirement in community sample of

       Australians.  Aging & Mental Health, 15(2).

Roberto, K. A., (1986).  Developmental tasks in later life. American Behavioral Scientist, 29(4). 497-511.

U. S. Census Bureau (2004b).


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Damian,

Thank you for sharing your work.  Do you have a discussion question for us to consider?



What do you do in your life to avoid stagnation?

 Well this week of the Solar Eclipse, I am feeling very challenged to keep up to the subtle energies and bridge my psychological states and internal dialogues into the emerging experiences of love and connection.

So regular meditation is helping to consistent raise my vibration and strengthen my capacity to directly experience heart-based consciousness, which feels emergent, hopeful for the future, excited about possibilities.

Also, interrupting internal stories that are based in mine and other`s pain, historical patterns and old concepts of self feels anti-stagnation.  And most times, the edge of this awareness is simply to register the heaviness, depression, shrinking density of those stories and to simply say - ``This expression of consciousness is limited. I am interested in living a story which expresses the love that I am.``

Angela`s post on Joyous Expectations today was helpful!

Glad to share learning about this aspect of multi-dimensional integration -

Peace, Ana

Excellent advice.  Thanks.  Those stories do run frequently these days.  Making it through the holidays, for me, will be a challenge made easier by affirming, as you have shared...

``This expression of consciousness is limited. I am interested in living a story which expresses the love that I am.``



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We are the living BRIDGE between the worlds and dimensions, between HEAVEN AND EARTH. We are free to move in TIME and SPACE when we enter the SACRED SPACE of the Divine Chamber of the HEART  where the ThreeFold Flame resides and the god given Divine Blueprint is waiting to be downloaded into our earth bodies.


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