Is there Benefit to Personality Type Categories in Counseling?

Sometimes counselees inquire about personality testing. Some of us have taken and used various profile instruments.

The most common personality categories are based four classic “humors” of the Greco-Roman era:

  • sanguine (optimistic leader-like)
  • choleric (bad-tempered or irritable)
  • melancholic (analytical and quiet)
  • phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful)

The D.I.S.C. model uses the terms

  • Dominance
  • Inducement
  • Submission
  • Compliance

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator uses four dichotomies of traits to categorize 16 personality types.

National Association of Christian Counselors uses the 5 personality type Arno Profile.

These kind of instruments are intended to “measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.”

In Exchanged Life Counseling we want to keep in mind that psychology is primarily used in a diagnostic way. We call this use “contextualization.”[1]

How should one use the self-understanding that can be derived from personality categories? This depends on the aspect of “self” that is under consideration.[2] Since these assessments do not refer to sin versus righteousness, or flesh versus Spirit, how should they be used? (Gal. 5:17).

1. Self may refer to the old programming from who we used to be in Adam (Rom. 7:18). Some of the traits may be useful to help the counselee recognize how his/her “flesh” has been conditioned. In this context it aids in recognizing what would be personally involved in denying self and taking up the Cross (Luke 9:23).

2. Self sometimes refers to God-given personhood as expressed in through our unique personality. Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:39). But for these traits to be infused with love and goodness, we need to abide in Christ, for without His live-giving ability we can do nothing spiritually virtuous (John 15:5).

Are there alternatives to the preoccupation with personality type(s)? We think so.

1. Although personality data may be useful to understand our traits and tendencies, as believers our essential identity is not based on personality, but on who we are in Christ. God bases our ultimate identity in our human spirit, not our soul.[3]

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus [essential identity] for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them [practical manifestation]” (Eph. 2:10).

2. Relevant, helpful insights in how we relate to ourselves and others can be derived from the discovery and deployment of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14). Many have found practical value in the perspective of the motivational gifts of Romans 12:6,7:

spiritual_giftsHaving then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

This model was developed extensively in Understanding Spiritual Gifts (Institute in Basic Life Principles). It is also expounded by Don Fortune and Katie Fortune in Discover Your God-Given Gifts, Dr. Charles Stanley (FBA Spiritual Gifts_Notes), Dr. Bobby Mullins (Channel of Blessing), and others.

So, in whatever capacity you use personality testing in your life and ministry, remember to keep it in context and interpret the results in light of your identity in Christ and the necessity of Abiding in Him.




[1] See The Role of Psychology in the Solomon School Lecture Series.

[2] See Sorting Your Self Out at

[3] See

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