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Schöller, Helmut; Viol, Kathrin; Aichhorn, Wolfgang; Huett, Marc-Thorsten; Schiepek, Guenter (2018): Personality development in psychotherapy: a synergetic model of state-trait dynamics. In: Cognitive Neurodynamics, Vol. 12, No. 5: pp. 441-459
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Abstract

Theoretical models of psychotherapy not only try to predict outcome but also intend to explain patterns of change. Studies showed that psychotherapeutic change processes are characterized by nonlinearity, complexity, and discontinuous transitions. By this, theoretical models of psychotherapy should be able to reproduce these dynamic features. Using time series derived from daily measures through internet-based real-time monitoring as empirical reference, we earlier presented a model of psychotherapy which includes five state variables and four trait variables. In mathematical terms, the traits modulate the shape of the functions which define the nonlinear interactions between the variables (states) of the model. The functions are integrated into five coupled nonlinear difference equations. In the present paper, we model how traits (dispositions or competencies of a person) can continuously be altered by new experiences and states (cognition, emotion, behavior). Adding equations that link states to traits, this model not only describes how therapeutic interventions modulate short-term change and fluctuations of psychological states, but also how these can influence traits. Speaking in terms of Synergetics (theory of self-organization in complex systems), the states correspond to the order parameters and the traits to the control parameters of the system. In terms of psychology, trait dynamics is driven by the statesi.e., by the concrete experiences of a clientand creates a process of personality development at a slower time scale than that of the state dynamics (separation of time scales between control and order parameter dynamics).