STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

Step 1: Select the theoretical approach or approaches on which the intervention will be based


What are its bases?

Its basic claim is the progressive and mutual adaptation of an active human being to the changing properties of the environment. Therefore, it proposes an ecological perspective of the development of human behaviour, which allows the complex and permanent interaction of people with their environment to be understood. It sees the individual immersed in a series of spaces for interaction in which it is necessary to intervene as a whole if the person wants to improve their quality of life, and that these spaces include the family, the school and group of friends, and macrosocial, political and economic conditions. The different levels where a person moves could be represented by concentric circles, where the nearest would be the spaces of primary socialisation (family, school, friends) and the farthest would be the macrosocial, political and economic conditions. All levels affect the person’s path in life more or less directly, interrelating with each other, so that a change in the state of one of the elements will be followed by changes in the others. Therefore, they all have to be considered to understand a phenomenon with a clear social component, such as drug dependence.

There are four levels or systems that affect people's development: the microsystem constitutes the most immediate level in which the individual develops (usually the family); the mesosystem is the interrelationships of two or more environments where the person participates actively; the exosystem consists of broader contexts that do not include the person as an active subject; and the macrosystem is configured by culture and subculture.

Practical implications

For this model (approach), human problems and needs arise from the transaction between humans and the environment, so improving these transactions improves people’s adaptive capacity. Therefore, this model (approach) emphasises the importance of orientating interventions towards the interaction of the person with their environment, taking into account the different levels on which this occurs. On a practical level, the model (approach) attempts to:

  • Promote the personal characteristics that allow the environment to be adapted and/or modified, according to each person’s needs.
  • Intervene at all levels, from the personal to the macrosocial, to enhance protection factors and minimise the risk factors.



1 Bronfebrenner U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.