Section 1: Changing Personality


Assessing the Power of Change

While all of the personality theories discussed in this text have focused at least some of their attention on understanding personality and identifying aspects of personality, most are also concerned with the application of theory in order to facilitate personality change.  The exceptions to this include biological and trait theory which are more concerned with the identification of traits and far less concerned with change.12.1

For this reason, this chapter will focus on specific personality disorders and the ‘symptoms’ or personality characteristics associated with them.  We will discuss the application of the theories that extend beyond understanding and reach into the realm of psychotherapy, or change.  These theories include psychoanalytic and psychodynamic, behavioral and social learning theory, humanistic, and cognitive.  Together, these four approaches predominate the world of psychotherapy.  They are not exclusive, however, and many other theories have risen that have not gained in popularity or are too new to include in a text such as this.

Keep in mind that explaining the application of each of these theories does not mean that a therapist must ultimately choose one and only one theory to apply to the therapeutic setting.  Most therapists consider themselves eclectic, which means they will often apply different theories as they best apply to the client, the relationship, and the therapeutic issue.  Others consider themselves integrational, and while there is a thin line between the two, integrational therapy often means the application of bits and pieces of different theories applied within the same setting and with the same client.