During my years of graduate school I became interested in the processes of  “primary pain” and general people responses to it. That was the path that led me to read, research, and write about “coping.” For the purposes of this post,  coping is understood as “any response, over or covert, to psychological stress/discomfort.”

Below is a brief summary of what I learned then:

a. The ways in which people cope with psychological stressors or “primary pain” are potentially important moderators  on current and future adjustment in general (Grant, Compas, Thurm, McMaho, & Ey, 2000).

b. There is a large amount of research, over 1000 empirical studies approximately, of the relationship between coping and stress, mood,  depression, anxiety, & personality. (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; Billins & Moos, 1982; 1985; Blake & Vandiver, 1988; Brown & Harris, 1978, 1989; Cui & Vaillant, 1996; Daley, Hammen, & Rao, 2000; Millon, 1986;   McCrae and Costa, 1986; Vollrath, Alnaes, and Torgersen, 1994;  Vollrath, Alnaes, and Torgersen, 1998; Endler and Parker, 1994; Hooker, Frezier, & Monahan, 1994; Deisinger, Cassisi, Whitaker, 2003).

c.  Over the past ten years coping researchers have begun to study the relationship between coping and positive changes (Helgeson, Reynolds, & Tomich, 2006).

Why is coping research important to any person?

One single reason: When dealing with psychological stressors/primary pain, it’s natural that we respond to it by “doing something.” That “doing response” could make our experience worst or better. For instance, when Maya was in a fight with her boyfriend she felt hurt that he called her by his ex-girlfriend’s name; that feeling of being hurt led her to immediately start “blaming” him for other past events in their relationship. Maria’s coping response of “blaming” her boyfriend led him to feel distant from her and withdraw from the relationship.

Once again, the key component here is how we respond to painful experiences, that’s why coping is extremely important.

Why is coping important clinical psychology in general today?

One single reason: If we learn how effectively or ineffectively a person copes with psychological stressors then we can deliver specific psychological interventions that directly target those responses beyond any classification of a mental disorder (beyond DSM-IV).