Recently we were looking at the different careers that suit different personality types better than others and something struck us. Almost every personality type is represented in some way as suitable in a mental health profession (psychologist, psychotherapist, counselor, or social worker).
"So what?" you might ask. Besides the fact it's interesting, it might also be instructive as to how personality traits might be more flexible in their capacity for any chosen career than we sometimes give them credit for. As an example, the constellation of jobs that makes up the "mental health profession" has many niches that can use many different skills. We would be incorrect if we claimed any particular personality type was unsuited to work in a helping profession. It's just a matter of how we approach it.
When we think of therapy and counseling, the Diplomat is the most obvious personality group for these jobs. They are full of empathy, and they enjoy thinking about people growing as a society or individually. Helping someone grow and become a better person nearly defines what a psychotherapist does. Diplomats think in imaginative ways about "what might be". They are most likely to approach others with an "unconditional positive regard" - often a trait valued in these professions. Because of these characteristics, Diplomats come to mind almost immediately when thinking about the helping professions. It's a no brainer.
But what about Analysts? They don't share all the characteristics described in the previous paragraph except for perhaps their imagination and their preference for forward thinking. What they do have is a love of systems and a wish to improve them. Classic Freudian psychoanalysis hangs itself on a systemic framework of theories and specific techniques. As an alternative for Analysts, behavioral therapy is all about finding ways to create a system that changes unwanted behavior. Cognitive therapy challenges unhelpful thoughts and seeks to correct them with logic. What Analysts lack in empathy, they make up for with ingenuity and the ability to engineer improvements. Not all the helping professions need a heavy dose of empathy. Sometimes a rational approach suffices. (And we haven't considered at all the Analysts' potential role in behavioral research.)
Sentinels are born social workers. Social workers need to understand how bureaus and agencies work, but they also have to understand laws, rights, and whether they are eligible for certain support. Usually social workers need to have Rolodexes full of contacts - something Extraverted Sentinels always seem to have. All of these things will speak to the administrative heart of the typical Sentinel. And more and more, social workers perform therapy and counseling services. Sentinels are natural caretakers and, at some level, they have a need to facilitate the well-being of others. Focused more on the "day-to-day" than the Diplomat or Analyst professionals might be, Sentinels are well-equipped to help a client resolve personal difficulties.
With their ability to think on their feet, Explorers are efficient problem-solvers. Can you imagine a better trait than that for someone who works in crisis counseling? Some Explorers fancy themselves much better advisers than perhaps they are. However, nobody can argue with their ability to assess situations rapidly and to develop a plan of action on the spot. On top of that, many Explorers have an innate connection with children and with their spontaneity have a lot to offer in pediatric work and play therapy. While they may not fit the stereotype of the therapist sitting an office and listening for hours to the introspective talk delivered by neurotic adults, they do have their place in the mental health field.
We tend to think of certain personality types as tailor-made for certain professions. And we're not wrong in doing that. Some careers are perfect for one type and would likely be a disaster for another. However, before we write off a particular job we may be curious about, maybe we should dig a little deeper. Maybe there is something that we have to contribute to a job that doesn't seem, at first glance, to match our personality. The spectrum of personalities that comfortably inhabit the mental health field shows us our personality traits might be more occupationally versatile than we think.
Have you ever been in a career or position that seemed counter to your personality but where you felt you were effective? Or have you always found jobs that fit your personality perfectly?
Leave a comment. We'd love to know.