The Pattern System for Psychotherapists, Part 4

The is the continuation of the article The Pattern System for Psychotherapists.

Patterns in Group Therapy

In group therapy, certain patterns engender particular group problems or roles. For example, clients with an Entitled Pattern can become monopolizers of the group’s time, while clients with a Judgmental Pattern can create a hostile, unsafe group climate. By recognizing the patterns of your group members, you have a better chance of forestalling and handling group difficulties.

Patterns vs. Personality Disorders

Patterns are different from personality disorders in that, by definition, a certain level of psychopathology is required for a client to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, while a client can have a pattern at any level of dysfunction, from mild to severe. For example, a client with an extreme version of the Distancing Pattern might have a schizoid personality disorder, but someone with a milder version of that pattern might simply have difficulties in allowing intimacy or committing to a relationship.

Let’s look at the correspondences between personality disorders and patterns.

Other Psychotherapy and Personality Systems

The concept of a pattern corresponds to existing concepts in various psychotherapy schools-the schema from CBT, the Jungian complex, the psychodynamic defense. Many patterns and capacities correspond to Jungian archetypes. As a result the Pattern System can be used in conjunction with a wide variety of different models of therapy.

The Pattern System is different from systems of character types, such as the Enneagram or that used in Bioenergetics, because these systems attempt to capture a client’s entire character in one type. However, in the Pattern System, each pattern describes just one aspect of a client’s personality, and we expect that each person will have many different patterns and healthy capacities, at least one for each dimension. In fact, the richness of the pattern system fosters an attitude of looking deeply into a client’s behavior and issues with the goal of understanding the uniqueness of that person’s dynamics, rather than just giving him or her a label.

The Pattern System is similar to the Myers-Briggs test in being based on certain dimensions of personality. However, the Myers-Briggs system is oriented toward clarifying a person’s innate tendencies, while the Pattern System is focused on understanding a person’s healthy and problematic ways of functioning, which are more based on life experiences and can be modified by psychotherapy.

The Pattern System and IFS

IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy) was created by pioneering psychologist Richard Schwartz, PhD. It is an established and increasingly popular form of therapy which I use almost exclusively in my practice as a therapist because it is so powerful and user-friendly.

The Pattern System and IFS complement each other. IFS is a very powerful method for psychotherapy that is process oriented. Unlike many other therapy approaches, IFS doesn’t attempt to lay out the specific dynamics of a person’s psychology, in terms of underlying core issues, primary defenses, and so on. Other than the very important distinction it makes between managers, firefighters, and exiles, IFS focuses exclusively on the therapy process, with the assumption that the therapist doesn’t need to figure out and interpret the client’s issues. Once the client gets to know his or her parts, they will tell you what is going on.

The Pattern System supplies the specific psychology of various types of parts. It constitutes a map of the human psyche. Each pattern delineates a type of part that is commonly encountered in IFS work. Each healthy capacity defines an aspect of the Self or a non-extreme part in IFS. The Pattern System shows how a kind of protector may protect certain kinds of exile, which parts may be polarized with each other, be allied, and other systemic relationships. The Pattern System lays out the typical motivations for each type of IFS protector and the usual childhood origins for each type of exile.

The Pattern System doesn’t encourage people to put parts in boxes and assume they know a part when they understand what pattern it has. We recognize that each part is unique and must be understood by getting to know it experientially. The Pattern System provides a way for people and therapists to begin to understand what a person’s configuration of parts may be and what typical dynamics and relationships exist.

Therefore these two models complement each other. IFS provides the therapy process and the Pattern System the psychological content. The Pattern System doesn’t need to include a method for therapy because it can rely on IFS for that. They work together beautifully.

For more information about the Pattern System, click