What is Human Growth and Development? A Look at a Key Counseling Concept

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school counselor works with a student

Humans spend their lives transitioning through phases of their development. The nonprofit group Advocates for Youth mentions that human development is a lifelong process and includes cognitive, behavioral, physical and emotional growth. These developmental areas have a specific correlation between development and adulthood.

School counselors in particular need to be aware of the impact of human growth and development on children and teenagers. The principles of growth and development form a part of the central understanding of behavior, which is crucial to the work of a school counselor. By pursuing an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Arts in Counseling, individuals that want to become school counselors can begin to understand the nuances that exist as the students in their care transition from youth into adulthood.

Defining Human Growth and Development

The book “Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations,” Third Edition, notes that the essence of life comes from constant changes. These changes impact the physical and mental parts of the human body. To understand what is human growth and development, you need to look at different areas of development. In the human body, progress can be divided into the following:

Behavioral development. The Max Planck Institute for Human Development suggests that behavioral development is essential for the long-term survival of the individual and encompasses experience and environmental interactions. Behavioral development can be broken down further into three subcategories:

  • Age-related behaviors that are characteristic of early-life development.
  • Late-stage degeneration that happens when the individual ages.
  • Environmental cues that occur throughout life.

Cognitive development. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development defines four stages in the growth and development of an individual’s brain:

  • This stage occurs between birth and 18 to 24 months old and seeks to establish the idea of object permanence.
  • This stage occurs between the ages of 2 and 7, with essential aspects being language development and imagination.
  • Concrete operational. This stage occurs between the ages of 7 and 11 and deals primarily with understanding how the outside world affects them as individuals.
  • Formal operational. This final stage occurs between adolescence and adulthood and deals with abstract concepts like feelings.

Emotional development. Emotional development encompasses understanding, regulation, expression and experiencing emotions from birth to adulthood.

Sexual development. Sexual development happens late in childhood and adolescence and is defined by physical and emotional changes. In girls, the changes happen between the ages of 8 and 12, while in boys, it can occur between 10 and 14. Sexual development also triggers other developmental areas, including behavioral progress.

Earning a Counseling Degree

Counseling is a broad subject and covers most of the previously discussed developmental areas. For the individual considering a career in counseling, knowing what is human growth and development is just the beginning. For students considering careers in the field of counseling, Wake Forest University’s Online Master of Arts in Counseling program, with its school counseling track, prepares students to build effective growth and development strategies and trains counselors to excel. In addition to offering students an overview of the field, the program works toward helping students enter it through well-placed internships and job placement assistance.

Skills Needed for Successful Counselors

Because of the broad scope of the profession, a wide variety of skills are necessary for success. Some of the more in-demand skills for potential counselors include the following:

  • Communication skills. Active listening helps to keep channels of communication open between professionals and their clients. Counselors must look for verbal cues and note body language for nonverbal cues about their emotional state. Counselors often use the technique of paraphrasing what clients have told them to communicate understanding about the subjects being discussed.
  • Human skills. While the counselor can’t change an individual’s life directly, the goal is to enable individual change through actions. Skilled counselors pinpoint negative thinking patterns and help clients substitute positive ones instead. Goal setting is an essential part of counseling. Challenging, motivating and reassuring clients about their thoughts and actions helps to build confidence and ensure good decision-making.
  • Management skills. The administrative tasks of a counselor include organizing records and managing time effectively. The appearance of organization helps to instill a feeling of confidence in clients. Additionally, proper time management is a professional skill that increases the standing of counselors with their clients. Finally, being able to control emotional involvement with clients is of the utmost importance.
  • Other personal attributes. Intangible traits like empathy and a good attitude factor into developing a successful counseling practice. The relationship between counselors and clients is based on trust, and features such as genuine warmth, tact, patience and understanding are crucial to client communication. Additionally, sharing challenging life experiences can provide bonding experiences for counselors to connect to their clients.

Wake Forest University’s Online Master of Arts in Counseling allows students to learn these valuable skills through their training and hands-on experience. Additionally, these skills are given heavy focus to go along with the education requirements and theories being presented for study. The aim is to create individuals who are trained and equipped to handle school counseling situations as they arise.

The Demand for Qualified Counselors

Counselors are in demand across the country. The BLS reports that school counselors earned a median annual salary of $56,310 in 2018, with the top 10% earning $94,690. The BLS projects school and career counselors to see job growth of 8% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than average. Education and skills both play a significant part in determining whether a counselor is effective.

Trends and Solutions for School Counselors

According to the National Education Association, many challenges for schools are trending in the U.S. Funding issues and school safety are huge concerns for educators and school counselors. Substance abuse, bullying and other mental health problems are affecting student performance and even regular attendance.

Each of these trends have a distinct impact on the job and role of the school counselor. With the increased focus on mental health, counselors need to understand how to treat depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

In dealing with bullying, counselors need to be aware of how ubiquitous internet communication is and how much of an influence social media has on the lives of his or her students. Understanding human development and what constitutes ‘normal’ behavior allows counselors to spot the warning signs and provide guidance that can have a positive impact on a student’s life.

School counselors’ understanding of human growth and development is the building block of a successful and rewarding career. Those interested in attaining an advanced degree in counseling should consider Wake Forest’s Online Master of Arts in Counseling. Graduates will be able to tackle trending challenges using the skills and confidence this degree can bring. Learn how to move forward with a rewarding career in school counseling today.

 

Recommended Reading

Exploring the Link Between Technology and Mental Health

How to Improve Mental Health on a Daily Basis

The Difference Between Feelings and Emotions

 

Sources:

Advocates for Youth, Growth and Development

HealthCommunities.com, Sexual Development in Adolescents

Houston Chronicle, “A List of Skills Needed to Become an Effective Counselor”

IResearchNet, “Emotional Development”

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, “Exploring Behavioural Development”

National Board for Professional Teaching Standard,School Counseling Standards

National Education Association, “10 Challenges Facing Public Education Today”

Simply Psychology, “Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors