The purpose of this paper is to delineate and discuss several stage theories of human development, namely psychosocial, cognitive, psychodynamic, existential/gestalt, and systemic theories. Each of the reviewed theories is first described and then discussed within the context of counseling.
The conceptual framework within which each theory is discussed is that of the Developmental Counseling and Therapy (DCT) model which, according to Ivey (1993) is: (1) a therapeutic model designed to integrate major developmental theories with counseling practice; and (2) rests on the assumption that certain cognitive and affective states crucial to counseling purposes are repeated again and again throughout the life-span.
Description of Psychodynamic Theory
Psychodynamic theories view human development as preceding through a series of psychosexual stages (Pervin, 1980). As originally characterized by Freud (1953), the theory states that powerful unconscious biological drives (mostly sexual and aggressive) motivate human development.
These natural urges put people into conflict with society producing anxiety. To combat such anxiety, according to psychodynamic theory, people unconsciously distort reality through defense mechanisms. Everyone uses defense mechanisms at times; however, it is only when they are so overused that they interfere with healthy emotional development that they are considered pathological.
The conflicts that people experience with society gives rise to psychodynamic notions of psychosexual developmental stages. These stages are maturational phases in which gratification, or pleasure, shifts from one zone of the body to another---from the mouth to the anus and then to the genitals.
At each stage, the behavior that is the chief source of gratification changes, from feeding to elimination and then to sexual activity. Although the order of the stages is always the same, a child's level of maturati...