Personality Adaptations
by Vann Joines and Ian Stewart


This book is a practical guide to understanding personality. We have written it primarily for psychotherapists and counsellors. If you are a practitioner or trainee in these fields, we hope and believe that the ideas we describe here will help you greatly to enhance the effectiveness and potency of your work. The book will also be of interest to you if you are a non-professional reader wishing to develop your understanding of personality and your everyday relationships with others.

Central to the book is a model of personality adaptations. This model offers you a way of understanding people in terms of six personality types. It is based on the evidence of real-life observation, built up both from formal research studies and from many years' clinical experience in psychotherapy and counselling.

The book describes the six adaptations in detail, and provides a framework for understanding how each adaptation develops. We also describe ways in which you can assess someone's personality adaptations. In particular, we show how you can diagnose personality adaptations rapidly and accurately - after only a few minutes' interaction, and without the need for "history-taking" - by observing certain distinctive behavioural clues known as driver behaviours.

As you learn to accurately detect an individual's personality adaptations, you will become able to tap into a vast store of information that is likely to apply to that person. You will discover that the model gives you quick and reliable insight into:

  • the person's typical mode of relating to others in social situations
  • their approach to problem-solving - proactive or reactive
  • the communication style the person is most likely to respond to (commanding, asking, nurturing, playing)
  • their preferred area of initial contact (in thinking, feeling or behaviour), and how you can move from one of these areas to another to maintain rapport and achieve optimal results in therapy
  • the typical "life patterns" that the person is likely to play out over time, both in the short and the long term
  • the principal issues that are likely to arise for them in the process of personal change
  • how you can most effectively work with them to help them achieve the changes they wish.
  • The model's usefulness is not confined to any one psychotherapeutic approach nor any particular "theory of the person". You can use this model, and benefit from this book, whatever approach you are trained in. We ourselves - like the original developers of the model - use transactional analysis as our principal approach. In some of the earlier chapters, we outline the transactional analysis theory that underlies the model. However, you do not need prior knowledge of transactional analysis to understand this discussion, since we explain all the terms and ideas from first principles.

    Pronouns, genders, names and cases

    We, Vann Joines and Ian Stewart, are "we". You, our reader, are "you". For other people in general, we use "she" and "he" at random.

    All clients' names used in the book are fictitious. If they have any likeness to the names of real persons, this is purely by chance. All the case illustrations - including the extended transcripts in Part VII - are based on real cases, but we have changed details to avoid any possibility of the clients' being identified.

    How the book is laid out

    In the single-chapter Part I, we give you a "thumbnail sketch" of the six personality adaptations that are the building blocks of this model. At this introductory stage, we use a minimum of technical language. All the ideas in this chapter will be revisited and expanded later in the book. We also briefly discuss the reality basis of the model. (This topic will later be examined in depth in the technical Appendices).

    The six chapters of Part II develop the model in detail. First exploring developmental influences, this Part goes on to look at personality structure and at the principal issues that are likely to arise in personal change for persons with each adaptation. Next, we describe each separate adaptation in full detail. We look at how people may combine various adaptations. Finally, we relate the model to the categories that are listed in standard diagnostic manuals.

    It is in Part II that we introduce the explanatory framework of transactional analysis, particularly in Chapters 3 and 4. In each of these chapters, we begin with a brief sketch of the theoretical ideas and terms that we will be using. This will make the chapters' discussion accessible if you are new to transactional analysis. If you are already familiar with the theory, you can of course skip these introductory sections. If you would like a more in-depth discussion of transactional analysis theory, you can find it in our book TA Today (Stewart and Joines, Lifespace Publishing, 2nd edn, 2012).

    Part III shows you how to diagnose the various personality adaptations in practice. In particular, Chapter 8 describes how you can make rapid and accurate diagnoses of the adaptations by observing the five sets of behavioural clues known as driver behaviours. This route to diagnosis is one of the most powerful features of the model. It allows you, within only a few minutes' communication, to access knowledge of all the other features that typify the adaptation(s) in question.

    In Part IV, we explain how you can apply the model to achieve and maintain optimal rapport with your client during therapy or counselling. You will learn how you can stay "on the same wavelength" with other persons by choosing the appropriate communication mode - the choice of how you say what you say. We describe also how you can maximise rapport by attending to contact area - that is, the choice of thinking, feeling or behaviour as the focus of communication. In this way, you can target interventions to the area which will have maximum effectiveness, and avoid getting stuck in the client's defences. This ability is another powerful feature of the model. Finally in Part IV, we look at how individuals with different adaptations are likely to interact with each other in personal or working relationships.

    Part V, "Inviting Personal Change", goes on to describe in detail how you can apply the model in psychotherapy and counselling. Of course, the earlier Parts have all also been relevant to your work as a therapist or counsellor. Now in Part V you will find specific material on therapeutic techniques and interventions. They cover both the content of personal change (the "what") and its process (the "how"). You will learn how the model helps you to maintain congruency between content and process, in such a way as to invite personal change most effectively.

    The discussion in Part VI is still focused on psychotherapy, and now moves on to a more advanced level of both theory and practice. Chapter 17 describes a comprehensive model for diagnosis and treatment planning. This is a systematic way of diagramming many developmental and personality features of the various adaptations. It enhances understanding and is a powerful aid to treatment planning during therapy or counselling.

    In Chapter 18 we discuss how this model relates to the personality patterns known as borderline and narcissist. As you will discover, we regard these personality structures as being on a different dimension from the six personality adaptations. The model can, however, give some useful guidance to therapy with borderline or narcissistic clients.

    Finally, in Part VII, we give extended transcripts to illustrate actual therapeutic work with the different adaptations. In Chapters 19 through 24, we look at each of the six adaptations in turn. The transcript in each case is of work with a client whose therapeutic issue primarily involves that one adaptation. Finally, in Chapter 25, we illustrate work with a client whose issue involves a combination of adaptations. In each chapter, the transcript is prefaced by a summary of the main therapeutic indications for that adaptation. We have added comments throughout each transcript, to highlight how the therapist used the model to guide the process and content of the therapy.

    "Layers" of explanation and repetition of detail

    This model is rich in detail. That is one of the main reasons for its usefulness. However, it also means that if you were to meet the entire model in its full detail for the first time, you might initially find it difficult to understand; there would be just too much to take in all at once.

    In working with this model over time, and teaching it to many trainees, we have developed a way of explaining the model that overcomes this difficulty. Instead of presenting the entire model at once, we build it up piece by piece. We shall follow that approach in this book.

    Specifically: we break the model down into successive "layers" of detail. Each layer of detail describes one particular set of personality aspects. Within that layer, we discuss the six adaptations one after another, in a standard sequence. For example: in Part II, we start in Chapter 2 by describing the developmental aspects of each adaptation. That is the first layer of detail. Next, in Chapter 3, we add in a second layer, namely, a discussion of personality structure for each of the six adaptations. In Chapter 4, we go on to a third layer, reviewing typical issues in change for each adaptation - and so on through the chapters of Part II.

    Each time we add a layer of detail, we repeat (in summary) the description of the previous layer or layers. For example, in Part II when we introduce the second layer of detail - Chapter 3's discussion of personality structure - we start for each adaptation by summarising the information on developmental aspects that you have already met in Chapter 2. In Chapter 4 in turn, we summarise the details of development and personality structure before describing each adaptation's main issues in personal change. Our aim throughout is that, whatever page you are reading, you will have all the information you need immediately at hand, rather than having to search back and forward through the book.

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