VISTAS Assessment, Evaluation, Accountability and Research in Counseling

VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.

Basic Needs and Well-Being: A Self-Determination Theory View

Martin Lynch


Self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000b) suggests that, to the extent that social contexts support a person‟s basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, they facilitate greater well-being and vitality. Autonomy refers to the experience of behaving in accord with one‟s own interests or values (Ryan, 1993) and it is supported by non-controlling, supportive relationships. Competence is a propensity toward mastery and effectance in one‟s environment, and is facilitated by conditions that provide optimal challenges and positive feedback (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975; Deci, 1975). Finally, relatedness refers to a propensity toward connectedness or belongingness with others (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Deci & Ryan, 1985), and is fostered when others treat one in warm and caring ways (Reis & Franks, 1994; Ryan, La Guardia, Butzel, Kim, & Chirkov, 2003). Understanding the role of basic psychological needs can provide a useful framework for counselors, both in case conceptualization and in designing treatment interventions (Lynch & Levers, 2007), but questions remain about the universality of the needs posited by SDT. The present paper reports on one study that has examined the role of these needs across three cultures: China, Russia, and the United States.

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