Applying Four Temperament-Environment Interaction Models to Counseling Practice
Ming-hui Li, The School of Education, Department of Human Services and Counseling
The interactions between temperaments (e.g., levels of sensitivity) and environments (e.g., parenting styles) influence the development of children’s psychosocial development. Major temperament-environment interaction models include goodness-of-fit, diathesis-stress, multidimensions/dynamics, and resilience development. The goodness-of-fit model proposes that a child would adapt better if the demands of the environment match the child's temperaments. The diathesis-stress model suggests that stress would activate a child's genetic vulnerabilities or biological weaknesses, leading to the development of mental health problems. The multidimensiona/dynamics model advocates that everything (including the child and the environment) is changing but the child can self-organize or self-regulate her/his moment-to-moment experiences. The resilience development model proposes that a child encounters challenges in life and that she/he learns to become resilient by successfully adapting to the challenges.
Although these models have drawn attention from researchers, educators, and mental health professionals, few studies have explored and discussed the art of applying the models to one-on-one counseling situations. The presenter will discuss that issue. The discussion will focus on integrating the four models into a treatment plan.
Take the temperament of low sensitivity and the resilience development model for example. The resilience development model encourages counselors to promote a child’s resilience by reducing the influence of risk factors and promoting protective factors. Temperaments such as low sensitivity can be seen as risk factors in some situations while at other situations protective factors. Thus, counselors can work with children and their families to assess whether their temperaments such as low sensitivity contribute to or block their adaptation to a certain developmental appropriate challenges. If low sensitivity contributes to adaptation, enhance it; if not, inhibit it. Enhancing or inhibiting sensitivity thus becomes a part of the child’s treatment plan.