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How personality type impacts dermatology practice


Based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one expert explains how each of eight mental processes may impact interactions with patients and staff. By understanding our default processes, we can begin to identify blind-spots in our ways of interacting with others



Psychologist Carl Jung identified eight mental processes that people use to acquire and evaluate information.

Robert W. McAlpineWhat’s interesting is that each of us is more likely to use the processes that come naturally to us and that we prefer. We use the processes that don’t come as naturally less consciously and often with less control and skill; yet, to be most effective, we need to be able to use all the processes effectively, calling on the one that’s most needed in a particular situation, according to Robert W. McAlpine, president of Type Resources, a company that provides clients with the knowledge they need to use personality type theory successfully with individuals and teams.

Understand your preferences

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a tool that indicates which mental processes an individual is likely to prefer. Finding those preferences is the first step in using personality types to one’s advantage.

“By understanding our ‘default’ processes, we can begin to identify blind-spots in our ways of interacting with others,” McAlpine says.




Information intake

McAlpine explained to Dermatology Times each mental process, highlighting the ways in which it might play out in a dermatologist's interactions with patients, staff and administrative responsibilities.

The first four mental processes focus on information gathering.

Extraverted sensation. Extraverted sensation helps to make one aware of his or her current physical environment. This process has a present time orientation, McAlpine says.

“It also draws one to engage with what is providing the greatest attraction, and to stay with that engagement until something more attractive enters the environment,” he adds. “With patients, this process is used to observe the condition of the skin. With staff, it is used to notice what staff members are doing, and how they are doing what they are doing. From a business perspective, it provides information about what competing practices are doing and how patients are responding to how they are being treated.”




Introverted sensation. Individuals with a preference for introverted sensation, use the process to verify what they are experiencing or the information they have received by checking with how well it matches what they’ve experienced or have been taught in the past. Unlike extraverted sensation, introverted sensation has a past time orientation.

With patients, this process is used to compare what one is observing according to past observations, to identify similarities and differences, and to remember what forms of treatment one has tried before on similar skin conditions, McAlpine explains, adding that “with the staff, it is used to recognize changes in performance, allowing one to recognize improvements or make an intervention if necessary. From a business perspective, it allows one to compare one’s current performance with how one performed in the past. Some business comparisons might be financial, supply management, time spent per patient or waiting time per patient.”




Extraverted intuition. A mental process with a future orientation, extraverted intuition identifies patterns within the experiences or information and explores possibilities for using recognized patterns.

“With patients this would identify when skin conditions are appearing across the person’s body instead of on just an isolated area, or appearing across patients instead of (in) just one patient. These patterns might be used to recommend changes in one’s lifestyle or to identify environmental changes that are putting the health of the community at risk,” McAlpine says. “With the staff, it could be used to discuss what improvements might be made in office procedures that would make work easier and more patient-friendly. Similar types of improvement discussion could be applied to multiple business aspects, as well.”




Introverted intuition. Introverted intuition is not impacted by time. Instead, this mental process synthesizes what has been acquired through the previous three processes to arrive at one’s interpretation of the meaning of all of the information.

“While this knowing may come immediately, it is most likely to take reflection time to allow the synthesis to occur and the knowing to form in one’s consciousness,” McAlpine says. “With patients, it is this knowing that guides the dermatologist in understanding the skin condition of the client and whether it is unique to the client or a community issue. With the staff, it provides a sense of knowing what actions to take or not take, and the same is true from a business perspective.”

The next four are decision-making mental processes.

“Just as we are all always gathering information, we are also always evaluating that information to make decisions. Remember, everyone uses all of these processes, but we all are more comfortable using some versus others,” McAlpine says.




Extraverted feeling. Used to assess the state of the relationship among people, extraverted feeling from a patient perspective involves meeting the patient in the patient’s psychological space and interacting to establish a positive relationship with the patient, according to McAlpine.

“With the staff it involves maintaining a positive supportive relationship with the staff and among the staff members. It also means having the staff interacting with the patients in a way that has the patient feeling good about having selected this clinic,” he says. “In the business environment, it means not burning bridges; instead, maintaining a positive supporting relationship with all suppliers, competitors and users of one’s services, as one never knows when one might need to call their help.”




Introverted feeling. This is a mental process that assesses how well what one is doing matches with one’s core values.

“From a patient’s perspective it’s what needs to be teased out of the patient so that the doctor knows what is important to the patient. With the staff, the same is true because it’s having an alignment between what is expected of a staff member, and what is important to the staff member that builds commitment to the organization,” McAlpine says. “It’s this process that gives the doctor input into whether one’s interventions are, or have been, adequate, regardless of how the client has responded or progressed. From a business perspective, it provides the incentive to find solutions to the problems the organization faces and to push through to success.”




Introverted thinkingIt is through introverted thinking’s use that desired goals or objectives are precisely developed and stated along with everything that is effected by achieving those goals or objectives. 

“It’s the process the doctor uses to know what can be achieved and all of the ramifications of the treatment. It is then used to explain the expected outcome to the patient,” McAlpine says. “With the staff, it is used to define and clarify expectations, and, from a business perspective, it identifies the goals and objectives the leadership seeks to achieve.”




Extraverted thinking. This process is used to plan how to achieve a desired goal or objective. It sequences all activities that must occur and monitors the sequence to regulate activities, so that all happens at the appropriate time.

“With regard to patients, it’s the process doctors use to explain how they plan to conduct a procedure to the client. It lets the client know what is going to happen and how it will happen,” McAlpine says. “When used with the staff, it aligns performance activities with the goals and objectives of the organization. From a business perspective, it can be used to ensure that all activities in the organization are contributing to the organization achieving its goals and objectives.”




Putting knowledge into practice

Now that you know the eight mental processes, how can you use mental processes to your advantage? The answer, according to McAlpine, is to recognize what each mental process provides, and its need in the workplace.

“Then, a person can seek to become self-aware as to which mental processes one tends to use and which ones tend to be overlooked or shortchanged,” he says. “Another way is to take a moment to focus on the task one is about to attempt to accomplish, and assess what mental processes are essential for that task, so one can be more aware of the need to use each mental process at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.”


Real-life examples

McAlpine offers Dermatology Times’ readers these real-life examples of how physicians he has encountered have used the mental processes.

  • About a month ago I had an accident and had to go see a surgeon. When the surgeon came into the exam room he immediately focused on my injury and started to examine the injury without introducing himself. Couldn’t he have at least taken a moment to introduce himself and maybe ask how I almost amputated my finger? This is a definite example of a failure to use Extraverted Feeling and an over focus on Extraverted Sensation.

  • I had a dermatology appointment recently during which the dermatologist, upon entering the room, immediately noticed my finger and inquired about how I hurt it and how it was healing. He used both Extraverted Sensation and Extraverted Feeling appropriately. Later in the visit, he was examining a place on my nose and recognized that he had attempted to freeze the spot before, which is a great example of Introverted Sensation.

  • Several years ago when diagnosed with colon cancer, the surgeon took the time to explain all of the treatment options to my wife and I, so that we knew what the possible treatments were and the success rates for each. He also described, from start to finish, how each possible treatment would be performed. This was a great example of Extraverted Intuition, Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Thinking. He then used Extraverted Feeling by leaving us alone to discuss the options for about 10 minutes. [He returned] to answer our questions, [then left] us alone, again. He continued this process for approximately two hours, while we worked our way to a solution. When we told him our solution, he agreed with the decision.  I have never felt so supported than the way he supported us through that process.

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