Positive Sobriety: Who Am I? The Temperament and Character Inventory

The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) is a computerized self-report that evaluates specific dimensions of personality. This test was created by Robert Cloninger, MD, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. This highly sophisticated inventory has been one of the most validated and clinically utilized reports of its kind and I have had the good fortune to work directly with Dr. Cloninger in integrating this report into our treatment approaches.

The TCI has four temperament and three character dimensions. Temperament traits are novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence and persistence. The character traits are self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence. The temperament traits manifest early in life and generally involve automatic responses to emotional stimuli. Character, on the other hand, is learned and can be greatly influenced by therapy and growth in recovery.

Each of these TCI dimensions has several subscale measures that allow for a deeper understanding of that particular dimension. An example of a temperament dimension is Harm Avoidance. If someone scores high on this dimension and in particular the subscale of “anticipatory worry,” they tend to be anxious and fearful by nature.

The character dimensions represent what a person has been able to intentionally develop. An example of a Character dimension is Self-Directedness, which includes a person’s ability to take responsibility for his or her actions and learn from mistakes. Another Character dimension is Self-Transcendence, which measures self-forgetfulness and spiritual acceptance. The measurement of spirituality as a function of personality is unique to this self-report and particularly relevant to addiction treatment, where spiritual growth has been correlated strongly with good treatment outcomes.

A computerized report is generated after someone takes the TCI and describes several temperament and character types. For example, someone high in Novelty Seeking, low in Harm Avoidance and high in Reward Dependence can be described as “passionate.” If someone is high in all three character dimensions, he or she is described as “creative.” We ask patients to choose which strengths and weaknesses they most agree with in all these subscale dimensions along with a recognition of what they are looking for in the addiction, what gives them satisfaction, and the various triggers and strategies that need attention for character growth and relapse prevention. Because patients have unique personality configurations and motives for use, this creates an opportunity for individualized treatment planning. The unique adaptive personality style of each patient is essential in the understanding of what drives the addiction as well as what drives recovery.

The TCI is repeated at the end of treatment to measure changes in these dimensions and subscales. This approach allows for robust discussion in individual and group sessions as well as within the therapeutic community. Additionally, character dimensions and subscales are easily correlated with the 12 steps of AA and can even facilitate Step work. This allows for an integration of concepts that resist confusion and support synergy between these therapeutic efforts.

I have been using these self-reports in our treatment program for addicted professionals for several years. Utilizing the TCI along with other diagnostic measures has greatly enhanced treatment approaches, including the facilitation of a more individualized treatment plan. Additionally the language of the TCI has been adopted within the treatment setting by both patients and staff, which allows for a more fluid means of communicating treatment efforts. The adoption of the TCI has also enhanced efforts at treatment interventions that can facilitate growth in character. This has included implementing specific treatment strategies such as teaching the patients meditation techniques that can increase their Self-Transcendence scores. This is one of many examples as to how the TCI and related interventions can positively influence treatment outcomes.

For more information on the TCI, including how to access it, please visit Positive Sobriety Institute website.