How do therapists characterize personality types?

How do therapists classify the type of personality their clients have? What characteristics do they look at to decide what type of personality the client has? I've read about this online, but I'd like to understand this from a therapist's point of view.

Emily Pagone
Emily Pagone
Psychotherapist at Naperville Counseling Center

This is a great question, and I am happy to have the opportunity to explain my approach. When I am determining what type of personality a client has, I take my time and really absorb their lens/ point of view to themselves and others. Determining a personality type takes some time getting to know the person, and building rapport. After taking time to get to know them, and learning about their view they have of themselves and others, it is important to pick-up on more specific personality traits, which comprehensively contribute to a personality type. Clinicians, including myself, often witness certain traits that are enduring and consistent, which indicate a type of personality. For example, if a therapist is noticing that a client is exhibiting traits of organization, needing to be on time, planning, and perfectionism, these traits contribute to the "type A personality". In addition to utilizing clinical judgment, clinicians often use personality assessments and follow the guidelines of the DSM-5/ ICD-10. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Attorney & Licensed Mental Health Counselor

That's a great question. There is such a wide range of ways to define "personality" that it is difficult to identify specific characteristics that are used to identify personality types.

That being said, some clinicians will use standardized tests (or assessments) to assess a client's type of personality. While these tests can't tell us everything about a person, they can help us understand where we are within larger groups of different personality styles.

Some counselors will also use a diagnostic tool (like the DSM or ICD) to help a client understand a diagnosis that is related to a personality disorder.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care nor legal advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist/attorney nor does it create a therapist-client nor attorney-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

In my therapy practice I avoid characterizing people except for whether or not they are self-harming or a risk to harm other people.

As long as someone is sincerely trying to know more about themselves my work is help the person clarify who they really are and how their true self may be quite different than the life the person created for themselves, based on satisfying other people's standards.

In broad terms, personality disorders have stock characteristics which change very minimally over time instead of  uniqueness  which constantly flows and changes with circumstances over time.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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