Introverts and Extroverts in Therapy

An individualized approach is necessary for mental health treatment to be most effective. For people seeking to better themselves and improve their mental health, therapy is different for

An individualized approach is necessary for mental health treatment to be most effective. For people seeking to better themselves and improve their mental health, therapy is different for each patient according to their particular strengths and weaknesses. When trying to tackle difficult issues, differences between introverts and extroverts can help clue the provider and the consumer as to what approaches would work best for that case. An introvert will benefit from a different approach to than an extrovert because they tend to communicate and see the world differently.

As more research on the topic is done, extroversion vs. introversion seems to truly be more of a spectrum than two hard line categories. Although some individuals lean very strongly toward one side or the other, everyone has at least a little bit of both. Some people are very close to the middle of the spectrum and need a balance of introverted and extroverted activities in their life and therapy.

Extroverts are easier to understand right off the bat. They tend to be more open about discussing anything on their mind, including their issues and problems. They have less reservations about saying exactly what is on their mind at any given moment. They need to, and often enjoy reasoning their problems and emotions out loud with someone.

It is difficult for extroverts to just sit and listen to their therapist talk. They need to participate and talk things through. They need a counselor to be a good listener who will work through their problems with them verbally and on the spot. As they are talking, often in a stream of consciousness, they start to mull over how they are perceiving situations in their life.

Introverts have unique needs because they are oriented to view life from the perspective of their inner world. Being the minority (about 25%) of people, they may not be understood by the world or not understand themselves very well. Introverts need much less prolonged superficial contact, but they have a strong need for deeper connections overall. They may come off as complicated, but open up to trusted people. In fact, they are capable of a great deal of introspection, profound personal change, and revelations if they are given space. Sometimes, they need to learn how to give themselves permission to take the space they need.

More introverted individuals will naturally gravitate toward taking notes during the session so they can collect their thoughts and come back to certain topics in the following sessions. They need time to think things over in their inner world before they say anything out loud. Introverts will also appreciate a provider who assigns homework, reading, and study they can do on their own. Study and reflection before action is very helpful for these individuals in therapy.

In general, introverted types are also more receptive to meditation. Meditating is a form of introversion: focusing on the present moment and being still in your inner world. For extroverted individuals, it is the last thing they want to do. While both personality types can benefit from mindfulness and mediation, extroverts will need to be eased into it, and perhaps pushed to try it, whereas it will come naturally to introverts. Same goes for getting an introvert to have a difficult conversation with someone. An introvert would rather ignore the problem like it doesn’t exist than step out of their comfort zone to have a confrontation and do conflict resolution. Often, this reluctance persists even when reason suggests it would ultimately benefit them to do so.

It is helpful for providers to figure out whether they are treating an introvert and extrovert and approach them accordingly. Depending on where someone is on the spectrum, different combinations of things will work, so it is good to always check in and see how they are doing with the techniques. Different therapy approaches and techniques will be necessary in order to address their mental health issues.

References:

Diamond, Stephen A. “Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: Why Extroverts Hate Meditation and Introverts Love It.” Psychology Today. N.p., 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

“Understanding Introversion.” New Reflections Counseling. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

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