You (and Your Therapist) Can Change Your Personality!
(Synopsis of the New York Times Article)
There is much controversy about how our personality is formed. Some psychologists believe it is formed in early childhood and remains stable through adulthood. Others would argue it is prone to change over time. Recently, personality psychologists have taken a more middle-of-the-road view…if personality traits change, it is slowly and somewhat limited. However, an article published in the Psychological Bulletin disputes those old ideas!
A team of six researchers analyzed 207 studies on personality-trait changes and discovered that, with a therapist’s help, personality can and does change, a lot and usually within the first month of therapy! The trait identified through this research to be the most effected by therapy is neuroticism. Individuals with this trait are more likely to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, envy, guild, depressed mood and loneliness. Interestingly, a person’s gender or age or type of therapy did not seem to affect the outcome.
Researchers continue to question as to whether real changes actually occur in the personality trait, i.e. neuroticism, or if therapists are able to help clients return to their “normal” before conditions such as depression or anxiety became an issue. But regardless of the underlying mechanism or process, the good news is there seems to be research to support the idea that, with the help of a therapist, personality change is possible!