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The Use of Self-Transcendence Theory in Nursing

Pamela Reed’s Self-Transcendence Theory views people as individuals who develop throughout their life with the help of interactions with others, and within changing environments that either positively or negatively influence people’s overall well-being (including both mental and physical health). The story of Mrs. Richards, a patient who presented to the clinic with fatigue, anxiety, and depression due to the loss of her husband and two children, is among millions of similar cases of grief. Within the Self-Transcendence Theory, the role of a nurse, and nursing activities, is to help patients through the process of therapeutic management of their mental conditions and environment to achieve health and well-being. Referring to the assumptions that support the use of the Self-Transcendence Theory to treat patients such as Mrs. Richards, the first key point to remember is that human beings co-exist with the environment around them. They interact with it, exchange energy and matter and, thus, can expand their boundaries for reaching wellness and a definitive sense of well-being. The second point is that achieving self-transcendence (particularly in Mrs. Richards’ case) is only possible through personal development, which can be supported by a healthcare provider.

Mrs. Richards has been diagnosed with depression, which results in such adverse outcomes as worsened medical conditions, increased risks of admissions, impaired quality of life, an increased burden on caregivers, as well as reduced daily living activities (Haugan & Innstrand, 2012). Her grief over her husband and two children means that her risk factors for severe depression can rise at any point; therefore, it is essential to implement viable solutions to prevent the patient’s health from deteriorating. Possible interventions based on the Self-Transcendence Theory may include nursing activities that encourage Mrs. Richards’ self-reflection, altruistic actions, faith, and hope. The two interventions recommended for addressing Mrs. Richards’ condition are both linked to changing her usual environment and thus facilitating self-transcendence and self-reflection.

According to Underwood (2004) from the American Group Psychotherapy Association, complicated grief is among the key causes of depression. The first intervention to encourage Mrs. Richards’ recovery and facilitate self-transcendence is the attendance of grief counseling sessions. Such sessions can be both individual and group-based. Processes involved in recovering from grief differ from person to person; therefore, counseling can allow the patient to find the most efficient method that will facilitate her self-reflection and lead her toward recovery. Support groups or individual counseling sessions will provide the patient with safety, educate her on the importance of grief and mental processes that are linked to it, normalize and validate reactions to the loss of her family, and facilitate problem-solving. Counseling is essential for Mrs. Richards as it will boost self-reflection and bring her hope regarding her future.

The second intervention for facilitating self-transcendence is changing the patient’s environment through encouraging altruistic actions. Selfless actions may work for Mrs. Richards because they could replace her anxiety and fear with efforts to benefit other members of the community without gaining a personal advantage from them. Also, altruism will allow Mrs. Richards to shift her attention to doing something beneficial for society and enable her to reflect on her contribution to the world. Finding herself in a completely different environment is likely to facilitate the patient’s self-transcendence due to the development of new social networks, physical surroundings, and other community resources involved in various altruistic actions.


Haugan, G., & Innstrand, S. (2012). The effect of self-transcendence on depression in cognitively intact nursing home patients. ISRN Psychiatry, 12, 301-325.

Underwood, M. (2004). Web.

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