Modeling & Role-Modeling

Contributor: Helen Erickson
May 8, 2019
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Authors – Helen Erickson, PhD, RN,AHN-BC, FAAN; Evelyn Tomlin, RN, MS; Mary Ann Swain, PhD, RN

Year First Published – 1983
From From A Review and the Theory and Paradigm: Modeling and Role-Modeling: What we Know today and Don’t Know. Helen Erickson, PHD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN
Major Concepts

Affiliated Individuation
Unconditional Acceptance


A grand theory that includes several middle range theories


“Modeling” is gaining an understanding of the client’s world from the client’s perspective. That is to build a “model” of the client’s world view. “Role‑Modeling” is based on the assumption that all humans want to interact with others, they want to carry out selected roles in society. Role-Modeling is using the client’s model of the world to plan interventions that meet his or her perceived needs, grow, develop and heal. Role-Modeling requires that we aim to build trust, promote a positive orientation and a sense of control, affirm strengths and set specific mutual goals. Our nursing goal is to help people achieve quality, holistic health.” (from Society for the Advancement of Modeling & Role Modeling)


Humans have inherent holistic abilities needed to cope, grow, develop, self-actualize.

  1. Stress, effected by stressors, is a part of everyday life
  2. Our ability to cope and adapt determines our ability to mobilize resources needed to work through epigenetic developmental tasks.
  3. The resources needed to cope are created by repeated needs satisfaction.
  4. Attachment objects, those things that repeatedly meet our needs, are associated with developmental tasks.
  5. Loss of attachment objects is both normal and situational and results in a grief process.
  6. Unresolved attachment-loss-attachment results in morbid grieving and affects needs status
  7. As tasks are resolved, the residual that remains affects future task resolution

(From A Review and the Theory and Paradigm: Modeling and Role-Modeling: What we Know today and Don’t Know. Helen Erickson, PHD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN)


Categories of information

  1. A description of the situation, expectations for the future, resource potential, and goals (immediate and long-term).
  2. The client is always the primary source of information, significant other(s) are secondary, and other professionals are third.
  3. Data are analyzed within context of theoretical premises
  4. Interventions are
    1. Based on coping ability and affiliated-individuation status, and
    2. Framed within the context of six aims:
      1. Nurses self-preparation needed to create sacred space and initiate person-centered holistic caring.
      2. Establish a trusting, functional relationship.
      3. Promote a positive orientation
      4. Promote a sense of perceived control
      5. Affirm and promote strengths
      6. Set health directed, mutual goals

(From A Review and the Theory and Paradigm: Modeling and Role-Modeling: What we Know today and Don’t Know. Helen Erickson, PHD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN)

Primary Sources

Erickson, Tomlin, Swain (1983/2009) Modeling and Role-Modeling: A Theory and Paradigm for Nursing. Unicorns Unlimited Books: Cedar Park, TX.

Erickson, H. (Ed) (2006) Modeling and Role-Modeling: A view from the client’s world view. Unicorns Unlimited Books: Cedar Park TX.

Erickson, H. (Ed) (2010). Exploring the interface between the philosophy and discipline of holistic nursing: Modeling and Role-Modeling at work. Unicorns Unlimited Books: Cedar Park TX.

Also see the Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role-Modeling (SAMRM) for information about ongoing developments related to the development and application of the Modeling and Role-Modeling theory.


Helen Erickson

Helen Erickson

Erickson earned a diploma degree in 1957, practiced for 15 years before returning to school at The University of Michigan. Her goal was to label, articulate, and test a theoretic model and paradigm developed through practice. Her academic career spanned the years 1975-97 during which time she held faculty positions at The University of Michigan (1975-1986); the University of South Carolina (1986-88); and The University of Texas at Austin (1988-1997). During those years she held faculty and administrative positions; combined practice with research and educational responsibilities; taught basic to doctoral students, supervised masters theses and doctoral dissertations; and carried out a research program on the constructs of Modeling and Role-Modeling (MRM). She retired from The University of Texas at Austin as an Emeritus Professor and with the Helen L Erickson Endowed Lectureship of Holistic Healing.

Painting of Helen Erickson with Living Legend Award, University of Texas-San Antonio. Download the history of the painting here.

Erickson co-sponsored the chartering (1985) of The Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role-Modeling (SAMRM) which has since sponsored 17 biennial conferences with alternate-year retreats. She lead the development of the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) and served as Board Chair from 1997-2014; lead an AHNCC Task Force that published a standardized model for holistic nursing basic to doctoral education, 2017; served as a board member for SAMRM; Elder Board Member for the American Holistic Nurses Association; Consultant for the AHNCC Board; and Board Member for the Milton H. Erickson Foundation.

Primary publications include:

  • Erickson, H. , Tomlin, E., Swain, M. (1983/2009). Modeling and Role-Modeling a theory and paradigm for nursing; Erickson, H. (Ed), (2006).
  • A view from the client’s world: Modeling and Role-modeling; and Erickson, H. (2010).
  • Exploring the interface between the philosophy and discipline of holistic nursing: Modeling and Role-Modeling at Work. Erickson, H., Erickson, M., Sandor, M.K, Enzman-Hines, M., Southard, ME, Shields, D. (2017).
  • Foundations, Concepts, and Curricular Guidelines for Basic to Doctoral Holistic Nursing Education. Erickson, H., Erickson, M., Southard, ME, Brekke, M., Sandor, K., Natschke, MA (2015).
  • A Proactive Innovation For Healthcare Transformation: Health and Wellness Nurse Coaching. Journal of Holistic Nursing. April 24, 2015, 0898010115579770. Erickson, H., Erickson, M, Campbell, J., Brekke, M., Sandor, K. (2013).
  • Validation of holistic nursing competencies: Role-delineation study, 2013. Journal of Holistic Nursing. (Published online 19 June 2013). Dec 31(4) 291-202. Erickson, H. Erickson, M., Sandor, M.K., Brekke, M. (2013).
  • The holistic worldview in action: evolution of holistic nurses certification programs. Journal of Holistic Nursing (Published online 19 June 2013). Dec 31(4) 303-313.

Multiple awards received include Sigma Theta Tau International, Rho Chapter Award for Excellence in Nursing (1980); ADARA, Women’s Leadership Society and the Amoco Good Teaching Award, The University of Michigan (1982); Graduate Teaching Award, The University of Texas at Austin; Fellow, The American Academy of Nursing (1996); Holistic Nurse of the Year, AHNA (2012); Lifetime Achievement Award, AHNA (2016); Journal of Holistic Nursing Award for Excellence in Practice Writing Award, AHNA (2017); Distinguished Alumni, The University of Michigan School of , Nursing Award (2018).

Evelyn Tomlin, RN, MS
Evelyn Tomlin
Mary Ann Swain
Mary Ann Swain

Dr. Swain holds an AB in Psychology from DePauw University (1963) and both an MA (1964) and Ph.D. in Psychology (1969) from the University of Michigan. She also completed the certificate in Executive Education Senior Management from the University of Michigan (1991). She has been teaching courses in research methods, nursing theory, theory development, student affairs, and family theory for over 50 years. She has held many different administrative positions including Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Interim Vice President for Student Services at the University of Michigan and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She was highly influential in the development of the doctoral program in Nursing at the University of Michigan and served as its first director. She also directed the doctoral program in nursing at SUNY Binghamton. In addition to being one of the authors of Modeling and Role-modeling: A theory and paradigm for nursing she has published or presented work related to measuring the quality of nursing care, diagnostic and decision support information systems, patient adherence, family communication, faculty development, academic administration, and accreditation in higher education. At the national level she has been involved in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) helping to promote excellent in higher education since its inception serving twice as a member of the Committee on Recognition, a two-term appointment to the CHEA Board of Directors, and currently as Chair of the Committee on Recognition. Her community service includes President of the Board of Directors of the Visiting Nurses’ Association of Huron Valley (Michigan) and Chair of the United Way Campaign of Broome County (New York). Over the years she has been given the following awards: Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, National Honorary Member of Sigma Theta Tau, Leadership in the VNA, National Honorary Member of Golden Key National Honor Society, Woman of Distinction Broome Girl Scouts Council, and Honored Aluma of Chardon High School