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The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

Freeman, P. (1999) The multiple roles of psychological type in maximizing the effectiveness of
clinical supervision. In Proceedings: The Role of Type and Mental and Physical Health. Second
Biennial Clinical Conference sponsored by The Center for Applications of Psychological Type
(CAPT), February 4-6, 1999.

The multiple roles of psychological type in maximizing
the effectiveness of clinical supervision

Peter D. Freeman, Ed.D., MSSW, LICSW
College of St. Catherine and University of St. Thomas
School of Social Work

The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type


Abstract: This paper will explore the importance of a consistent application of psychological type
awareness as it manifests in the interactions manifested or discussed in clinical supervision. The
nature and tasks of clinical supervision and the qualities of effective supervision are discussed.
Awareness of the potential interactive dynamics of personality preferences of individuals, or
organizations, enables the supervisor and the clinician to more accurately interpret the behaviors and
central tendencies of themselves, clients, and systems from a strengths perspective, rather than a
problem or pathology perspective. Examples of applications of type perspective in clinical
supervision are illuminated.
The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

The variety of applications of the psychological type theory of Carl Jung, through the use of
the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) have multiplied steadily over the past two decades,
particularly in business and other organizational settings. That CAPT is sponsoring only the
second annual clinical conference related to psychological type is indicative of how little
psychological type perspective has been integrated into mainstream clinical thought. This is despite
the body of research that exists relating psychological type and counseling. Jungian theory, in
general, has remained neglected and considered suspect by most clinicians in the fields of
psychology, social work, and marriage and family therapy. This is ironic since these fields
incorporate an awareness and use of the clinicians self in interactions with clients as a focus within
professional training and individual and group clinical supervision.

The focus of this paper will be the role of a psychological type perspective for clinical
supervision in the area of mental health services. My points are just as applicable to medical and
physical clinical practice. Supervision within mental health takes on many forms, including a one-
on-one format between a supervisor and supervisee, group peer-supervision, supervision as required
for graduate training or post-graduate licensure, case consultation, and in-agency and extra-agency
configurations. My focus will be on clinical supervision within the agency setting provided by a
clinical supervisor with a clinician directly accountable to the supervisor. They will generally meet
for a one-hour supervision session weekly, at least until the required hours have been logged to meet
licensure requirements. Many agencies continue to maintain weekly or bi-weekly supervision
sessions after licensure is achieved. Within this configuration of supervision, the multiplicity of
psychological type application can best be seen.

The nature and functions of clinical supervision

Employees in most work environments have as their primary responsibility the achievement
of the organizations foremost goalsprofit in the for-profit arena and the organizations mission in
the non-profit arena. While clinicians in agency settings are held accountable to their organizations
missions and goals, they have overriding professional and ethical imperatives that transcend the
mission and goals of any particular organization. Providing service that increases the well-being of
clients is the primary objective for clinicians and clinical supervisors alike (Shulman, 1993; Kaiser,
1996). This doesnt free clinicians from agency expectations; it adds a significant factor that often
leads to ethical dilemmas.

The supervisor in a mental health agency setting has the broad responsibility to ensure that
clinicians provide effective and ethical service to clients; meet profession, agency and external
system expectations; develop professional expertise and technique; and engage in necessary self-care
to avoid potential burn-out. Supervisors and clinicians in agency settings will generally meet for a
one-hour supervision session weekly, at least until the required hours have been logged to meet
licensure requirements. Many agencies continue to maintain weekly or bi-weekly sessions after
licensure is reached. A regular pattern of dedicated time to focus on the work and development of
clinicians is recommended throughout their clinical careers, regardless of work setting.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are registered trademarks of Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.
CAPT, the CAPT logo, Center for Applications of Psychological Type are trademarks of Center for Applications of
Psychological Type, Inc., Gainesville, FL.

The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

Supervision of the clinician, by its nature, is uniquely different from that given to workers
and professionals in other occupational areas. Supervision in most work settings might be said to
focus on task assignment, goal setting, monitoring, problem solving, and evaluation. The subjective
factor is relegated to the margins as secondary to efficiency and best practices. Although many
human resource and organizational development professionals continue to underscore the human
resource as the most significant, most organizations address the personal stuff only so far as to
facilitate effective functioning of employees toward achievement of the goals and mission of the

By contrast, in clinical supervision the personalities of the supervisor, clinician, and client
and the dynamics of the relationships between them are often the medium and the subject of the
work. The subjective qualities of the individuals and groups involved take center stage as the
primary focus of the work. It is this focus that draws most clinicians to the field in the first place.
The development of the clinician as a person, not just a skill set, is thought to directly impact the
quality of service provided to clients. There is the inherent understanding that the clinician and client
mutually impact each other.

Shulman (1993) describes how supervision occurs within the context of interacting systems
that have reciprocal impact. The variety of interfaces is extensive: between intra-personal conscious
and unconscious factors operating within the client, clinician or supervisor; between clinician and
supervisor; between clinician and client; between clinician and aspects of clinical practice; between
clinician and the agency or external systems, etc. The mutual impact of elements in these
interactional fields is continuous as well as diverse. Personality runs throughout all of these
interactions and is the ultimate diversity issue.

Conflict, discomfort, and struggle regularly arise in these interactions, which interfere with
the helping process, the effective achievement of clinical and administrative goals, and the personal
and professional growth and development of the clinician. Nonetheless, the greatest creative
potential for higher-level performance or functioning rests within these conflicts, or collisions, as
Jung would often refer to them. Each experience of conflict, resistance, transference or counter-
transference, or performance difficulty is potentially indicative of both the psychic inertia of
preferred preferences, and, although experienced in a negative-toned way, the compensating
potential of personality waiting to be recognized and integrated.

Awareness of the potential interactive dynamics of personality preferences between
individuals, within families, or of organizations (Bridges, 1992), enhances the supervisors and the
clinicians abilities to interpret the behaviors and central tendencies of themselves, clients, and
systems from a strengths perspective, rather than a problem or pathology perspective. The supervisor
can facilitate awareness of the relevance of a sensitivity to interpersonal type dynamics; refinement
of aptitudes, skills, or perspectives that cluster around dominant personality preferences; and active
experimentation with, and development of, the under-utilized or neglected functions.

The supervisors awareness of his or her own attitude and functional preferences and
sensitivity to those factors in others can lead to a deeper contextual understanding of the differences
between supervisor and clinician practice theories; fine-tune the interpretation of clients presenting
problems and clinical needs; help explain the performance discrepancies of the clinician across task

The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

domains; and guide the choice of individualized professional development activities. The relevance
of personality type carries across all domains of focus in supervision.

The tasks of clinical supervision are, according to Kadushin (1976), administration,
education, and support. Administration is the maintenance of agency expectations around the
quality and quantity of service to clients, compliance with agency-specific policies and procedures,
evaluation of clinician performance, and adherence to the standards and protocols of external
systems, such as managed care. The over-representation of Ns and Fs among counselors reported in
the MBTI Manual (1985) suggests that this is the area in clinical work and supervision of least
interest and greatest discomfort to most clinicians and supervisors. The often heard grumbling about
the required documentation brought on by managed care is probably due to the conflict between the
NF preferences of most clinicians and the STJ nature of most administrative requirements.
Supervisors can utilize a personality perspective toward their own and clinicians comfort and skill
toward the administrative aspects of clinical practice to maximize individual performance.

Education is the growth and development of the clinicians theoretical knowledge and
applied practice skills, including assessment, diagnosis, and clinical intervention. This can include
both how the clinician conceptualizes the nature and causative factors contributing to client
difficulties and the micro or macro interventions utilized to help. It can be hypothesized that
clinicians gravitate toward a particular practice theory and the resulting interpretations and
interventions most congruent with their typology, which may be similar to or different from those of
the supervisors. The supervisor needs to respect those perspectives and facilitate the intellectual and
applied skill development of the clinician. The clinician also needs to be strongly encouraged to
explore and utilize approaches that exist outside of congruence with type preferences.

The support function of supervision is crucial. Clinical practice, unlike most other types of
work, specifically requires a use of the self that is genuine, non-judgmental, and empathic. Nowhere
is the reciprocal impact of the interactional nature of systems more evident than in clinical practice.
The clinician needs to recognize and manage a personal vulnerability that workers outside the
helping professions rarely experience. The clinicians personality is always intimately involved
throughout the helping process. Feeling types, in particular, are at risk for a bleeding of client pain
and suffering across the therapeutic boundary into themselves. Thinking types may neglect to focus
on how their experiences with clients impact their own psychological well-being. The transference
and counter-transference projections that occur with regularity for everyone involved can often be
linked to type conflicts more so than family-of-origin issues and need to be identified and integrated
to limit the negative impact of client, clinician or supervisor projections.

Important qualities of the supervisory relationship

Tamara Kaiser in her book, Supervisory relationships: Exploring the human element (1996),
illuminates two essential qualities found in effective supervision: shared meaning and trust.

Type practitioners are well aware that people with different type preferences can use the
same words to speak about a particular event or issue and mean quite different things. Shared
meaning is the congruence of meaning for both parties. It doesnt mean that they agree; it only
means that they are clear with each other about what is discussed or agreed upon. Awareness of the
The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

different perspectives and communication styles that are congruent with type preferences allows
supervisors and clinicians to speak through and beyond personality differences to reach a higher
degree of shared meaning. The incidence of problematic projections and misunderstandings
diminishes through the dialectic between people with different type preferences. At times,
supervisors will need to step into the typological preferences of the client, task area, agency, or
system to facilitate a discussion that can lead to genuine shared meaning.

The affirmation of the clinicians, and the supervisors, dominant personality preferences and
a compassionate accountability toward the less-used preferences can significantly contribute to the
level of trust in the supervisory relationship and potential for clinician change. The presence of
empathy in the supervisory relationship enables the supervisor to express both compassion and
accountability toward the clinician, and empowers the clinician to be direct about his or her
strengths, and, more importantly, those aspects that undermine clinical effectiveness. Clinicians are
more able to tell the story (Kaiser, 1996) about their successes and failures in practice, their
strengths and weaknesses in professional development, and the personal factors that impact their
work with clients.

Key to the significance of the quality and nature of the supervisory relationship is that a
parallel process exists between the supervisory and the clinical relationships (Kaiser, 1996;
Shulman, 1993). The dynamics that occur within supervision tend to find their way into clinicians
interactions with clients, and by extension clients replicate the same in their interactions with others
in their lives. Type perspective decreases misunderstanding and pejorative labeling of differences
and struggles and increases a sense of empathy for the strengths and weaknesses of others.

Some applications of psychological type in clinical supervision

Strengthening the relationship between supervisor and clinician

The relationship between the supervisor and the clinician is the medium through which
supervision takes place (Kaiser, 1996). The mutual insight of supervisor and clinician into the
personality dynamics at play greatly increases understanding and appreciation of the idiosyncratic
approaches, expectations, communication styles, weaknesses, and needs of both parties and provides
a greater contextual understanding for discussion and action. The supervisor and clinician are better
able to notice and work with the similarities and differences in personality that arise in their
interactions. The ability of the supervisor and clinician to articulate and process conflicts is enhanced
through a greater contextual awareness of the reality of personality preferences and interpersonal
chemistry that occurs in supervision.

An ESFJ clinician may feel very frustrated with her ENFP supervisor for not creating a
consistent structure within the supervisory meeting and may label the supervisor as inept.
Understanding of the personality dynamics allows them to discuss how they react to each other and
out of mutual respect negotiate a supervisory contract that meets both of their needs and styles. The
supervisors accommodation of the type-related needs and approaches of the clinician may very well
require accessing neglected functions of their own. This is an example of the interactional nature of
the supervisory relationship; both parties are affected.

The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

Increasing supervisor and clinician self-awareness of dominant and neglected

Who can enlighten others if he is still in the dark about himself? (Jung, 1966). Jung
succinctly sums up his often-stated awareness that the realities of the clinicians psychic makeup will
impact, for good or ill, his or her ability to help others. Certainly we recognize the need to explore,
work through, and utilize our life experience, particularly the influence of our families-of-origin. A
developed type perspective expands the supervisors and the clinicians self-awareness to more fully
understand their own and the others personal motivations, sources of conflict, types of people likely
to engender irritation, and identifiable avenues for growth.

We all naturally seek to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative aspects of our
personalities and performance. Repression is as natural as breathing and is linked to the principle of
opposites at play in the psyche.

The relation between the two poles, it is postulated, in [sic] a function of the degree of
dominance of the conscious pole. Dominance means a one-sided employment of the
conscious attitude, which prevents the expression of the opposite unconscious attitude in
consciousness. With minimal dominance, when the unconscious attitude occasionally
expresses itself, it does so in a compensatory or complementary way. It adds to or rounds out
the conscious attitude in the latters service. With increasing one-sidedness of the conscious
attitude, however, the suppressed unconscious pole has a more opposing and destructive
relation to its conscious opposite. (Shapiro and Alexander, 1975)

We all easily direct energy toward our preferred attitude and perceiving and judging
functions, unconsciously tending toward one-sidedness within our personalities. Feelings of shame
are frequently triggered by our encounter with non-preferred functions when they have been too
underdeveloped or under-utilized. We compensate by redoubling our efforts to develop our strength
and avoiding our ineffectualness.

The supervisor can model and help the clinician normalize the wholeness of personality and
explore the tasks, clients, presenting problems, or circumstances where the tertiary and inferior
functions have created, or might create, difficulty and focus attention toward developing more
comfort and skill in those areas of practice.

Taking a different view of client difficulties

The supervisor can coach the clinician to consider how clients psychological type
preferences and development are often congruent with their presenting problems, symptom
presentation, coping methods, and method and relative success of previous attempts at change.
James Hillman, in his book The souls code: In search of character and calling (1996), contends that
way too much is made of the influence of parental figures in the creation of the personality
individual. There are a priori factors at play in each person that interact with the environment, in
harmony or disharmony. This conflict with the parent can be seen not as the source of the
individuals problems, but as the first collision between the character, or personality, of the person
and compatible or incompatible personalities in the environment. Each subsequent occurrence
The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

represents another example of a predictable phenomenon, not a reenactment of an unresolved
conflict with the parent.

An ISFJ father could easily become frustrated with his INTP daughter and try, perhaps too
hard, to shape her into the person he feels she needs to be to succeed in the world. The more she
struggles to be autonomous, and true to her nature, the more he might redouble his effort. She might
excessively deny her own SFJ-ness as she develops into her natural, but equally one-sided and
distorted, preferences. Both could be seen as attempting to protect their ego integrity through the
assertion of their preferred preferences and the minimizing or repression of the demands of their
neglected functions as experienced in each other.

The supervisor can help the clinician surmise whether the conflict the client is experiencing
is a naturally recurring bumping up against those aspects of personality which seem alien and
threatening to an ego identity formed around preferred preferences. Symptoms and life struggles
tend to be symbolic, and quite painful, expressions of the unconscious, neglected aspects of
personality seeking integration into ego consciousness. The supervisor can coach a clinician to
respect client symptoms as signs for the client to heed rather than as pathologies to be eliminated.

Treatment plans can be created that utilize preferred functions toward an encounter with and
development of the neglected parts of the personality. Playing to and organizing interventions
around function and attitude preferences can be very effective in order to access their opposites:
having a thinking type consider what someones personal values might logically be in a given
situation; having an sensing type express possibilities and then research them to see how they hold
up to reality as a way to expand his or her data base; or helping the introvert experience how their
preferred inner world is enriched through forays into the external environment. Respect is shown for
the wholeness of the individual, regardless of the varying levels of conscious integration and

Understanding the clinicians performance problems

Personality can play a significant role in the relative ease or difficulty of different tasks for
all people. A sensing type might excel at the specificity required for managed care treatment
preauthorization standards, while her intuitive colleague is confused and angry that his
preauthorization requests are returned with requests for more specific treatment goals and outcome
measures. An introvert might struggle to develop connections to the network of ancillary services in
the community and the extravert in the next office has an extensive list that continues to expand. A
thinking type clinician might under-express empathy toward clients and put them off with a
problem-solving approach, while the feeling type clinician connects with clients very well but has a
difficult time holding them accountable.

As with clients, discrepancies in a clinicians performance can be viewed as the needed
integration of rejected or under-utilized functions, which would enhance rather than undermine
conscious preferences. Framed by the supervisor in this way, the performance difficulty can be
approached by the clinician with significantly reduced shame, and development exercises or practice
experiences can be created to increase comfort and skill in those areas.

The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type

A new perspective on transference and counter-transference

If we take Hillmans perspective that the conflict of the person with the parent is not the
source of his or her conflict theme, but simply the first incidence of a predictable conflict with any
person or situation that constellates the inner opposite, then the way we interpret transference and
counter-transference might change significantly. Transference and counter-transference are the result
of the projection of unconscious factors onto an object and experience shows that the carrier of the
projection is not just any object but is always one that proves adequate to the nature of the content
projected!that is to say, it must offer the content a hook to hang on. (Jung, 1996, par. 499).
Clients will project unconscious material only on to clinicians that provide the right hook
characteristics; clinicians will experience counter-transference with some clients and not others.

Classical transference interpretation takes the mother image or father image to be the
material of the transference. That may be the case in part; however, the clinician can be encouraged
to remain in real time and consider whether the transference of the client or his own counter-
transference are expressions of neglected preferences. The potential for growth of the personality is
increased by the more immediate experience of the fuller self, despite the discomfort. The supervisor
can coach the clinician, and the clinician the client, to observe themselves for those incidents of
heightened affect or energy that accompany projections and to identify whether the content is an
expression of the neglected aspects of personality. In this way, projections based on type differences
can lose their possessive quality and access of the inner opposites can be fostered.


There are as many roles for a psychological type perspective in clinical supervision as there
are potential interfaces between a person and any other person, system, or situation that possesses
relatively consistent qualities, including a consistent lack of consistency. Supervisors, clinicians, and
clients have type-congruent reactions and modes of response that can be identified and normalized to
account for the strengths of the preferred attitude and cognitive functions; to decrease shame
attached to neglected or underutilized functions; to help explain the conflicts that occur in the
interactions between the conscious and unconscious aspects; and to provide a guide for higher
development and effectiveness of all involved.

Just as the clinician needs to be more conscious and personally developed than the client in
order to be effective, so does the supervisor need to be relative to the clinician. The supervisor can
utilize psychological type to gain more self-awareness and to recognize that the greatest error is to
assume that the personality of the clinician or client is, or should be, similar to his or her own (Jung,
1953, p. 76). Each supervisor, each clinician, and each client is a unique personality that needs to be
taken into account if development and effectiveness are to be fostered.

We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate,
it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and
fellow-sufferer. I do not in the least mean that we must never pass judgement in
the cases of persons whom we desire to help and improve. But if the [supervisor
or clinician] wishes to help a human being he must be able to accept him as he is.
And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself
as he is. (Jung, 1933, p. 234)
The Multiple Roles of Psychological Type


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