Various concepts of the self are present in many social psychological topics. Research studies related to self-identity, self-concept, self-esteem and other core social constructs regarding self are abundant, and there is plenty of evidence suggesting the self can be described and compared to a plethora of social motives that are researched and reviewed throughout social psychology. However, for counseling psychologists, how do we make sense and make use of the phenomena learned through social psychological research to help our work in the practice of counseling? It is important to take what the field of psychology has learned from science and apply it to psychological practice in order to make full use of the quality of information that has been gathered over the years. The following is a discussion of the self in social psychology, and the implications of this core psychological construct on the practice of counseling.
The wealth of knowledge written on the topic of self in social psychology presents important and useful constructs that help us to understand ourselves in relation to interactions with others. For example, there are topics written on escaping the self, self-esteem and failure, self as a stressor, and the loss of self in relation to spiritual bliss or ecstasy (Baumeister, 1991). Other “self” topics in social psychology include understanding the self in terms of cognitive, affective, and behavioral constructs (Fiske, 2004). Further, Fiske (2004) identifies several conceptual definitions of self, such as inner self and social self, and defines the core social motives of self as understanding, enhancing, and belonging. However, many researchers have investigated more specific understandings of the self in relation to social psychology, such as social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954), symbolic interaction (Shrauger & Schoeneman, 1979), and self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987), to name a very limited few existing in the social psychological research. Additionally, Ryan & Deci (2000) explain that self-determination theory (SDT) defines how the true self is based on the psychological needs that form self-motivation and personality, including feeling autonomous, competent, and related. Much of what research exists today concerning the self in social psychology has contributed to the vast knowledge of the psychological practice of individual counseling.
Psychological Health and the Self
Many topics could be discussed and described to fully explain the core social motives of the concept of self, and there would not be a lack of literature to provide detail and sufficient evidence for this type of review. However, for purposes of this paper, what will be presented will include the most important aspects of the self in social psychology as it relates to counseling practice, clinical implications, and therapeutic knowledge for purposes of helping inform the work with individual counseling clients. Schlegel and Hicks (2011)...