The Application of Personality Perspectives to Counseling and Therapy Essay

FINAL PAPER The Application of Personality Perspectives to Counseling and Therapy Brian J. Langtry HDV0284134-02-10SP1 While a few different schools of thought dominated the early years of psychology, the number of topics studied by psychologists has grown dramatically since the early 1960s. Today, few psychologists identify their outlook according to a particular school of thought. While you may still find some pure behaviorists or psychoanalysts, the majority of psychologists instead categorize their work according to their specialty area and perspective. The Dispositional perspective.

The dispositional perspective is the traditional, classic approach to the psychological study of personality. The dispositional approach creates systems for classification and describing psychological characteristics for which people differ consistently between situations and over time. The “trait” approach most clearly emphasizes the dispositional perspective but another way to approach the concept of dispositions is to consider people as “types” or alternatively to view people’s dispositions in terms of their enduring motivational characteristics that vary in strength from person to person (i. . their needs and motives). A dispositional approach to personality emphasizes • “qualities that people carry around with them, that are somehow part of them” (Carver & Scheier, 2000, p. 54) • “a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character” Personality traits are: • consistently found (across people and over time) dimensions of thinking, behavior and feeling • allow people individuals to be placed in a continuum with respect to different traits (e. g, introversion-extraversion, neuroticism-emotional stability)

Personality types refers to: • categoric descriptions of characteristic patterns of thinking, behavior and feeling e. g. , (Type A personality vs. Type B personality) Two major, underlying assumptions There are two major assumptions underlying a dispositional approach: 1. Stability of personality People display consistency in their actions, thoughts, and feelings between situations and over time. In other words, unpredictability is the exception rather than the rule (i. e. unpredictability doesn’t define the essence of personality).

Note that some psychologists, such as social psychologists, would argue that too much emphasis is placed on the stability of personality. The idea behind this assumption is that you are the same person you used to be and will be in the future. 2. Differences between people. The composition of dispositions varies from person to person. Each person’s personality consists of a pattern of dispositional qualities which form a unique combination in each person. Major issues and topics related to the dispositional perspective include: • How many personality types are there and what are they? How many personality traits are there and what are they? • To what extent are the various personality types and traits are heritable? • What is the relative influence of situational influences vs. personality dispositions in determining thinking, behavior and feeling in specific, real situations? • To what extent do personality dispositions change over time? • Are there personality differences between o people of different ages? o men and women? o people who work in different types of jobs? o across cultures, ethnic groups, nations? The Biological perspective.

The study of physiology played a major role in the development of psychology as a separate science. Today, this perspective is known as biological psychology. Sometimes referred to as biopsychology or physiological psychology, this perspective emphasizes the physical and biological bases of behavior. This perspective has grown significantly over the last few decades, especially with advances in our ability to explore and understand the human brain and nervous system. Tools such as MRI scans and PET scans allow researchers to look at the brain under a variety of conditions.

Scientists can now look at the effects of brain damage, drugs, and disease in ways that were simply not possible in the past. The Psychoanalytic perspective. The psychoanalytic perspective suggests that there is a structure of the mind that includes the id, the superego and the ego. These structures struggle for control of the energy of the psyche. The id attempts to have basic pleasure-seeking instincts satisfied and ego works to prevent the id from expressing itself inappropriately.

The superego which is similar to a conscience takes this job one step further by attempting to enforce societal, religious and/or parental values about right and wrong. Sometimes, the drives of the id slip out (the infamous Freudian slip) and are evidenced by slips of the tongue and dreams. Psychoanalytic theory is sometimes criticized due to the difficulty in studying some of its premises scientifically. Yet many of the insights from psychoanalysis have aided in our understanding of personality. One powerful contribution of psychoanalysis is defense mechanisms.

Defense mechanisms are our psyches way of assisting us in dealing with anxiety. Theory and treatment method for neuroses, developed by Sigmund Freud in the 1890s. Psychoanalysis asserts that the impact of early childhood sexuality and experiences, stored in the unconscious, can lead to the development of adult emotional problems. The main treatment method involves the free association of ideas, and their interpretation by patient and analyst, in order to discover these long-buried events and to grasp their significance to the patient, linking aspects of the patient’s historical past with the present relationship to the analyst.

Psychoanalytic treatment aims to free the patient from specific symptoms and from irrational inhibitions and anxieties. The Learning perspective. The learning perspective lies at the ‘nurture’ end of the nature-nurture debate. In terms of the person-situation debate, the learning perspective lies at the ‘situation’ end of the spectrum. Personality, from this point of view is an accumulated set of learned tendencies over a lifetime (Carver & Sheier, 2000). The learning perspective draws on the traditions of behaviorism as well as social psychology.

Concepts you may have heard of relating to the social learning perspective include ‘modeling’, ‘reinforcement’, ‘social norms’, etc. This perspective also implies that personality is “susceptible to molding, grinding, and polishing by the events that from the person’s unique and individual history” (Carver & Scheier, 2000, p. 311). The underlying assumption of the learning perspective is that all behavior is learned through experiences and by interaction with the environment.

The learning perspective views a person as entering the world as a tabula rasa (blank slate), although it acknowledges that there are instincts and pre-set responses to stimuli, as well as a preference for pleasure and a desire to avoid pain. Primarily, however, the learning perspective differ from perspectives that propose that a person is born with an innate nature or personality structure — some biological theories call it temperament, trait theories call it dispositions, psychoanalysts call it drives or instincts and the humanists also use the term drives.

Learning theories believes that your personality (individual differences) essentially arose from the molding (learning experiences) you receive in your environment – i. e. , your patterns of behavior are shaped by experience. This was an exciting concept when first postulated, because many were frustrated by the abstract, difficult to see and measure nature of psychoanalytic theory. Learning theories emphasized environmental influences and events which were tangible and could be identified and scientifically studied.

With this approach, behavior could also be manipulated in the laboratory which was a plus for psychology and its quest for using the scientific method Because it was hypothesized that there were basic building blocks to learning and behavior, which was posited to cross species, the ubiquitous ‘lab rat’ could be used as a model for understanding human behavior. Almost all variables could be controlled using lab rats which made good scientific research but left open the unanswerable question – but can you extrapolate animal behavior to humans?

Is human behavior this simple or is it more complex? From a strictly behavioral perspective, introspective information is considered invalid because it can’t be verified. From the learning perspective, personality is merely the sum of everything you do, not what you think or feel. Thus, the causes of behavior were those which could be be observed directly. Theoretically, a person’s behaviors derived from the paired associations (Classical or Pavlovian Conditioning) and the rewards and punishments (Instrumental or Operant Conditioning) found in the social and physical world.

However, many learning theorists came to believe that this was too simplistic, so a more elaborate theory was developed in which the humans are seen as more self-directive. We can learn quickly and, importantly, our cognitions are seen to affect our learning. Thus Social Learning Theory and Social Cognitive Theory views internal (cognitive) and social events as being important as well as external behavioral events. According to social learning perspectives, personality consists of all learned tendencies a person has acquired, including those from social influences.

Thus, for example, one of arguments for differences in personality across cultures is different social practices, particularly during childhood. Would you have been the same person you are today had you been brought up in vastly different circumstances in a different country? At the very least, you would probably have quite different beliefs and views of the world and yourself. This is because some cultures encourage and reward certain behaviors, while other cultures value and emphasize certain other behaviors. The Phenomenological perspective. Three key concepts are phenomenology, existentialism, and humanistic.

These can be understood as making up the philosophical fabric of phenomenological views about psychology. Historically, the phenomenological perspective can be traced to Wilhelm Wundt who is often considered as having conducted the first formal psychological research in the 1870’s. Wundt had people “introspect”, that is concentrate on and report on subjective conscious experience. Introspection was seen as lacking in scientific rigour and as not having any particular application, then psychoanalysis which emphasized the unconscious mind came along and become more dominant.

Interestingly, though, in the 1950’s and 1960’s sense of political and personal freedom, the importance and interest in subjective experience become more interesting again to psychology. Figures such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers emerged and created the humanistic or third force movement in psychology. There a number of strands to the phenomenological perspective. There is no single person or even really any single theory that unites these perspectives, but they can all be considered phenomenological because they value and focus on the nature of individual’s subjective experience.

The phenomenological perspective, and particularly the humanistic perspectives, sees humankind as being intrinsically good and self-perfecting. People are seen as being drawn towards growth, health, self-sufficiency, and maturity. This is a very optimistic perspective which focuses on people’s potential. People are seen as growing and evolving naturally towards greater beauty and more completeness. The major themes and underlying assumptions of this perspective are: There is a ‘self’ which has beautiful and unique form. It is changing and growing.

Everyone’s self is unique. Once we provide a nurturing outer and inner environment, growth towards our higher selves occurs naturally. We have enormous potential, possibility, and choice. Uniqueness of Individuals: we view the world from our own unique perspective and our subjective experience of reality is very important. Phenomenology means “the subjective experience of individuals”, (Funder, 1997). We can and must exercise our free will. Some people think that they don’t have the capacity or ability to make life happen for themselves.

Or they believe that past problems are insurmountable. Or they spend so much time regretting the past that they are blinded to the possibilities of the here and now and the future. This perspective takes the view that this is due to people losing sight of the free will they possess and not recognizing their own potential for change and growth. The Cognitive perspective. The Cognitive school of psychology examines internal mental processes, such as creativity, perception, thinking, problem solving, memory, and language.

Cognitive psychologists are interested in how a person understands, diagnoses, and solves a problem, concerning themselves with the mental processes that mediate between stimulus and response, (Burger, J. M. ,1993). In recent years cognitive psychology has become associated with computer information processing and artificial intelligence, studying parallels in the ways that both brain and computer receive, process, store, and retrieve information. This view of abnormal behavior focuses on the mental process.

The cognitive perspective studies how people perceive, remember, reason, decide, and solve problems to find the cause of mental illnesses. Modern cognitivism is not based on introspection like past versions. Today’s study of cognition is based on two assumptions: 1) what organisms are going to do can only be found by studying their mental process, and 2) It is possible to objectively study the mental processes by focusing on specific behaviors and interpreting the underlying mental processes. From its beginnings in 1879 to today, many schools of cognitive study have been developed.

Some of the older schools include structuralism, functionalism, gestalt psychology, and humanistic psychology, (Carver, C. S. , & Scheier, M. F. , 2000). What works best for me? Although all of the above mentioned perspectives have merit, I have decided the Learning perspective works best and makes the most sense to me. Of the various strands of Learning Psychology, the social learning theory of Bandura is my preference. Bandura emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Bandura, 1977) states: “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. ” (p22). Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, an environmental influences.

The component processes underlying observational learning are: (1) Attention, including modeled events (distinctiveness, affective valence, complexity, prevalence, functional value) and observer characteristics (sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement), (2) Retention, including symbolic coding, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal), (3) Motor Reproduction, including physical capabilities, self-observation of reproduction, accuracy of feedback, and (4) Motivation, including external, vicarious and self reinforcement, (Bandara, 1997).

Because it encompasses attention, memory and motivation, social learning theory spans both cognitive and behavioral frameworks. Bandura’s theory improves upon the strictly behavioral interpretation of modeling provided by Miller & Dollard (1941). The most common examples of social learning situations are television commercials. Commercials suggest that drinking a certain beverage or using a particular hair shampoo will make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people.

Depending upon the component processes involved, such as attention or motivation, we may model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised, (Bandara, 1986). The principles of modeling are: 1. The highest level of observational learning is achieved by first organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and then enacting it overtly. Coding modeled behavior into words, labels or images results in better retention than simply observing. 2.

Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes they value. 3. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the model is similar to the observer and has admired status and the behavior has functional value, (Bandara, 1973). Observational learning, or modeling, plays a major role in the learning process for all animals, to include humans. Its large influence can be attributed to the fact that large amounts of information can be learned quickly.

Nature supplements this learning method with other stimuli such as motivation and reinforcement variables. In this way, behavior potentials can be acquired for use, (Carver & Sheier, 2008). The phrase that really hit home to me is, “Once the ability to engage in observational learning emerges, it’s virtually impossible to prevent people from learning what they see”, (Bandera, 1977). REFERENCES: Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory.

New York: General Learning Press. Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman. Burger, J. M. (1993). Personality (3rd ed. ) Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Carver, C. S. , & Scheier, M. F. (2000). Perspectives on personality (4th ed. ) Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Eastman, R. (n. d. ) The Dispositional Strategy, Stephen Austin State University. Funder, D. C. (1997). The personality puzzle. New York: Norton.

Keutzer, C. S. (1978). Whatever turns you on: Triggers to transcendental experiences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18, 77-80. Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality (2nd ed. ). New York: Van Nostrand Ornstein, R. (1993). The Roots of the Self: Unraveling the mystery of who we are. New York: Harper, SanFrancisco. Phares, J. E. (1991). Introduction to Personality (3rd ed. ). New York: Harper Collins. Sandberg, D. Dispositional Approach: Assessment, Personality Change, & Research, California State University – Hayward.