A four-step wellness model for self-understanding and total health

A four-step wellness model for self-understanding and total health – 1992 Secretary’s Award for Innovations in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: Abstracts of Semifinalists’ Papers

Robert LiPuma

The proposed wellness program provides enhanced self-understanding, which improves life decisions, encourages beneficial behavior change, and works toward helping a person achieve a state of total health. The program is designed for use with high school and college students and compliments the goals of at least five separate academic disciplines. The self-discovery program was built on a foundation of theories developed by workers in health promotion, health science, psychology, philosophy, and theology.

The four-step system for self-understanding can become a valuable tool for total health promotion, not only in health and physical education, but in psychology and counseling as well. The program works for disease prevention and health promotion, takes wellness to a new level of application, and can become a valuable system for self-exploration and self-discovery. Although students are taught about many disciplines, little is done to educate students about themselves. Research studies have shown that self-understanding, however, is a primary component of living, which affects later behavior; decision-making capabilities; physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health; and vocational maturity.

In the program, adolescents are introduced to the challenge of making some of the important life decisions. Questions about health, life, work, and relationships ensue and develop. The results of poorly made decisions may manifest themselves in many areas of peoples’ lives, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Poorly made life decisions may have lasting results in poor physical condition, weight gain, isolation, depression, stress, poor sexual identity and lack of responsibility, inability to reason, lack of respect for life and nature, low self-confidence, poor self-image, and career insecurity.

In the early 1960s, Halbert Dunn, a physician, was developing an idea he called “High Level Wellness,” which was based on self-discovery. Dunn believed that a person could reach a state of high level wellness by discovering personal satisfaction, valued purposes, and a view of health that is more than simply not being sick. This concept of high level wellness developed into a six-dimensional model of physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and occupational wellness.

The four-step system for self-understanding is designed for use with adolescents and young adults. It is suggested that this system be implemented into high school or college counseling services, college success courses, residence hall programs, academic advising services and career exploration services. The program is designed for implementation into existing programs. It is like a road map for self-understanding. The procedure for implementation is simply to restructure existing program services to incorporate components of the wellness system structure.

Step 1, value clarification and goal setting. The use of a self-assessment is an excellent strategy for exploring values and goals. Students can create a list of things that are most important to them, such as family, friends, health, and education. Using the Wellness Model, the list can be prioritized. At the top of a second list is the person’s personal goal. Strategies can be listed on one side of the page, and their consequences on the other side. For example, if a person has the goal of losing 10 pounds of body fat, one strategy may be dieting. Another strategy may be starting an exercise program. Allow the person to examine the consequences of the possible strategies.

Step 2, psycho-education, the systematic study of self in terms of past and present experiences. Psycho-education is a process that engages a person in self-discovery and can offer a person an alternative lifestyle that embodies a concept of total health. A new understanding of one’s self can lead to increased responsibility, esteem, confidence, ability, control, worth, and belonging, researchers have shown. Exploring each of the six dimensions of wellness with a person, one at a time, can lead to a strategy for obtaining one’s goals that is realistic and meaningful.

Psycho-education helps a person acquire self knowledge and develop personal power to reason and make judgments to initiate change. By simply engaging a person in self-exploration, a counselor can impart new knowledge that can help a person develop and grow. The counselor may apply a preferred counseling technique to the exploration process, but should address each dimension in the wellness structure. The following list indicates the extent of each dimension.

1. The physical wellness dimension includes activity, nutrition, and risk taking and safety, and addresses the need for exercise or the desire to improve one’s physical condition, one’s perception of physical self, sleep, laughter, and the level of activity necessary to reach and maintain one’s desired physical condition.

2. Social wellness directs attention to one’s personal support system, social responsibilities, and cultural influences.

3. Emotional wellness focuses on locus of control, self-concept, and stress management.

4. Philosophical understanding, personal responsibility, and environmental sensitivity are the three major components of spiritual wellness.

5. Intellectual wellness includes the exploration of personal skills, cognitive sensitivity, and scholarly needs.

6. Occupational wellness has three components, future possibilities, personality as it relates to preferred work environments, and one’s personal concept of work.

A balance of the six dimensions is the ideal to work toward for a higher level of health and personal development. Each dimension of wellness must be balanced in a person’s lifestyle. When one dimension becomes more or less important than the others, a person is said to be less well.

Step 3, develop a plan of action. This should be easy after step 2. Allow the person to develop new ideas and personal strategies for change. Determine the most satisfactory plan that maintains balance in the person’s life. A plan of action cannot be imposed on a person, it must be chosen.

Step 4, evaluation and followup. Once the plan has been put into effect, periodic checkups and fine tuning may be necessary. Allow the person to evaluate progress and determine if changes in the plan are necessary.

The four-step wellness model was implemented in the Freshmen Seminar program at a Comprehensive I Carnegie Classification School by simply offering self-exploration activities consistent with the wellness system over a period of 6 weeks. The results showed a significant increase in vocational maturity, as indicated by consistency and differentiation of career choices. The four-step system structure has been used as a counselor’s guide for freshmen and sophomores in academic settings, and in an academic advisement program for athletes. The response from students has been extremely supportive.

Evaluation can be conducted by assessing students’ development using existing instruments, self-assessments, effects on student retention, vocational maturity, and evaluations of students. Simple statistical comparisons and student evaluations may be as effective as published instruments that measure student development, career decision-making, self-esteem, vocational maturity, and self-understanding. Once the goals for the program have been established, specific evaluation techniques or assessment instruments can be chosen.

All that is essential for conducting the program is one staff person, paid or volunteer, willing to learn the four-step system, and capable of guiding people through the self-discovery process. Costs can range from less than $100 to more than $50,000, depending on the scope of the program. The program can be designed as an intrusive counseling program. A typical budget outline could include $14,000 for two graduate assistants at $7,000 per year each; $2,000 for resources, including books and activities; and $2,000 for other expenses.

Entry submitted by Emporia State University. Mr. LiPuma is a student of health education and associated with the university counselor education and rehabilitation services. His address is 625 South Merchant C, Emporia, KS 66801; tel. (316) 342-8428.

COPYRIGHT 1993 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group