Behavioral counseling and trait-factor counseling are two of the most widespread and influential therapeutic modalities in use today. All school counselors, employment counselors or interviewers, welfare workers, and others who use personality testing to determine a person's character and potential are utilizing trait-factor assumptions. Similarly, all therapists, teachers, parents, and law enforcement personnel who seek to change someone's behavior through the application of rewards and punishments, are using behavior modification.
Trait-factor counseling is the only counseling method which has its root in vocational counseling. It dates back to 1908, when Frank Parsons founded the Boston Vocational Bureau and stated his conviction that in order to choose the best career, one had to understand oneself, the characteristics of different job environments, and the relationship between these variables. Trait-factor theory was further developed during the testing movement in the U.S./ during the 1930's by psychologists like E.G. Williamson, John Darley, and Donald G. Paterson (Downing, 1975).
Trait-factor counseling is an extremely cognitive approach based on the scientific method and the theory of individual differences. Its major underlying assumptions include the following:
1. Each person has a unique pattern of traits (i.e. interests, abilities, and characteristics) that are relatively stable and rarely change after adolescence.
2. These traits are measurable and quantifiable through the use of objective tests.
3. A given environment also has characteristics, or "factors", which can be similarly quantified.
4. The success of an individual in a particular environment can be predicted by examining the compatibility of the trait and factor profiles of the individual and the environment (George & Cristiani, 1990).
The goal of trait-factor counseling is to enable the client to make better decisions and to act on tho...