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Socially Oriented Theories: Further Points

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

There are a few other socially oriented points to make, relevant to self-help.

Social Limit Setting. Some people cannot regulate themselves very well, and really require that some external institution take over control of their lives and help them hold themselves together. Society is often quite willing to support and fund such efforts, particularly when they are in the interest of public safety. Laws govern what sorts of behavior are criminal, and people who violate criminal codes and get caught are frequently sent to jail. Psychotic people are picked up by the police and brought to psychiatric emergency rooms (or more frequently these days, to jail). Alcoholics and addicts may have their driver's licenses withdrawn, be sent to rehabilitation programs, or to jail.

Not all such external supervision is coercive either. Sober Living houses, rehabilitation hospitals and group homes of various sorts exist to help the medically ill, recovering addicts, the mentally retarded and brain damaged individuals to get better, or to lead their lives under least restrictive housing scenarios.

Social Benefits and Welfare. Some people lose income, become disabled or are otherwise unable to provide for their basic needs. When this occurs, society is often willing, at some minimal level, to provide sufficient aide so that people do not starve. Unemployment insurance, welfare and disability programs, veteran's disability programs, public health and mental health programs, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and soup/food kitchens are all programs of this sort.

The various medical (biological), psychological and social theories described above were created by clinicians and scientists to help them and their peers better understand human nature, including the problems and limits that people encounter while living their lives. Knowing something about these theories will hopefully help you as you think about the causes of your own problems. Armed with well supported, insightful ideas about the nature of your problem, you will have a better basis for knowing what to do to resolve it than you otherwise would.