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Teaching Type as a Holistic System – Expanding Type Awareness

Part Two in a Five Part Series – Jungian Psychological Type is a Holistic Theory 


In the first article of this series, I stated that arguments against the MBTI reveal a knowledge gap – a lack of understanding of Psychological Types, the theory on which the MBTI is based. This knowledge gap among critics (and the general public) is one reason for superficial stereotypes that give the MBTI assessment a black eye.

As Type Practitioners, we can help close the gap between the MBTI Assessment and its foundational theory, Psychological Types, by re-connecting the assessment to its Jungian roots. We can bridge the gap in a more intentional, conscious manner, while facilitating and coaching.

The shifts are subtle and require fine distinctions in language and facilitation techniques, but they don’t necessitate more workshop training time, and only require a slight re-design of your Type programs.

This article and the next three blogs will provide some tips on how to incorporate four aspects, or principles, of Jung’s theory of typology, into the programs that you have already created.

Here is the first principle of Jung’s theory of Psychological Type to add to your MBTI introductory sessions.

Psychological Type is Holistic – More than the Sum of its Parts  

As we all know, our four-letter Type is more than the sum of its parts. The MBTI Functions (S, N, T and F) and Attitudes (J and P) combine together to form complex dynamic interrelationships and patterns for how the 16 Types operate in the world.

Type critics mistakenly treat MBTI preferences as if they were traits, when in reality the preferences are multifaceted constructs that cannot be directly measured. Type and Trait instruments differ in how they are constructed. Trait instruments aim to measure parts of us, or singular behaviors. In contrast the MBTI provides a set of questions that solicits probable preferences for preferred ways of making decisions and taking in information, that when combined together, represent 16 different holistic systems.

We see the holistic nature of Type in the whole Type Descriptions (from The Myers Briggs Co. and CAPT) which go beyond the portrayal of four letters added together. Type Descriptions depict the values and patterns of behavior that arise from the interaction of the preferences.

Our Training Challenge

Many people, even those who have been through a Type workshop, talk about Type in terms of the discrete ‘letters’ as if they operate alone. This perpetuates Type stereotyping – “You are a high E, that’s why you never stop talking!”, ” You’re an F in a technical job, you must not be able to do it very well.”

When we teach Type, we are fighting an uphill battle. Type psychologist Gordon Lawrence, had this to say about this overlooked training roadblock:

“Those of us who teach people about Jung’s psychological types and try to coach them in constructive uses of type concepts have a persistent problem to tackle at the outset. The problem is that our clients bring to the dialogue a preconceived view of personality variables that does not include type differences. And they can’t latch onto the main idea of type until they broaden their mental picture of personality makeup” [emphasis added].(Journal of Psychological Type, Vol. 12, Dec. 10)

The standard feedback approach to helping people find their Type requires us to teach each dichotomy and the preferences one by one. This process unconsciously reinforces the notion that Type is about “parts”, even though we might say, more than once, that, “type is more than the sum of its parts.”

While facilitating, we may think participants understand the central theme that Type is holistic. Here is what we need to remember – our clients get stuck in the parts; they think preferences are separate traits that when added together create their Type. As practitioners, we often miss the mark by failing to pro-actively help participants integrate the preferences back into the whole Jungian typological system.

You can tell that your participants are stuck in the parts of Type, when they say things like this:  “My N is high and I have no S”,” I am in the middle between T and F”,  “I am a raging P and my husband is a strong J”.  Ah the frustration!

Facilitation Tips

Here are five tips to weave the principle of Jungian Psychological Type as a Holistic Theory into your workshops:

  • Refer to the four-letter Types as “Type Codes

Express to participants that the four-letters they will be selecting as their Best-Fit Type are “code” for what lies beneath the surface. Use images that point to the depth beyond four letters, such as an iceberg, a mailbox, or a license plate, or anything which depicts that there is more information to glean after they select their four letters.

  • Differentiate between the MBTI Assessment and the theory of Psychological Types

This is a tactic that primes people to think of the assessment as something which leads to a larger theoretical whole. Tell people their MBTI Type Code will point them to a system of personality which arises from the combination of their preferences. When people understand there is more to Type than meets the eye, it helps them to broaden their perspective.

  • Address the nature of the self-selection process up front

Convey to participants that they will be participating in a process which breaks apart the typological system to simplify understanding. Let them know that they will be going through the process of selecting their Type one step at a time, but that the attitudes and functions they will be selecting do not operate in isolation. Communicate that they will be putting the pieces together at the end to experience the essence of their whole Type.

  • When you hear preferences working together, talk about it

As you are facilitating, don’t get stuck in the parts! Don’t be surprised when you hear statements from participants that don’t exactly match the preference they are exploring.  Remember that Type preferences don’t stand alone – they work in conjunction with other preferences, and our expression of the preferences are impacted by the environment. If you see two preferences working together, talk about it; pointing out your observations will only serve to reinforce that type is a holistic system.

  • Go over Type Descriptions at the end of the session

At the end of the session, when you direct participants to the Type Descriptions to confirm their Best-Fit Type, indicate that it is now time to see how the integrated parts fit together. Speak about the nature of the descriptions as indicating patterns that are more in-depth than if you simply added the preferences together. If you are a Type geek like me, you might want to consult your MBTI Manual and refresh yourself on how the descriptions were created, and give that information to your participants!


By weaving more theoretical concepts into our Type programs in a practical and measured way, we can provide our clients with a slightly different – richer and deeper – understanding of Type than what they have previously understood. We can, at the very least, help our own clients to grasp the true nature of Type, and how and why it is a helpful model in the work place.

Next Up: Tips on teaching Type as a Cognitive Model

The People Skills Group can help you add life, depth and practical application to your already existing MBTI facilitation and coaching. We work one:one and offer train-the-trainer workshops for coaches and consultants to help you integrate Jungian concepts and practical application into organizational culture. We’ll help you to link Type to other assessments such as Emotional Intelligence, and team models such as the Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Contact us for your train-the-trainer solutions at :

© Copyright, The People Skills Group, 2019


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