Personality is a word that’s used constantly as a general way to describe a person’s behavior; they could be said to have an outgoing personality, a fun personality, or a shy personality, for example. But scientifically, it is much more specific. The American Psychological Association defines it as the ‘enduring characteristics and behaviors that comprise a person’s unique adjustments to life’. These include interests, major traits, self-concept, abilities, values, and emotional patterns, which all help determine an individual’s behavior. For counselors, an understanding of the science behind personality traits and the various theories that explain the structure and development of personality is vital in order to do their job effectively.
Over the years, many psychologists have investigated what makes us who we are and behave the way we do. Carl Jung, for example, introduced the concepts of personality types, proposing that the human psyche contains psychological constructs developed throughout human evolution. Sigmund Freud proposed that the mind is divided into three components: the id, ego, and superego, and that the interactions and conflicts amongst these create personality.
One of the most popular personality frameworks developed over time is the five-factor model of personality. Although these factors do not provide an exhaustive explanation of personality, they encompass a wide portion of related terms. Research has shown that these are interconnected and connect with many other facets of an individual’s life.
The five factors are:
Openness to experience
Openness to experience, which is the depth and complexity of someone’s mental life and experiences, is sometimes called imagination or intellect. It covers the willingness to try new things, the capability to think outside the box, and the ability to be vulnerable.
Someone who tends to be high in openness in their experience is likely to have a love of learning, have a creative career, enjoy the arts, and like meeting new people. Whereas someone who tends to be low in this trait may prefer routine rather than variety and enjoy less abstract arts and entertainment.
Conscientiousness is the tendency to act in socially acceptable ways. People who measure highly with this trait are able to delay gratification, work within the rules, and plan and organize effectively. They are likely to be successful in their careers, excel in leadership, and pursue their goals with determination and forethought. People who measure less highly with this trait are more likely to procrastinate, be flighty, impulsive, and impetuous.
This trait focuses on where a person draws their energy from and how they interact with others. Extroverts generally draw energy from or recharge by being with other people, while introverts tend to tire from interacting with others and recharge their energy by being alone. Those who are more extrovert tend to seek opportunities for social interaction and are prone to action rather than contemplation, whereas those who are more introverted are more likely to be reserved and thoughtful.
Agreeableness concerns how well people get along with others and how they interact. Those who measure highly in this trait tend to be well-liked, respected, and sensitive to the needs of others. People who measure lower with this trait are more likely to be rude, antagonistic, and sarcastic.
Neuroticism encompasses general temper and emotional stability. People who measure highly with this can be prone to sadness, anxiety, and low self-esteem and can be self-conscious and easily angered. Those at the lower end of this trait will tend to be more adventurous.
How understanding personality traits assists counseling
Understanding personality and the theories around it can help counselors understand their clients’ patterns of thinking, feelings, and behaviors, with the knowledge of the personality traits providing a kind of map to help guide therapists in providing an effective course of action. Additionally, in clinical and counseling psychology, personality scores can sometimes be used to predict what kind of therapy would help an individual. An awareness of all the major theories and how they can be utilized is crucial to any effective counselor, as is an interest in personal and life-long development in order to keep abreast of new theories, ideas, and requirements, both through industry bodies, work-based training, and reading more general literature and online content.
Theories are the backbone of therapeutic practice, providing a structured approach to understanding human behavior and guiding the process through which counselors work with clients. They can be regarded as the lenses through which therapists can view the experiences and challenges of the people they work with, offering a vital perspective on human behavior. Thus, gaining the right qualifications is key to providing a strong backbone to everyone working in the field of mental health.
Education and training within the counseling field will cover the theories behind understanding behavior and how they can be utilized effectively for clients. The doctoral degree in counseling at American International College enables students to engage in a study of the identification and diagnosis of psychotherapy and mental health treatment, including the assessment of psychopathology and therapeutic strategies for the treatment of mental health issues, whether long-term or short-term.
The course is 100% online, so students are able to study at their own pace and enroll in either a full-time or part-time course so they can schedule their education around their lives. Field practicum hours are done close to where the student lives, and help is given to assist candidates in finding internships and practicum sites.
American International College has dedicated enrollment advisors who are able to guide prospective candidates through what is required, the application process, and the next steps going forward, so simply click on the link and take the next steps towards a rewarding career.