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Application Of Personality Theories

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Application of Personality Theories

John Jay D'Amour

Theories of Personality

Prof. Osborne

December 18, 2006

Without theories about personality and the complexity of its nature it would be difficult if not impossible to help those who suffer from behavior related problems. Throughout the years different perspectives regarding this type of therapy have been formulated in an effort to understand and treat people experiencing difficulties related to their ability to function as a member of society. By studying the personality and traits displayed by a patient; counselors, psychiatrists, and social workers can determine the source of negative personality aspects and utilize different approaches directed towards their resolution. However, no two personalities are the same, therefore the methods used to treat each individual case are equally as diverse. It is then the responsibility of the therapist to determine which theoretical perspective is best suited to the patient.

In regards to the application of theoretical perspectives to counseling and therapy, the Dispositional perspective approach is considered the most basic and fundamental. Based on the study of people's dispositions and their ability to maintain the same set of qualities throughout their lifetime this perspective enables a practitioner to measure and predict the future behavior of a patient. The constancy displayed amongst patients can be categorized into groups known as types and traits. A type can be defined as "distinct and discontinuous categories of persons" (Carver & Scheier, 2004). In other words personality types would be obvious as well as exclusive to the person in question. For example, a person regarded as having a type A personality would display qualities of aggressive behavior and an overall impatient demeanor. It is unlikely that this same person could also be submissive and capable of being calm. While the grouping of personality types is mainly concerned with the similarities shared between individuals, the concept of traits focuses on the differences between prevailing characteristics of personality. Traits distinguish one person from the next based upon the varying aspects of their personalities and to what degree they exist. Studying the traits of a patient allows the practitioner to better understand their personality and discover the origin of their problems. Related to trait psychology are five factors that each individual possesses to varying degrees. The five factors taken into consideration; extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and intellect are all measured when determining the mental state of a patient (Carver & Sheier, 2004). The level of each factor as it is displayed by a patient is in direct correlation with their personalities and abilities to function as a member of society. Whether a person is extroverted and exudes confidence or they are neurotic and emotionally unstable a therapist can utilize these factors to determine the best approach to their behavioral reconditioning.

The Biological perspective and it's relation to therapy focuses on how much of our personalities are acquired through heredity and genetic transference. When assessing the behavioral concerns of a patient it is also necessary for the counselor or therapist to research the patient's family tree. To what extent a patient's personality is a result of their genetic makeup can establish the reasoning for their behavior and temperament. In simplest terms biology directly affects how we look; eye color, height, and body type, causing us to appear as a particular person both in the mirror as well as to other people. If in fact our parents are short in stature then there is a good possibility that we too will be shorter. In society people that are taller usually exude more confidence and presence giving them an advantage. With this in mind our biological makeup pre-determines our position in society as well as the personal qualities that will evolve as a result. Even as young children we begin to develop certain temperaments that will eventually determine who we are and how we behave. These three temperaments are identified as activity level, sociability, and emotionality (Carver & Sheier, 2004). How we display each will determine the type of person we are. When a patient seeks therapy, observing these three factors will aid in determining how responsible they are for their own behavior. For example, if a person is depressed or anxious it is necessary to determine whether this behavior is a result of nature or nurture. Has the patient developed these feelings due to their interaction within society or were they pre-determined by their genetic makeup? It is up to the counselor or therapist to discover the root of the problem.

The theory that behavioral problems are a result of subconscious thoughts is the basis of the Psychoanalytic perspective; fathered by Sigmund Freud. His approach to the study of personality and the causes of certain behaviors were concerned with the beginning stages of life and how, as children, we developed as a result of our experiences during those times. If any inconsistencies occurred as a result of failure to successfully migrate from one stage to the next, behavioral problems were likely to ensue later on in life. For example, Freud saw the Oedipal complex as a time during which a young boy develops an attraction to his mother and a competitiveness with his father. This was considered normal and part of the maturation process according to Freud. My own personality and behavior are a good example of what may happen if this stage is not traversed appropriately. At the age of seven my father was killed in a car accident, subsequently leaving only my mother to raise me. Due to my loss I never properly underwent the transformation, according to Freud, that is supposed to occur at this time. Instead I developed a strong relationship with my mother and I never experienced the feelings of competition and aggression with my father. Instead I remained close to my mom and developed into a more sensitive caring individual. According to the Psychoanalytic perspective any type of irrational or inexplicable behavior could be related to my past and my development as a young child.

The Neoanalytic perspective, while following much of the same ideas as the Psychoanalytic perspective, focuses it's attention on the importance of the ego as the dominant facet of personality. With this separation of thought from Freud's original theories about childhood development more emphasis is placed on the role



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