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Looking at Development Through the Lens of Two Acquaintances:
An Interview Approach to Understand Development Within a Counseling Context
Lyndsey G. Hepworth
Seattle University

Coun 507, Counseling Across the Lifespan
Fall 2011
Submitted to Dr. Kristi Lee 12/7

Looking at Development Through the Lens of Two Acquaintances:
An Interview Approach to Understand Development Within a Counseling Context
One criterion that applies to any type of counselor is to be prepared to work with diverse
cliental. It is our job to be prepared, ethical, skilled, and multiculturally competent. We should
be able to provide quality service to all, in a compassionate and effective way. There are many
ways to gain this expertise: through our graduate courses, reading textbooks and scholarly
journal articles, professional experience, and simply engaging in conversation with others. Each
day we encounter people other than ourselves, who each have unique personalities,
characteristics, and experiences. Through our interactions with them we unknowingly learn
about their individual experiences, which is helpful in preparing our understanding of others.
Although no person is the same, our understanding of one community or one culture can help us
when counseling a person from the respective community or culture. For example, being aware
of the common struggles a person in public housing experiences can be useful when working
with a client living in this type of housing.
For this final essay we were asked to interview two people, reflect on their developmental
stages, and apply it to a counseling context. This is taking our daily interaction with others to
another level, truly focusing on their life, the specific struggles they faced, and considering what
we could do for them as a counselor, at the everyday, state, and national level. By interviewing
people with two differing elements of identity from my own, I was able to gain insight about an
unfamiliar developmental lifespan construct. For much of this quarter we focused on applying
textbooks concepts to our own development, and now have the opportunity to apply these
concepts to people who differ from us in two ways. The interview questions were focused
around five topics including, a) identity development, b) relationship with others, c) knowledge,
education, and work, d) moral development, and e) spiritual development. For each interviewee
I will give a thorough introduction and the reason for selecting him/her, a summary of their
responses in relation to each of the five topic areas, distinguish clear connections made between
their responses and class concepts, and apply their development to a counseling context at a
everyday, state, and national level. To conclude this essay I will give my personal reactions to
the interviews, discuss the reflection of my own life experiences in relation to the interviews, and
emphasize the importance of understanding other’s life experiences through the lifespan.
Interview #1
For my first interview I interviewed a close friend of my moms. When growing up I
remember my mom dragging me to this friend’s holiday parties and playing with her kids, but I
haven’t seen their family in about eight years. Although I had this periodic relationship with her
children, I never had a relationship with her. I chose to interview her because she knows my
mother, making it less awkward for the both of us, which I think aided in her openness and detail
during the interview.
My mother’s friend is named Fabiola and she is a middle-aged woman from Peru.
Although I am bi-racial, I have grown up in Washington and identify myself mainly as a
Westernized, white female. Fabiola is in the stage of middle adulthood and has emigrated from
Peru, creating two distinct differences between us. To create a general overview of her life, she
was born in Lima and came to Washington by herself in 1981. She brought with her an
equivalent of 50 American dollars and a dream to start a family and create a rewarding life in
America. Within the first two months of being in the states she met my mom at the Shoreline
Community College cafeteria. It is common for people in the Hispanic culture to come to the
states to study and move back upon completion of their degree. Fabiola was different in her
intentions; she wanted to make a life in America, not simply earn a degree and go back. She met
her husband Michael within two years of being here and now has a lovely home with three
children, ages 27, 21, and 15.
Summary of Question Areas with Connection to Textbook Content
Identity development.
Fifteen years ago, shortly after Fabiola’s last daughter was born, she found out she had
breast cancer. Within these 15 years she has battled breast cancer four times and within the last
year discovered a tumor near her spinal cord, making it extremely difficult to move around and
feel physical pain. This life altering news led her to God and forming a strong concept of self-
identity. One theorist, Marcia, has identified four identity statuses. The statuses include a)
diffusion, when a person does little to form an identity, b) foreclosure, when identity is formed
by adults, not through exploration, c) moratorium, when a person is exploring different types of
identity, and d) achievement, when an individual has explored different identities, but has chosen
one identity (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). I believe that Fabiola is in the achievement status, as
she has explored different identifiers, but has stuck with being a mother, good friend, and close
to God.
Fabiola believes that the beginning of forming this true identity started when she had her
first daughter, Michelle. Her identity as a rebellious child leaving Peru quickly changed when
she had the full time responsibility of taking care of her first-born. Considering the impact of
birth order, Michelle was indeed a “guinea pig” and Fabiola was very enthusiastic and had high
expectations for her and her role as a mother. Rather quickly she realized what type of mother
she needed to be; a warm, comforting mother that was responsive to her daughter’s need. I
would identify her parenting style as authoritative, using moderate control and implementing the
warmness and responsiveness factors. Research has found that “authoritative parenting is best
for most children most of the time,” so Fabiola’s ideas of parenthood were right on. It is her role
as an authoritative parent, connection with God, and being a cancer survivor that leads to her
achieved status of identity.
Relationship with others.
Being sick has strengthened Fabiola’s relationships with others. When asked who do you
consider part of your family, she replied all her friends and family. Her friends, including my
mother, have helped take care of her kids when she was in the hospital, made meals for their
family, and provided unconditional support. This year she planned an extravagant quinceañera, a
huge fifteenth birthday celebration symbolic of entrance into young adulthood, for her youngest
daughter Melissa. The party was on Saturday and she found out she had a tumor the Wednesday
prior and had to go into immediate surgery. She was no longer able to complete the last minute
party planning. A close friend jumped into the role as party planner and took care of everything
so that Fabiola didn’t have to worry about the party. This is one of the many examples of an
altruistic act that her friends have done for her. The textbook states that, “having good
friendships helps boost self-esteem. They also help us become socialized into new roles
throughout adulthood” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 396). Her friends have helped her during
the unfortunate transition of becoming sick and these strong friendships have given Fabiola hope
and maintenance of self-esteem. I believe that it is her friendships and relationship with God that
have helped her through four rounds of cancer.
Even though she has become increasingly dependent on others, Fabiola welcomes friends
and people in her community to her house every Sunday for bible study. She goes out of her
way to help others discover God in their life and to provide support to them in any way they
need. This act is an example of prosocial behavior that is defined as, “any behavior that benefits
another person” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 191). She enjoys helping others, even when very
sick. These multidirectional helping relationships she has with others is key in her life and in her
progression of becoming healthier.
Knowledge, education, and work.
Having cancer has confined Fabiola to her house. She is unable to have a regular job as
she is too weak and is constantly in and out of the doctor’s office. It was at church that she
found her career calling, a blessing as she describes it. She overheard a church member talking
about housing abroad students and decided to approach her with questions. After talking for a
while with this lady, she thought that Fabiola would be the perfect candidate and said she was
going to tell the agency about her. Shortly after Fabiola received a call from the agency asking
to do a home visit to see if she would be a good candidate for the open position. She was
approved and four days later had two kids from Korea living with her. When I asked her how
she decided on her career she said that all fell into place and that it was her calling from God to
house these students and take care of them as a mother would. She has been doing this for the
past five years and says she has never enjoyed a job so much nor made so much money! She
believes that people will be the happiest when doing a job that fits their personality, which
coincides with Holland’s theory of occupational choice. “People choose occupations to optimize
the fit between their individual traits (such as personality, intelligence, skills, and abilities) and
their occupational interests” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 431). Fabiola loves being social and
helping others, so this job has been the perfect fit for her and proof that Holland’s theory proves
Moral development.
When describing to Fabiola the scenario of the husband stealing the drug to save his wife
from dying, she gave it much thought before answering. This internal processing is known as
reflective judgment, the “way in which adults reason through real-life dilemmas” including
moral dilemmas (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 378). Her first response was one that comes from
her spirituality; she said that she believes that “everyone has their time to die, it doesn’t depend
on the pills or the doctor. If God is going to pick you up, he will” (F. Bitterbost, personal
communication, November 26, 2011). She went on to say that if she had to choose if this moral
dilemma was right or wrong, she would choose wrong. Stealing is against her belief and she
thinks that there are other ways to get the money for the medication such as asking others for
help or fundraising. Her knowledge of what to do in moral dilemmas comes from her
experiences. All that she has learned through life shapes how she chooses what is wrong and
right. She added that it is her responsibility to share this information with her children, in hopes
that they will make the right decision when stuck in difficult situations.
Spiritual development.
The textbook mentions that researchers are focusing on spiritual support as a way to help
older adults cope. “Even when under high levels of stress, people who rely on spiritual support
report greater personal well being” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 563). Fabiola believes that
without her trust and faith in God that she may not be here or doing as well as she is. Taking
into account this research, it is safe to say that without her faith she may have reported increased
levels of stress, decreased self-esteem, and an overall decrease in well being. By turning “her
problems” over to God she no longer has to deal with this stress and lives her life believing what
will happen will happen. Fabiola is an incredibly strong woman with a strong belief system. She
mentioned, “everyone has inside the voice of God to know him, but not everybody listens. Some
people accept God in tragedies, others in happiness. Me, I never heard his calling before. But
when God did call, I heard and was very anxious to know him” (F. Bitterbost, personal
communication, November 26, 2011). She started the bible study at her house in response to this
awareness and in hopes to increase the awareness of God and his power to others.
Counseling Context
My interview with Fabiola made me realize that some people believe that only God can
or will help them. This made me question what a counselor could do for a client with such
strong beliefs. If your client believes that everything happens for a reason and that God will help
them when they need it, what is the counselor to do? I believe that this is when our counseling
510 skills will prove extremely helpful. Not having a specific counseling theory in mind and to
simply keep the focus on the client and use paraphrasing, clarifying, feedback, and attending etc.,
to help them talk through what they are struggling with should be very helpful.
Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory I can think of ways of counseling Fabiola at
the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem levels. His theory is based on the
idea that “human development is inseparable from the environmental contexts in which a person
develops” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 15). It is Fabiola’s immediate environment, social
setting, government and social policies, and the culture and ethnic group she belongs too that
effect her development. As a counselor it is useful to consider each level and what we can do for
them at that level.
At the micro level, it will be important to discuss what everyday looks like for her. Does
she have the support she needs? Can she engage in normal daily activities with her sickness or
does she need the help of others? Providing her with numbers of caregivers to help her get the
assistance she needs will reduce her stress and allow her to experience a day without the
struggles in doing basic things. At the meso level, making sure that Fabiola has expressed her
sickness to the agency and her church for community help. Being involved in breast cancer
awareness campaigns is something I could personally do to increase the awareness around the
community. On the government and state level, making sure that Fabiola is entitled to all leave
that she may need under the Family Medical Leave Act. At the broadest level, the macro level,
helping Fabiola connect with her Peruvian heritage in hopes of increasing her ethnic identity,
which has been proven to help self-esteem. For Fabiola being an active member in church is
very important and I think that being an active member in her cultural group would prove helpful
as well. The ability to share common values and discuss them can be very powerful.
Interview #2
For my second interview I interviewed a 21-year-old male that was born and raised in
Texas, but whose parents emigrated from India and Peru. He is a friend of my boyfriend’s and I
consider him my “interview savior” since my planned second interviewee bailed on me, still not
responding to calls or text messages. I had originally planned on interviewing a 22-year-old
Native American male, as I am highly interested in their culture and life living on an Indian
reservation. Although things didn’t go as planned, I had a successful interview with Roy, a male
who struggles with his ethnic identity and finding his true self. Although he mentioned several
times he felt ostracized, he never gave me a specific example, even when asking him. I would
have preferred a little more detail from Roy, but I appreciate the things he did share with me.
Currently Roy attends Washington State University in Pullman, WA, with his parents and two
siblings residing in Mill Creek, WA.
Summary of Question Areas with Connection to Textbook Content
Identity development.
Forming an identity has been a struggle for Roy. Growing up in Texas he said that he
suffered prejudice and the effects of invisible social boundaries. With negative comments said
about him and his idea that he wasn’t allowed to hang out with people other than people of color,
he grew to resent his ethnic identity, especially being Indian. The text says that prejudice often
increases during the adolescence years when people are in search of identity, creating a
preference for their own cultural group (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). For Roy he created a
preference to fit into the white male group. When Roy moved to Washington during high school
he did just this; he fit himself into the group he thought was popular. This led to a downward
spiral of getting into trouble with both his parents and the law. Erik Erikson’s psychosocial
theory argues that adolescents face a crisis between identity and role confusion where the crisis
“involves balancing the desire to try out many possible selves and the need to select a single
self” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 326). It isn’t until now, in his third year of college that he is
realizing his actions have consequences and that perhaps the identity he has created for himself
isn’t the one he wants.
Relationship with others.
When asking Roy who he considered part of his family he replied that he only considers
his immediate family. He says that all of his friends are there for him, but in a negative way, and
that he wouldn’t mind losing those connections. He goes on to tell me of a time that he did lose
a friendship connection. Sophomore year of college Roy and this friend had been hanging out
and smoking marijuana as they usually would do. Roy left for work and an hour later he got a
call saying that his friend had accidentally shot and killed himself. This experience was eye
opening for Roy; he knew that he didn’t want to lead this life and sustain the friendships he has
made that are potentially very dangerous for him. According to our text, the number one cause
of death for Latino American male adolescents is firearms, something Roy experienced firsthand.
Fortunately Roy realized that these deaths are preventable and that it is up to him to make better
Knowledge, education, and work.
When asked where he learned the most, Roy said that hands down in college. It is
through his classes and interactions with others that he has learned his most valuable lessons,
such as experiencing the loss of his friend and realizing that he needs to make some changes. As
for work, Roy mentioned that he doesn’t know what he wants to do yet; he has settled for
working part-time at Sprint, but this is not something he wants to do forever. Super developed a
theory of occupational development that outlines a progression of five stages in obtaining an
occupational role that coincides with the person’s changing self-concept. I believe Roy is in the
implementation phase, “when people take a series of temporary jobs to learn firsthand about
work roles and to try out some possible career choices” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 432).
Through his part-time work and continued studies in college I am sure that Roy will find
something that he enjoys and will turn it into a career.
Moral development.
Working through tough moral dilemmas has been a struggle for him. He says that
weekly he deals with having to make the right vs. wrong decision. When I asked him how he
does or thinks he should do it, he says that he thinks of his parents. For it is his parent’s that
have been great role models, modeling the right way to deal with moral dilemmas. Bandura’s
social learning theory states “people learn simply by watching those around them” (Kail &
Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 12). I tried to apply his moral reasoning to Kohlberg’s theory, but the two
didn’t fit, he has learned and makes his decisions by modeling what his parents do.
Spiritual development.
Several times throughout our interview, Roy mentioned that he learned how to do things,
such as having God in his life, through learning from his parent’s. Since Roy grew up in a
Christian household he is a believer in Christianity. Vygotsky’s theory emphasizes, “children’s
thinking does not develop in a vacuum but rather is influenced by the sociocultural context in
which children grow up” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 15). For the people of Peru, religion is
very important and is recognized as an important element in their culture and moral
development. I am sure this led Roy’s mother to believing in God and teaching Roy His ways.
The cultural context that both Roy’s mom and Roy grew up in has influenced their spiritual
Counseling Context
Applying Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory to Roy is useful in gaining a better
perspective on how to counsel someone who has many of the same struggles as Roy. At the
micro level I would make sure that he is surrounded by positive influences. People in Roy’s
microsystem strongly influence his development and being aware of who is in it may be helpful.
At the meso level I could provide positive ethnic support groups at school or encourage Roy to
become active in extracurricular activities. At the state level I can advocate for schools to
implement “No Bullying Laws” and instate harsh rules concerning social equality with
punishment if not followed. At the macro level I can advocate for social justice, in hopes of
increasing the awareness that this is a problem and needs to change. Perhaps Roy seeing this
will give him more confidence to do the same thing and break down the barriers he has
established about who and whom he can’t hang out with.
To conclude this essay I give my personal reactions to the interviews, discuss the
reflection of my life experiences in relation to the interviews, and emphasize the importance of
understanding other’s life experiences through the lifespan. For me Fabiola’s interview made a
lasting impression; her trust and faith in God is greater than anyone I have met. Both interviews
deepened my knowledge on the Peruvian culture and provided me insight to how others perceive
their own lifespan construct. This process proved very informative and I was easily able to note
many differences in our experiences.
The interviews also made me aware of the similarities in our development. Although my
two interviewees and I vary greatly in our experiences we share the need for close relationships
with others, engaging in complex ways of thinking to solve moral dilemmas, and changes
through time in our own identity development. Being aware of these themes will help when
counseling; I’ll know that people can struggle with forming an identity and lacking secure
relationships with others can be very troubling and even detrimental to their mental health.
To be a prepared, skilled, ethical, and a multiculturally competent counselor it is my duty
to raise my awareness of others. By interviewing people with two differing elements of identity
from my own, I was able to look at development through their lens and then apply what I learned
to what I could do for them in counseling. Hearing other’s lifespan construct and struggles and
formulating ways I can help them at the micro-, meso-, exo-, and macrosystem levels is
something that I will do as a future counselor daily. It is with this intent that I will approach my
future job as school counselor.
Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2010). Human Development A Life-Span View. (5
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Questions for Interview #1
Identity Development
1. What factors or experiences helped shape your identity?
2. Is your identity static or does it change based on situations, cultural context, roles, etc.?
Relationship with Others
3. Who is included in your support system?
4. Who do you consider part of your family?
5. How has your relationship with your parents evolved over time?
Knowledge, Education, and Work
6. When/where did you learn the most?
7. How did you decide on your career?
Spiritual Development
8. What part does religion/spirituality have in your life?
9. What or who influenced your spiritual/religious beliefs?
Moral Development
10. I am going to describe a situation to you and I want you to tell me who you think is
wrong in the situation. There is a pharmacist who develops a drug for lung cancer. It is
very effective and he prices it very high knowing that people will want to but it and that
he can make a lot of money. A man’s wife has lung cancer and she will die if she does
not get this drug, but the couple cannot afford to buy it. The man goes one night and
steals the amount of drug his wife will need to survive.
11. How do you decide what is right and wrong?
Questions for Interview #2
Identity Development
1. What factors or experiences helped shape your identity?
2. How do others perceive you?
3. What do you like most/least about your identity?
Relationship with Others
4. Who do you consider part of your family?
5. Tell me about your siblings. Who are you closest to?
6. Who was your role model as a child?
7. How would you define a good relationship?
Knowledge, Education, and Work
8. What does your education mean to you?
9. When/where did you learn the most?
10. How did you decide on your career?
Moral Development
11. How do you decide what is right and wrong?
12. Is there a time when you faced a moral dilemma?
Spiritual Development
13. What part does religion/spirituality have in your life?
14. How do you see your religion/spirituality changing over time?