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A hierarchy of wants : towards an integrative framework for counselling, psychotherapy and social change

Cooper, Mick (2012) A hierarchy of wants : towards an integrative framework for counselling, psychotherapy and social change. Working paper. University of Strathclyde.

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Abstract

The aim of this monograph is to develop an integrated framework for understanding, and facilitating, psychological and social wellbeing. It is based on the assumption that our wants are a core element of our being; and that the pursuit, and attainment, of these is a defining characteristic of psychological health. It is suggested that our wants can be conceptualised as existing in a hierarchy, in which higher order wants are attained through lower order wants; and that psychological difficulties emerge when our means of attaining our highest order wants are either in conflict with each other (horizontal incoherence), or are ineffective within our present context (vertical incoherence). The monograph argues that this framework can be used to conceptualise, and draw together, a wide range of psychotherapeutic theories and practices; with the therapist construed as a facilitator of more synergetic, and more effective, means of want attainment. In addition, the monograph argues that the extent to which people can progress towards, and attain, their wants may be very dependent on the resources available in their particular life-context, such that improvements in psychological wellbeing may require social and political change. To understand how this might happen, it is argued that the present framework can be transposed to the interpersonal plane, with increased synergies in the ways that people strive to attain their wants leading to a more rewarding and fulfilling socio-political context.