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Comparing and Contrasting Two Mental Health Theories

Comparing and Contrasting Two Mental Health Theories

Every person behaves differently. People’s motivations for their actions were not fully understood until the late 1800s when psychological models and theories were developed. Many different theories have been established by various theorists, assisting in providing explanations for our behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.

Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, was a professor at several universities who emphasized the importance of focusing on people’s positive qualities rather than treating them as a “bag of symptoms” (Hoffman, 1988). In 1954, he developed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. This theory organizes needs into a pyramid, with the most basic and important needs at the bottom and the more distinctly human needs at the top. Upper-level needs can emerge once the lower-level needs are met. The physiological needs, which include food, water, oxygen, elimination, rest, and sex, are at the very bottom level. As we progress up the pyramid, safety requirements become more important. Security, protection, stability, structure, order, and limits are examples of these. Following these are needs for love and belonging, such as affiliation, affectionate relationships, and love. Following that are esteem needs, which include self-esteem based on competency, achievement, and esteem from others. Self-actualization, or becoming everything one is capable of, must come next. Self-transcendence needs are at the very top of the list. This is when a person has a sense of identity that extends beyond the personal self (Varcarolis, 2009). This theory could be applied frequently in nursing practice. This hierarchy can be used by the nurse to determine which needs have been met and which still need to be met in order for the patient to be satisfied with themselves.

Erik Erikson developed another theory, the Theory of Psychosocial Development. Erikson was a child psychoanalyst who explained that development happens in eight stages. Each stage’s level of success is related to the previous stage. Trust vs. Mistrust is the first stage, which lasts from birth to 1.5 years of age. The emphasis during this time period is on the parents’ nurturing and ability to care for their child. Physical contact is included. If successful, this stage will contribute to the development of trust, confidence, and security. If a child is not nurtured, he or she may grow up feeling insecure, worthless, and distrustful of those around them. The next stage is autonomy vs. shame/doubt, which occurs between 1.5 and three years of age and involves the child learning skills and developing self-esteem. If a child is unable to learn certain skills, they may feel embarrassed. The stage of initiative vs. guilt comes next. This stage lasts from 3 to 5 years and is when children develop their imagination, curiosity, and fantasies. A conscience develops, and the child may begin to believe that they are a bad person. When a child is between the ages of six and twelve, he or she develops a competitive drive, which leads to confidence. New knowledge and skills, as well as the ability to accept instruction, are gained. This is also a stage of social development, and feelings of inferiority may arise if a child feels unnoticed. The next stage is identity vs. role confusion, which occurs between the ages of 12 and 20. This is the stage at which adolescents discover their own identity and develop a sense of right and wrong. This is where adolescents frequently struggle to fit in, which can lead to role confusion.


Hoffman, Edward (1988). The Right to be Human: A Biography of Abraham Maslow. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Varcarolis, E. M. (2009). Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Communication Approach to Evidence-Based Care(3rd ed.). St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier.


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compares and contrasts two mental health theories:

You may choose your theories from the textbook or from other sources.

Comparing and Contrasting Two Mental Health Theories

Comparing and Contrasting Two Mental Health Theories

Describe each theory, including some history about the person who developed the theory and the major ideas and applications of the theory.

Describe the ways in which the two theories are similar, and how they differ.

Include a statement of how each theory could be used in your nursing practice. Include specific patient examples if you have them. You may also critique the theory: Is there anything with which you disagree or are there any problems you can identify?


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