We use personality theories to explain why people may think, feel or act in the way that they do.

For example, we can make assumption about the relationship between behaviour and personality such as ‘fat people are jolly’, or ‘lean people are mean’. These theories develop from social interactions. 

However, we seem to over-estimate the stability of people’s personalities over time, and consequently such implicit personality theories may not be inaccurate.

Influence on the counsellor

The problem with implicit theory is that it is implicit.  If it is introduced into the counselling process somewhat whimsically without attempting to integrate it to theory, then problems can arise. Also, such theories are often incorrect, inconsistent and contradictory since they evolve in a haphazard way, often discard contrary information, and are often not put to the test. The counsellor’s own implicit theories can also impact on the counselling process if they do not fit with their adopted formal theory.

Different approaches to counselling have differing philosophies as to the origin of behaviours (internal v external).  This can result in difficulties for the client if the counsellor is not fully aware of discrepancies between their choice of therapy and their own implicit theory.

The counsellor must prepare for counselling be  exploring  assumptions  about  different  possible  causes  of behaviour and should be willing to draw on different theories when seeking to explain a client’s behaviour.