Ecosystemic, Developmental Clinical Practice

Distress and Recovery viewed in context


In an ecosystemic, developmental approach, factors of the environment - or context - are explored to help make sense of our wellbeing. Context is explored to better understand the distress a client is experiencing and to better support resilience and grow stability. I consider human development across the life span through the lens of the various contexts in which my clients live and grow.

An ecosystemic, developmental approach can mean varied things in the context of therapy.

  • because the family is the primary context for child development and wellbeing, parents are centrally involved in the process of therapy and counseling for child clients. This involvement may mean coming to the child's sessions as a support, participating in parent-child relationship-oriented sessions, as well as engaging in parenting support sessions and personal counseling.
  • when working with couples, each participant's early relationships are explored to foster mutual understanding their habitual patterns in their current relationships. Each member of the couple is considered within their own developmental arc, within their culture, and their contemporary network of relationships.
  • when working with teenagers, friends and family may be involved in the process of therapy as stabilizing forces or in order to improve relationships that are causing distress.
  • clients are supported to develop their engagement with their communities, with hobbies that interest them and pursuits that feel meaningful, as well as to tend to the fundamentals of health: sleep, healthy food, time outside in nature, exercise, & stillness practice.

Each of us live and grow within a web of relationships. Family of origin, extended family, friends, community - these relationships shape our development. We live in particular neighborhoods, go to particular schools, interact with particular work cultures. The attitudes, tones, and textures of these environments help shape our development. So does our cultural context, political forces, and national history. Each of these factors influence our growth and our moment to moment mental health. We are affected when there is danger in our community or stressful transitions in the family unit, when a grandparent dies, a primary caregiver is depressed, when there's a bully on the playground, or a boss at work who is routinely unkind.

The webs of relationship we live within can also be useful sources of strength, supporting our development and resilience.