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University of Wyoming

Nancy K. Schlossberg

Model of Counseling Adults in Transition


Nancy K. Schlossberg's model for counseling adults in transition is "a systematic way to predict, measure and modify people's reactions to change" (1987, p. 75). The model, uses the four S's: situation, self, supports, and strategies, to help assess ones ability to cope with a transition, by balancing potential resources or deficits.

Assumptions about Learning:

Schlossberg suggests, "based on my research and that of many others, I have come to believe that there is no single predictable, universal adult experience- there are many, and they frequently involve transitions...crisis, transition and change occur all through life." Schlossberg believes everyone experiences transitions, (those events/nonevents that alter our roles, relationships, routines and assumptions). Yet since our lives are so unique transitions vary from individual to individual.

Schlossberg describes basic truths about adult behavior:

(a) "transitions are more important than chronological age in understanding and evaluating a person's behavior" (1987, p. 74);

(b) adults are motivated to learn and change by a need to control, belong, master, and renew; and

(c) adult readiness for change depends on situation, support, self, and strategies (1984).

Brief History (Context):

Nancy K. Schlossberg, received her Ed.D in 1961 from Teachers College at Columbia University. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Schlossberg is a prolific researcher and writer who has penned many articles and books which help individuals cope with life events (transitions). "Her interests include adult development, adult transitions, career development, and adults as learners. She consults one day a week at the American Counsel of Education and lectures often nationally". Nancy Schlossberg, has recently authored several books including Going to Plan B and Overwhelmed: Coping with Life's Ups and Downs.

Major Proponents/Critics:

"Transitions are a concept that is used both by developmentalists who speak in terms of life stages (such as Levison and other, 1978, 1986) and those who address the life events paradigm (such as Schlossberg, 1984)" (Merriam and Carrarella, 1991, p. 108). Numerous individuals including, Sugarman, Aslanian, Brickwell, and Bridges augment Schlossberg's ideas of transitions. Many articles and books have been written, which complement/augment Schlossberg's model of counseling adults in transition.

Major Tenants:

Nancy K. Schlossberg suggests in her model for counseling adults in transition that "the transitions in our lives are those event-or nonevents- that alter our roles, relationships, routines, and assumptions" (1987, p. 74). She describes transitions in three categories: Anticipated transitions (e.g. Marriage, first job, retirement); Unanticipated transitions (e.g. Major surgery, car accident, surprise promotion), and Nonevent transitions (e.g. Expected events that fail to occur). The potential resources and deficiencies' one has for dealing with a transition are categorized in the four S's (1987, p. 75).