Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Psychology Of Adjustment – An Integral Part Of Counseling Psychology

What Is Adjustment?

In counseling psychology terms, ‘adjustment’ is the harmonious relationship taking place between an individual and the environment. It is that aspect of the personality where behavioral changes brought about through learning and life experience produces favorable changes in an individual in a manner copacetic with the demands of the family, society and nature at large.

Status is the word that is used to define the extent of roles and responsibilities handed to a person by society. As such, a well-adjusted person would be in a much better position to accept these roles and play them out to the fullest of his potential. In doing so, the individual too will experience satisfaction in accordance to social needs and norms.

Psychological View Of Adjustment

Psychology in general and counseling psychology in particular studies the aspect of adjustment from two distinct viewpoints. They are:

  • Adjustment In Terms of Achievement
  • Adjustment As A Continuing Process

This first school of thought basically looks at the efficacy with which an individual is able to go about performing his/her duties in different circumstances. This is the model that is used by various business, educational, military bodies to gauge the effectiveness of people enrolled in the respective establishments.

In order to interpret the level of adjustment in terms of achievement, it is necessary to set certain criteria in place to judge the quality and success of personal adjustment.

As per the second school of thought, adjustment in an individual is studied throughout the entire developmental phases of an individual, starting from his/her initial baby days all the way up to adulthood. Here, adjustment will be defined on the basis of interaction between an individual and his/her external environment.

As a newborn, he/she might not be able to make much sense of what is going externally. However, with age, education, experience and maturity, the person develops a sense of belonging as he/she learns to articulate the details and demands of environment through perception, sensation and conception.

Mechanism Of Adjustment

Adjustment is not a ‘be all end all’ process. Instead it includes steady learning and coping with the adjective demands thrown at the person from different directions. Thus, adjustment mechanism in its purest form is defined as a process through which a person learns to cope with the outside environment by learning to reduce the effects of tension, anxiety and conflicts in life. It effectively outlines the problem solving attitude taken up by an individual and the experiences gained from the success or failures of the choices made.

For instance, a child would adopt self adjustment strategies only after his/her self-defense mechanisms have failed. In theory, the child begins with objecting to the demands for adjustment and finally learns to give into the coping mechanism in favor of gaining acceptance from family members. Similarly, adults go through the same process of rejection before they give into adjusting. However, the speed of adjustment is much faster in the latter case given past learning and need for acceptance from a various sections of the society.

Stress – Major Factor Affecting Adjustment

Stress, while unwanted happens to play an important role in our lives. In counseling psychology circles, stress refers to the physical reaction to external stimuli. As a result, an individual may react to stress in a positive or negative manner.

  • Eustress is term used for positive stress, and it leads to a desirable outcome. It keeps us motivated towards achieving our goals.
  • Distress is bad side of stress. It blocks goals, overwhelms and causes a gamut of problems.

Based on the nature of stressors, negative stress can produce one of the three types of by-products:

  • Frustration: This is felt when one sees his/her goals hindered or blocked by external stressors.
  • Anxiety: A feeling of dread or inkling of something being out of place, where the person painfully conforms to the notion that a disaster is inevitable. Read more about anxiety
  • Conflict: It is a situation that forces you to choose between two or more alternatives. It may be between two good alternatives, two bad alternatives (dilemma), or other combinations between good and bad alternatives.

Normal Adjustment and Maladjustment

Because adjustment is a product of learning to cope, there is no one way to it. However, the adjustment strategies taken by the person through his/her growing years will define whether he/she is accepted by society or abhorred by it. If the moves made the individual to cope with environmental demands are as per the established norms, then it is said to be a normal adjustment.

Conversely, a person might choose alternative paths to adjust with the environment, the only difference being that they are not according to societal norms. Such a case is referred to as abnormal adjustment or ‘Maladjustment’ in counseling psychology and is characterized by delinquencies and criminal activities.