Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Personality disorders-Diagnosis, Personality disorders-Treatment, Character tests, Positive psychology, Character, Personality, Character strength, Personality measurement, Axis II, Personality strength, Compensatory strengths, Five-factor model of personality


On the eve of the release of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, with major revisions planned in its diagnostic approach to personality disorder (PD), qualitative research was conducted via face-to-face interviews to explore the perspective of seasoned mental health clinicians regarding their experience working with personality disordered individuals, and how that experience squared with current debates within personality science and positive psychology. Eight experienced clinicians were asked how they saw PD in regard to character strength, what relationship they imagined existed between the two, and whether they saw them as existing on the same dimensional axis. Participants chose from a list of strengths provided the specific strengths they believed they saw in PD clients they had worked with. Major findings were that clinicians endorsed a dimensional perspective, saw PD features on a continuum with normative personality, and saw strengths in relationship with specific PD diagnosed clients. Combined scores indicate a relationship pattern, with borderline PD overwhelmingly paired with Persistence as a character strength. The research also uncovered controversies within the field regarding utilization of the Axis II due to concerns about stigmatizing clients, and that the diagnosis as presently constructed did not adequately factor in the presence or impact of trauma in the diagnostic formulation.




iii, 94 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 75-87)