The life and Thoughts of Helen Erickson

in Nursing

A Summary of Helen Erickson's Life and Her Instructive Modeling and Role-Modeling Theory

Helen Erickson was born Helen Lorraine Cook in 1936. On her marriage to Lance Erickson in 1957, the psychiatrist Milton Erickson became her father-in-law; he was a major influence on her nursing career and pivotal to the development of her ideas, especially the concept of MRM. In addition to her father-in-law’s instrumentality, Erickson drew on the ideas and works of a number of esteemed psychologists, namely: Piaget, Maslow, Selye and Lazarus.

Erickson obtained her graduate degree in the mid-1970s from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In the intervening years she has published numerous articles and research papers but is best known for the influential book, Modeling and Role Modeling: A Theory and Paradigm, which was co-written with Evelyn M. Tomlin and Mary Ann P. Swain and published in 1983. Two years later, in 1985, Erickson’s far-reaching theoretical contribution was the mobilizing force behind the formation of The Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role-Modeling at the University of Michigan, a society that remains extant.

Within the framework of Modeling and Role-Modeling, Dr. Erickson lays out five main objectives which she believes to be imperative to nursing intervention. They are: trust-building, promotion of a positive experience for the patient, ceding control to the patient, setting mutually-agreed health-enhancing goals with the patient and affirmation and promotion of the patient’s strengths. At the heart of the theory is Erickson’s belief in the importance of nurses modeling, or recognizing the unique viewpoint that each patient has of the world. In role-modeling, or affirming the uniqueness of each patient and his or her particular situation, the nurse treats each patient as a worthy individual, with due regard to the patient’s situation and a desire to create a positive mind-body connection to facilitate healing. This mind-body connection is paramount in Erickson’s thinking. In essence, MRM is a paradigm for good practices and holistic nursing that treats the whole person rather than the part. Ultimately, the patient is empowered and fully-involved in his or her health care. The nurse acts only as a facilitator on the patient’s road to health and well-being. 

Helen Erickson’s ground-breaking MRM theory has had a profound and lasting impact on the nursing profession as a whole, and the concept has gained recognition as a nursing specialty by the American Nurses Association. Erickson’s grand contribution to the theory of nursing continues to guide clinical practice and forms the basis for numerous research undertakings and dissertations. A Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Erickson continues to write and support nursing research.

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The life and Thoughts of Helen Erickson

This article was published on 2011/11/09