Utility of a Personality Trait Model

Next, we offer several uses of the personality trait model, especially in predicting problems an individual may have, understanding these problems, and guiding intervention strategies.

Predictive Value

This model calls attention to the probability of problems occurring for a given individual in a specific setting or situation. Consider an older man who is extremely needful of privacy and intolerant of interpersonal closeness (a schizoid personality). He finds himself in a rehabilitation facility, sleeping in a room with multiple other patients, dining in a large communal dining hall, having physical therapy with many others around him, and being required to participate in group sessions. It can be anticipated that he will appear more pathological—the degree of his personality disorder will increase.

Interpretive Value

This refers to the value of the model in being able to increase an understanding of why certain expressions of an individual's personality are maladaptive in a specific context or relative to a specific task (i.e., a less "good fit"). For example, an older woman with Avoidant Personality Disorder would feel put at risk if forced into a new group setting. Her dominant traits include an aversion to public exposure, resulting in the feeling that she is being judged and will fail the scrutiny of others. It is understandable that any way she perceives being asked to perform or reveal herself would be toxic to her, and she would likely experience even greater distress.

Planning Value

This refers to the utility of the model to inform and guide treatment and care plan options. For example, the individual who thrives on considerable attention from others (and acts out if he or she doesn't get it) would likely do better (i.e., appear less disordered) in an environment where his or her behaviors were observed and affirming feedback was liberally given. Unlike the dependent personality who requires continual feedback for reassurance and direction, and unlike the schizoid personality who avoids such feedback, the narcissistic character thrives on this and needs this to reinforce his or her sense of self.

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