Personality an Important Concept for the Counselor

The counselor's concept of personality is no less important. The term "personality" and its meaning have been the subject of intense controversy in the socio-psychological literature in the last three decades. It would take us too far afield to sketch even briefly the main considerations and directions of this theoretical ferment. 8 But we cannot fail to indicate here that the counselor's view of personality is of the utmost importance in determining his approach to his client as well as the type of therapy he will utilize. If he looks upon personality as essentially static, biologically fixed and determined by early conditioning, as unchanging and unyielding, he will necessarily be limited in his expectations and goals; and he will assume, consciously or unconsciously, an attitude which will restrict him as well as his client in the solution of the problem under consideration. If, however, the counselor views personality as an unfolding, evolving, ever-growing, and developing expression of almost limitless potentialities and inner strengths which only need assistance to achieve fruition, he himself, as well as his client, will envision broad goals and will marshal the inner resources of the client toward their realization.

This view of personality is, by and large, familiar to counselors and more particularly marriage counselors, coming as they do from the fields of education, social and clinical psychology, social case work, the ministry, and psychiatry. In addition, certain new concepts of personality as nonstatic and dependent upon the frame of reference of the person judging it, have been substantiated by actual research on material collected during marriage counseling with spouses. These findings indicate that the impressions which husband and wife have of each other's personality characteristics, vary as the spouse is influenced by feelings of love and accord (oneness) or of dislike, discord, or separateness. In other words, partners who feel love for each other tend to see each other's personality characteristics as more similar to their own than partners who are in conflict or feel strong dislike for each other. This holds for couples even though the husband's impressions of himself may not resemble the wife's impressions of herself. In fact, this holds when there are considerable differences in how each partner sees himself. Implications of these findings in terms of concepts of reality and projection are obvious. They have an important bearing on the question of the advisability, and even urgency, of working with both partners in a marriage in order to understand the actual relationship between husband and wife. In the viewpoint of the Committee who prepared this manuscript, dynamic concepts of personality have important creative possibilities for the counselor and make counseling an art replete with potentialities for constructive stimulation and guidance.

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