Integrating and differentiating personality and psychopathology in cognitive behavioral therapy

Shannon Sauer-Zavala, Matthew W. Southward, Stephen A. Semcho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A large body of literature supports the strong association between personality features and psychopathology. This research has, however, had little influence on day-to-day therapeutic practice, particularly in cognitive behavioral approaches that have traditionally focused on addressing the symptoms of categorically defined diagnoses. Indeed, there are few CBT protocols aimed at altering the personality features. Recently, however, the CBT literature has displayed an increased focus on identifying alternative higher-order, dimensional mechanisms that may underscore the development and maintenance of broad classes of psychopathology (e.g., aversive reactivity to emotions, reward sensitivity, and performance expectancies). There is ample evidence linking these processes to DSM disorder severity; however, they may also represent a functional link between the personality domains and the disorder symptoms organized beneath them. The functional mechanisms through which an individual's personality confers risk for psychopathology may be naturally amenable to cognitive behavioral elements, and targeting these processes in treatment has the potential to address both disorder symptoms and underlying personality vulnerabilities. Thus, the identification of intermediate functional mechanisms may help bridge the gap between personality science and clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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