2. Basic Rules of Dev Theories - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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2. Basic Rules of Dev Theories

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Out of Dev Chrysalis Intimacy/Relationship

Out of the Developmental Chrysalis in Intimacy and Relationship Therapy
by Ronald Mah

A caterpillar in a chrysalis is left to grow and metamorphose on its own.  It has within itself and the chrysalis all that it needs to develop.  And it will develop into a butterfly given a bit of luck and cooperation from the weather elements and possible predators.  On the other hand, the baby cries because of having needs that he or she cannot meet because of being in his or her very early stage of development.  Being dependent on adult caregivers is the normal condition of the baby's development.  As needs are met, poorly met, or unmet, development is facilitated or hindered.  The baby and child attempts to draw parenting behaviors that functionally address developmental demands.  However, the baby or child cannot guarantee consistent positive response since adult issues, health, and functioning that determines or hinders their effectiveness and efficiency.  As caregivers respond well based on the rules of development, the baby or child tends to have healthy development.  Not soothing a crying baby and his or her subsequent problems is an example of parents failing to follow the rules to be discussed later.  The rules to be discussed apply to any number of developmental theories.

The therapist is normally educated about theories of cognitive development, moral development, physical development, and emotional/social/psychological development.  The connection between theory and persons also known as clients should be made in the therapeutic situation.  This is applicable to individual therapy but may be especially valuable in assessing and treating the dyadic system of a couple or a larger family system.  In therapy, of critical importance is recognizing that a developmental theory applies to an individual or a situation, that is, the relationship.  In application to individual development, professionals including the therapist can forget to consider how developmental principles apply beyond childhood and how it continues to affect adult functioning.  Early development, whether functional or dysfunctional is the foundation for adult functioning.  Individuals bring developmental health and distress to new relationships in couples, family, work, and more.  In particular, attachment relationships with primary caregivers can predict or affect attachment relationships in adulthood.  In addition, cognitive interactions and potential personality disorders are also developmentally relevant to couples dynamics.  Families have overt and implicit patterns of development.  These may or may not be replicated in later adult functioning and subsequently affect close relationships.  An examination of the current functioning of an individual in therapy with a partner (not a participant in therapy) or between members of a couple often shows developmental energy and needs being problematically reasserted.  The intense energy of unfulfilled or unresolved developmental needs often complicates if not sabotages couples relationships and thus, needs to be carefully processed.  

It is important to note that these theories of developmental processes come primarily from Western European and American theorists.  These theories are presented as universal theories of human development that are true across societies and cultures.  That is an arguable presumption.  Hopefully, it may be a reasonable assumption or have significant if not absolute relevance to different communities.  Nevertheless, developmental theory can still be used in examining individuals, couples and families that present for therapy to American and American trained psychotherapists.  The context of the clients' lives often or usually will include American developmental schemes.  The therapist should take care to be aware of potentially different cultural perspectives regarding development, and seek education from their clients, in consultation, and training and education.  However, there are many potentially relevant applications of the basic rules of developmental theories to individuals and clients.  Here are the basic rules for consideration about how they can apply to individuals, couples, and families:

1. Development happens in STAGES.  

2. There are CRITICAL PERIODS in development when the person is more vulnerable to harm or available for growth.

3. QUANTITATIVE changes lead to QUALITATIVE change.  

4. Development is SEQUENTIAL.

5. Development is also PROGRESSIVE.  

6. SKIPPING or RUSHING development doesn't work and/or causes harm.

7. Excessive STRESS, ABUSE, or TRAUMA will get people stuck at or to regress to the stage of those experiences.  

8. DEVELOPMENTAL ENERGY that is denied or diverted will eventually reassert itself.  

9. RESILIENCY allows for skipped, rushed, incomplete, stalled, regressed, or suppressed development to be re-stimulated in the organism.  

10. SATIATION of developmental allows movement on to the next developmental challenge
3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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