Individualities: How Personality Differences Matter for Psychotherapy 

Saturday, March 7th, 2015, 9:00am – 4:00pm
6.0 CE Credits

Presented by Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., ABPP

Appreciating the clinical implications of personality differences has been a central concern for psychotherapists since the early part of the twentieth century. Our patients are unique individuals, with specific, personality-related strengths and weaknesses, and although we may focus on a particular “disorder” that any client describes to us, we understand that problem in the context of the person’s individuality. Dr. McWilliams discusses the history of the concepts of personality structure and disorder and their relevance to practice, reviewing ten different psychological lenses through which personality has been viewed: temperament, attachment, observed clinical pattern, defensive structure, affective organization, implicit cognition, drive tendencies, self-definition versus self-in-relation orientation, core relational theme, organizing developmental issue. She explores central tensions between research and clinical paradigms, between trait-based and theme-based conceptions of personality, and between the assumptions underlying the DSM and those underlying the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual.

  • Describe the major differences between categorical and inferential/dimensional approaches to conceptualizing personality differences
  • Differentiate between understanding personality in terms of traits, even conceived as dimensional, versus in terms of intersubjective themes, and to apply that understanding toward a more nuanced formulation of the psychologies of their individual clients
  • Apply Blatt’s anaclitic-introjective polarity to the improvement of their clinical work
  • Improve their capacity to diagnose paranoid themes and psychotic-level preoccupations in their patients
  • Make clinical choices that increase their effectiveness with patients who have personality patterns that reflect particular attachment styles
  • Develop a psychotherapy style appropriate for each client’s level and type of personality structure


Saturday, March 7, 2015
9am – 4pm


Olympic Collection
11301 Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., ABPP

Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., ABPP, who teaches at the Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology at Rutgers, is author of Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process (1994, rev. ed. 2011), Psychoanalytic Case Formulation (1999), and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Guide (2004), all with Guilford Press, and is Associate Editor of the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (2006). She is Past President of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association and is on the editorial board of Psychoanalytic Psychology.