The Myers-Briggs Personality Test: An Overview

Alexander Draghici
Updated on February 4, 2021

Personality has always been a hot topic for psychologists and mental health professionals that wanted to shed light on the human mind’s vast complexity. When Psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed his theories on the subject, they were considered groundbreaking, and paved the way for the creation of one of the most popular personality assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs personality test.

personality test

Today, this test is used by career coaches, psychotherapists, and couples counselors all around the world. It is a simple and elegant tool that gives you valuable insights about yourself and can help you make conscious decisions towards a happy and fulfilling life

But before we dive deeper into this subject, let’s start by having a basic understanding of what experts call human personality and its main components.

What is Personality?

In a nutshell, personality is a set of relatively stable traits that characterize a person’s mental, emotional, and behavioral reactions. It is what distinguishes you as an independent and self-aware individual. From how you react to anxiety and stress to which career path you choose to invest in, your personality type influences every aspect of your life.

Almost all personality psychology experts agree there are two fundamental components that make up our personality: temperament and character.

Temperament is hereditary and represents biological (neurological) characteristics that influence various psycho-social features like self-control, inner balance, and sociability. The particularities of your temperament are related to the somatic structure of the nervous system, which dictates your mental energy levels and flexibility of cognitive processes. The best example of temperament traits is introversion-extroversion.

As for the character, this construct comprises different psycho-moral qualities that manifest at a cognitive (thinking), emotional, and behavioral (actions and decisions) level. Unlike your temperament, character traits begin to take shape under the parental influence. The values, norms, beliefs, and habits that your caregivers adhere to will become part of your character. But unlike temperament, your character traits are dynamic can may change under different circumstances.

The Myers-Briggs personality test combines temperament and character traits into 16 types, which give clinicians and counselors a better sense of how their clients relate to themselves, others, and the world.

Jung’s Theory of Personality

If you are unfamiliar with the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it is rooted in psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of personality types. He described four primary functions of consciousness: sensation vs. intuition and thinking vs. feeling. He found the four functions influenced the two attitude types: introversion and extroversion. It is from Jung’s theory that the MBTI was built.

Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the four-letter acronym associated with each personality type. There are 8 aspects that make up the personality indicator. Each person embodies either:

Introversion (I): People become drained by social interactions and usually need some solitude to replenish energy.
or
Extroversion (E): People become energized by being social and typically do not prefer spending long amounts of time alone.

Intuition (N): People pay attention to their own impressions and the derived meaning of particular situations.
or
Sensing (S): People focus more on what is actually present by trusting their senses and they tend to notice facts and details.

Feeling (F): People tend to be more in tune with their emotions and are typically more sensitive to their own feelings along with the feelings of others.
or
Thinking (T): People focus more on what is objective and rational, tending to utilize logic rather than their own emotions.

Perceiving (P): People tend to have more flexibility and have the ability to adapt when the plan changes suddenly.
or
Judging (J): People like to be decisive and organized and focus their desire on intentional structure and planning.

Implications for Counseling and Psychotherapy

Despite heated debates, mental health experts who promote eclectic and integrative approaches acknowledge the MBTI is a reliable model that can have significant implications for counseling and psychotherapy.

To quote a paper from the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration:

“Recognizing that multiple theories and techniques are important in the “integral forest” of psychotherapeutic practice, integral therapists do not devalue any of the existing approaches, but rather emphasize the need to acknowledge and attend to as many dimensions of patients’ being-in-the-world as possible.”[1]

Furthermore, some experts believe the Myers-Briggs Personality Test can be a valuable tool for selecting the therapeutic approach that works best for each client.

Although it may not accurately predict the therapeutic outcome, current evidence suggests the Thinking-Feeling dimension may give counselors a glimpse into how clients respond to cognitive approaches. More specifically, individuals who prefer Thinking (desire for logic and reason) tend to respond well to cognitive-behavioral strategies.[2]

Despite the criticism it has received over the years, the Myers-Briggs personality test has proven to be a valuable tool for counselors and therapists. For example, your personality type may explain why you tend to overthink your decisions, feel anxious in large groups, or have trouble resonating with others on an emotional level.

Based on your type, a licensed counselor can help you set goals that will allow you to gain a better sense of your identity and adjust to challenging situations.

In terms of career counseling, the Myers-Briggs personality types can help clients select career options that bring them satisfaction and fulfillment.

But these brief descriptions merely scratch the surface of the full range of information personality inventories can provide. There are two recommendations to take into consideration.

The first is to explore your type and dive deeper into understanding the characteristics your type truly entails. It does not help to only have an abbreviated version of each type.

The second is to take the inventory knowing these assessments are not a full description of who you are as a person. Personality typing can help you understand yourself better by providing insight and awareness that you might not have had before.

Even though you might share a type with many people, you will experience your particular type through the lens of your own uniqueness and subtle differences. Long story short, if you wish to discover your personality type and understand how it reflects your everyday life, make sure to consult a licensed counselor.


References

1. A. Marquis and K. Wilber, “Unification beyond eclecticism and integration: Integral psychotherapy.,” Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, vol. 18, no. 3, p. 350–358, 2008.

2. J. Jinkerson, A. Masilla and R. C. Hawkins, “Can Myers-Briggs Dimensions Predict Therapy Outcome? Differences in the Thinking-Feeling Function Pair in Cognitive Therapy for Depression/Anxiety,” Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 21–31, 2015.

Alexander Draghici

Alexander Draghici is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and CBT practitioner. His work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common emotional problems – anxiety and depression.