Course excerpt from Personality and Temperament: Connecting with Young Clients
The traits and tendencies that comprise one’s personality and temperament are inborn and enduring aspects of our functioning. Therefore, we can never alter or select an individual’s temperament or personality. However, we can strive to learn as much as possible about them so that we can deal with their behavior realistically. We may serve as guides for our clients by assisting them in understanding their attributes and traits. We should highlight their strengths and teach them the skills that they require to appropriately manage themselves.
The exercise below illustrates the importance of working with a child’s dominant traits (Sheedy Kurcinka, 2003, p. 36).
- Write your name with your dominant hand.
- Would you write a letter with this hand?
- Now write your name with your non-dominant hand.
- When you write your name with your dominant hand, how does it feel?
- Would you write a letter with this hand?
When you use your dominant hand, you are more confident and willing to a complete a task. When you are asked to complete this exercise with your non-dominant hand, you are less confident or willing to write a letter or will not even consider trying.
It is the same with personality and temperament. When our clients are asked to perform activities in their non-preferred style (e.g., a child with high energy being asked to sit still all day, or a child with low energy being asked to be on the go the entire day), they will become frustrated, refuse to cooperate, or even throw tantrums.
As clinicians, we should strive to find ways to work with children’s preferred temperaments and personalities, to ensure the highest chance of success, cooperation, and motivation to learn.
A useful way of comprehending personality types is outlined in David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me, written and published originally with Marilyn Bates in 1984 and reprinted in a number of iterations since that time. Keirsey based his work on that of several writers, including Carl Jung and Isabel Myers, with particular attention to the sixteen types described in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Keirsey (1998) condensed the sixteen MBTI types into four primary groups, which he equated with the following classical temperaments: Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Thinkers.
Let’s look at the first classical temperament:
This type comprises 38% of the U.S. population (Keirsey, 1998, pp. 32-33).
Artisans have tremendous stamina and energy and don’t like being tied down. They are very creative with tools, can be artistic, they like to work with their hands. They have a hard time with authority and being told what to do. They are also fun-loving like to take risks and enjoy adventure and excitement. They constantly need variety, new projects to engage in, and can be impulsive and passionate. They often like to perform.
Children who are artisans will have a difficult time with authority and difficulty sitting quietly in school. They like to rock the boat. They will usually lead the merrymaking and pranks.
At school, they are motivated to work through fun activities, new adventures and working with their hands.
To help them understand themselves and manage their needs, we need to help them get in touch with their feelings:
- “You wish there weren’t so many rules.”
- “Sitting for a long time is hard for you.”
Motivators: In order to engage their cooperation in therapy, it is best to refrain from direct commands. Children with this personality type need to assert their independence. They are not afraid of authority and will actually enjoy a heated power struggle. These children like to know the rules so they can find ways to get around them. It is helpful to encourage them to help set the rules. This may increase their willingness to comply. These children love humor and fun and will respond well to imaginative activities. Therapy sessions with these children can be high energy with fun playground activities, contests and arts and crafts (Sheedy Kurcinka, 2015).
- “Let’s pretend we are airplanes and fly back to the waiting room.”
These children need to be praised for their enthusiasm and creativity because they value that within themselves. They do not respond well to praise that highlights that they complied with the rules. That can actually backfire. Instead, we can say:
- “I enjoyed our session today; I have fun being with you.”
- “Thank you. Therapy was lively and exciting today.”
We can give them a new perspective of themselves, and let them know:
- “You know how to make things fun while still making sure you are safe.”
- “I have heard your jokes, but I also like your opinions on serious matters. (Faber & Mazlish, 2012, p. 223)
Artisans might be cast into negative roles of’ ‘troublemaker’, or ‘rabble-rouser’. It is helpful for us to view them in more positive ways, i.e., fun loving or as organizers and leaders (Faber & Mazlish, 2012, p. 223).
The Therapist Who is an Artisan:
- May employ innovative, hands-on, and creative techniques.
- Project a high-energy environment; hence, they should be mindful of children who are low energy.
The course Personality and Temperament: Connecting with Young Clients continues by describing the remaining major personality traits of Guardian, Idealist, and Thinker. The author goes on to look at each trait or tendency individually, discussing:
Triggers – Conflicts that arise when the client’s personality and temperament are being compromised
Skills to develop effective strategies to enhance therapy sessions
Vocabulary – Teach specific vocabulary to clients so they may “describe their emotional states” and request assistance or comfort. This will enable clients to manage their feelings and assist them to maintain their equilibrium in all situations (Bloomquist, 2013, pp.74-75).
For information on all of the personality types and tendencies, follow the link below:
CE Credit: 3 Hours
Learning Level: Introductory
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