An Overview of Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg's Transition Theory

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An Overview of Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg's Transition Theory
An Overview of
Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg's
Transition Theory
About Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg
B.A. Sociology (1951) from Bernard College
Ed.D. Counseling (1961) from Teachers College, Columbia University
Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland in the Department of
Counseling and Personnel Services
She has served on the faculties of Wayne State University, Howard
University, and Pratt University
Dr. Schlossberg was the first woman executive at the American Council
of Education, where she established the Office of Women in Higher
Currently, she is the President of a consulting firm, Transition Works
More on Dr. Schlossberg…
She is the past president of the National Career Development
She has received numerous awards including, NASPA’s “Outstanding
Contribution to Literature and Research Award”
Her published books include:
• Getting the Most out of College (2001)
• Going to Plan B: How you can Cope, Regroup and Start your Life on a
New Path (1996)
• Improving Higher Education Environments for Adults (1989)
• Counseling Adults in Transition (1984)
• Perspectives on Counseling Adults (1978)
Dr. Schlossberg is an expert in the areas of adult development, adult
transition, career development, adults as learners, and intergenerational
The Transition Theory (then called model) was first presented in an
article called “A model for analyzing human adaptation” in The Counseling
Psychologist journal in 1981
The 1981 article was a prelude to her 1984 book called Counseling Adults
in Transition
• Successful in linking theory and practice by incorporating Egan’s
Helping Model.
The Transition Theory was revised in 1989 and then in 1995
Influenced by the works of Levinson, Neugarten, Erickson, Chickering,
among others
The Transition Theory
The theory resulted of a need for a framework that would facilitate an
understanding of adults in transition and lead them to help they needed to cope with
the ordinary and extraordinary process of living (Evans, et al., 1998)
Serves as a vehicle for analyzing human adaptation to transition
• Any event, or non-event that results in changed relationships, routines,
assumptions and roles (Evans, et al., 1998)
• Not considered a transition if the individual does not attach significance
• Can be positive or negative transition
• To understand meaning of transition, the context, type and impact must be
The Transition Theory:
Approaching Change, Taking Stock, and Taking Charge
Moving in, Moving Through, and Moving Out
The Transition Theory
The individual’s effectiveness in coping with transition depends on his or
her “assets” and “liabilities”.
Schlossberg identified four major sets of factors, known as the 4 S’s,
that influence a person’s ability to cope with a transition :
Situation, Self, Support, Strategies
The 4 S’s: What to Consider…
•What kind of
transition is it?
•Is it a positive,
negative, expected,
unexpected, desired,
or dreaded
•Did the transition
come at the worst or
best time possible?
•Is it “on time” of
“off schedule”?
•Is it voluntary or
•Is the individual at
the beginning, middle
or end of the
transition (moving in,
through, or out)
•What kind of
strengths and
weaknesses does the
individual bring to the
•Does he or she believe
there are options?
•Is he or she
•Personal and
(gender, age, health
socio-economic status,
race, etc.)
•Does the person have
support from family,
friends, co-workers,
and supervisors?
•Does the person use
several coping
strategies or just one?
•In what ways do
people give support?
•In what way do they
hinder the person’s
efforts to change?
•Can the person
creatively cope by
changing the situation,
changing the meaning
of the situation or
managing reactions to
Theory to Practice
In the 1995 revision, Schlossberg’s integrated the Cormier and Hackney
Counseling Model to provide a useful vehicle for identifying effective
action that can be taken to support individuals in transitions (Evans, et
al., 1998).
Strengths and Limitations
• Versatility
• Multiple perspectives
• Continuously revised
• User friendly
• Great intervention model/tool
• More research to needed
related to diverse student
populations, such as students of
color, students with
disabilities. Lesbian, gay and
bisexual students, and
international students
Alford, S.M. (1998). The impact of inner-city values on student social
adjustment in commuter colleges. NASPA Journal, 35(3), 225-233.
Chea, K. (in press). Validating underrepresented students’ college aspirations and
college-going plans in a summer program for high school students. Retrieved
on October 24, 2004, from
Cheng, D.X. (2004). Students’ sense of campus community: What it means, and
what to do about it. NASPA Journal, 41 (2), 216-234.
Cuyjet, M.J. (1998). Recognizing and addressing marginalization among AfricanAmerican college students. College Student Affairs Journal, 18 (1), 64-71.
Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in
college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Farley, J.E. (2002). Contesting our everyday work lives: The retention of minority
and working class sociology undergraduates. The Sociological Quarterly, 43 (1),
Fass Speakers Bureau (n.d.). Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg. Retrieved November 1, 2004
from http://www.fasspr.com/fsb/NancySchlossberg.html
Kirst-Ashman, K.K., and Hull Jr., C.H. (1999). Understanding Generalist Practice
(2nd ed.). Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers.
Kodama, C.M. (2002). Marginality of transfer commuter students. NASPA Journal,
39(3), 233-250.
Paquette, D. and Ryan, J. (2001). Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory.
Retrieved November 3, 2004 from http//:pt3.nl.edu/paquetteryanwebquest.pdf.
Parker, M. & Flowers, L.A. (2003). The effects of racial identity on academic
achievements and perceptions of campus connectedness on African American
students at predominantly white institutions. College Student Affairs Journal,
22(2), 180-194.
Santiago, C. (2007). Overview of Schlossberg Transition Theory. Azusa Pacific
University. Power-point presentation.
Sargent, A.G. and Schlossberg, N.K. (1988). Managing adult transitions. Training
& Development Journal, December 1988, 58-60.
Schlossberg, N.K. & Entine, A.D. (Eds.). (1977). Counseling adults. Monterey:
Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.
Schlossberg, N.K. (1981). A model for analyzing human adaptation to transition.
Counseling Psychologist, 9(2), 2-18.
Schlossberg, N.K. (1984). Counseling adults in transitions. New York: Springer
Publishing Company.
Schlossberg, N.K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building
community. In D.C. Roberts (Ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a
sense of community (New Directions for Student Services, No. 48, 5-15).
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schlossberg, N.K., Lynch, A.Q., & Chickering, A.W. (1989). Improving higher
education environments for adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schlossberg, N.K. (1997). A model of worklife transitions. In R. Feller and G.
Walz (Eds.), Career Transitions in Turbulent Times. Greensboro: Eric
Counseling & Student Services Clearinghouse.
Torosyan, R. (1999). Applying learning to life: A theoretical framework in
context. Et Cetera, 56 (1), 3-24).
Transition works…New ways to think about change. (n.d). About Nancy
Schlossberg. Retrieved on November 1, 2004 on www.transitionguide.com
University of Maryland. (n.d). College of Education News. Retrieved on
November 1, 2004 from
Woodward, V.S. & Sims, J.M. (2000). Programmatic approach to improving
campus climate. NASPA Journal, 37(4), 539-552.
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