The relevance of personality types in psychotherapy

The important aspect of assessing the relevance of personality types in psychotherapy is that the various typologies are merely a map to guide the therapist when seeing clients since nothing is set in stone. I believe that the purpose of therapy is to uncover the true feelings of the client.

If our patients are of a similar “type” to us, it can be easier to understand and empathise with them. They will be comfortable following our language and working with the scripts and choices that we make therapeutically. However, what happens if our patients have some different preferences to us? Perhaps they have to really stretch themselves to follow our words and ideas? Maybe as a therapist I am finding it really difficult to “click” as I may find it difficult to understand exactly what they are saying, feeling or doing. An understanding of personality types is therefore useful in the therapeutic environment. The therapist carries a basic tool-kit of essential skills such as emphatic and listening skills; knowledge of typologies can also be a useful guide when thinking about how we communicate with our clients and how we build rapport.  Personality models are a way of understanding the clients but they can be limiting if we judge and put people “in boxes”.  Defences within the client are there for a reason and they need to be broken down very gently.

Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of most treatments and usually must continue for more than a year to change a person’s maladaptive behaviour or interpersonal patterns.  The Clinical model can be useful when dealing with extreme distortion.  The Jungian model can be useful for assessing how one operates in the world, how we interact in organisations.  Essentially any system of typology is no more than a gross indicator of what people have in common and the differences between them. Jung’s model is no exception. It is distinguished solely by its parameters— the two attitudes and the four functions. What it does not and cannot show, nor does it perhaps pretend to, is the uniqueness of the individual.

Both Jung and Clinical (illness) models are based on conflicts and oppositions in the psyche.  In the illness model, pathological symptoms emerge from conflict in society.  Freud thought that we needed to conform and fit in with the expectations in society.  Nowadays, we believe that we fit in with ourselves.   The assumption in the elements model is that we carry all elements in ourselves and we adapt and repress others but we can potentially get in touch with all of them. Through the transformation of alchemy in the elements model, we discover harmony in the relationships between all parts.

Ultimately true healing does not happen in the head. It occurs through feeling toned realisations in response to a lived experience. That is why the analytic process, when pursued on an intellectual level, and that includes most self-analysis, is sterile. As we come to understand and appreciate transpersonal experiences and process, we can evaluate other cultures better and learn from their accumulated centuries of transpersonal wisdom. We can, in effect, reclaim what has been called “the Great Tradition,” the sum total of humankind’s cross-cultural religious and philosophical wisdom so that we may better serve our patients.


High-Level Description of the Sixteen Personality Types




Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Well-developed powers of concentration. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard working, they work steadily towards identified goals. They can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.

Click here for a detailed description of ISTJ.


Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems, but not overly concerned with respecting laws and rules if they get in the way of getting something done. Detached and analytical, they excel at finding solutions to practical problems.

Click here for a detailed description of ISTP.


Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others.

Click here for a detailed description of ISFJ.


Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Extremely well-developed senses, and aesthetic appreciation for beauty. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.

Click here for a detailed description of ISFP.


Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for their perserverence in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.

Click here for a detailed description of INFJ.


Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.

Click here for a detailed description of INFP.


Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Highly value knowledge, competence, and structure. Driven to derive meaning from their visions. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance, and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.

Click here for a detailed description of INTJ.


Logical, original, creative thinkers. Can become very excited about theories and ideas. Exceptionally capable and driven to turn theories into clear understandings. Highly value knowledge, competence and logic. Quiet and reserved, hard to get to know well. Individualistic, having no interest in leading or following others.

Click here for a detailed description of INTP.


Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Impatient with long explanations. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done. Great people skills.

Click here for a detailed description of ESTP.


Practical, traditional, and organized. Likely to be athletic. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities. “Good citizens” who value security and peaceful living.

Click here for a detailed description of ESTJ.


People-oriented and fun-loving, they make things more fun for others by their enjoyment. Living for the moment, they love new experiences. They dislike theory and impersonal analysis. Interested in serving others. Likely to be the center of attention in social situations. Well-developed common sense and practical ability.

Click here for a detailed description of ESFP.


Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Interested in serving others. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.

Click here for a detailed description of ESFJ.


Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

Click here for a detailed description of ENFP.


Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis. Very effective at managing people issues, and leading group discussions. Interested in serving others, and probably place the needs of others over their own needs.

Click here for a detailed description of ENFJ.


Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoy debating issues, and may be into “one-up-manship”. They get very excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. Generally outspoken and assertive. They enjoy people and are stimulating company. Excellent ability to understand concepts and apply logic to find solutions.

Click here for a detailed description of ENTP.


Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.

Click here for a detailed description of ENTJ.



Jungian personality types

Last night’s lecture was about the fascinating subject of personality types  from a Jungian perspective.  More people tend to be a thinking (extroverted) type and essentially the conventional traits tend to be rational and progressive with lots of “oughts” and “shoulds“.  These types tend to be the organisers and can make good bankers, managers and lawyers i.e. what is rational thinking.  This type can appear cold and calculating as all feeling tends to be hidden but they also tend to be loyal and faithful and are therefore useful in organisations.  A psychological crisis for a thinking (extroverted) type is when the repressed inner world comes into conflict and out of the shadow.  An approach in therapy would be to deal with the client’s inner ideas and ideals.

The thinking (introverted) type is concerned with their own ideas internally.  They are happy in their own bubble.  They could be the lonely researcher who forgets to eat.  Apparently Jung himself was this type.  This type is less addictive and more withdrawn. They become extremely possessive and can be fearful of the opposite sex.

Do you recognise any of this?

Feelings (extroverted) types are your typical relationship types.  Their sense of self is derived from their relationship.  They are co-dependent.  They will seek harmony at any cost and they try not to upset anyone.   They feel like they have “lost” themselves when a relationship ends. Their most repressed function is the thinking (introverted). They can’t say “NO” as they have massive boundary issues.

Feelings (introverted) “Still waters run deep”: These types have strong feelings but the feelings are not easily expressed.  They are constantly seeking an image in the outer world that reflects their inner reality.   They can find life overwhelming.  They are inconspicuous in organisations but are also harmonious.  They exert a calming influence in a room. The approach is to work with creativity with these clients and to give expression to the inner world.

Always, yes ALWAYS, projection is when you need to work on yourself and work out what the button that is being pressed by other people is all about.

More on Jung next week.

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Clinical personality types

ast night’s lecture was part 2 of clinical personality types and it was fascinating. The previous week was all about the schizoid (fixated in the oral development) and the obsessive (hiding of feelings). Last night covered the depressive and hysterical types. The important thing to remember in all of this is that this is just a map, as nobody is a “pure” type. However, we do have preferences. Depressives and hystericals are more likely to turn up for therapy.


Depression can be endogenous, reactive and bi polar (manic). Endogenous depression is not type of depression rather it is biological depression. One of the main causes of endogenous depression is chemical imbalance in the brain. Endogenous depression appears to come from nowhere. Reactive depression specifies that depression from some event or some stress occurring. For example,  problem in relationship, death of closed one, loss of love one, changing job or anything that directly affects one’s life. Bi polar depression is the toughest to live with and requires medication for chemical rebalancing.


The purpose of therapy is to uncover the true feelings of the client.  Depressives usually look for the script to confirm their feelings of worthlessness.  There is no magic solution for the treatment of depression in therapy.  The truth is before it gets better it will probably get worse.  CBT interventions such as “to do lists” can be very useful. Depressives have a difficult time with boundaries. They get attached and want to extend the session and can want to see the therapist outside the therapeutic relationship.


In Freud’s day the hysterical type was seen as classically female. Hysterical types seek attention by whatever means.  They can be manipulative, larger than life and have an egocentric craving for attention. There is always a drama going on with them.  Hysterical types are prone to sexually provocative behaviour or to sexualizing nonsexual relationships. However, they may not really want a sexual relationship; rather, their seductive behavior often masks their wish to be dependent and protected. They make mountains out of mole hills. The proverb rings true:  “Empty vessels make most noise”.


Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of most treatments and usually must continue for more than a year to change a person’s maladaptive behavior or interpersonal patterns.  The therapy sessions must build a positive transference.  The therapist is the stable core, providing accurate mirroring and allowing for reality checking.

A good book to read is the Art of Psychotherapy by Anthony Storr.