A systematic review of personality trait change through intervention

Psychol Bull. 2017 Feb;143(2):117-141. doi: 10.1037/bul0000088. Epub 2017 Jan 5.


The current meta-analysis investigated the extent to which personality traits changed as a result of intervention, with the primary focus on clinical interventions. We identified 207 studies that had tracked changes in measures of personality traits during interventions, including true experiments and prepost change designs. Interventions were associated with marked changes in personality trait measures over an average time of 24 weeks (e.g., d = .37). Additional analyses showed that the increases replicated across experimental and nonexperimental designs, for nonclinical interventions, and persisted in longitudinal follow-ups of samples beyond the course of intervention. Emotional stability was the primary trait domain showing changes as a result of therapy, followed by extraversion. The type of therapy employed was not strongly associated with the amount of change in personality traits. Patients presenting with anxiety disorders changed the most, and patients being treated for substance use changed the least. The relevance of the results for theory and social policy are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Disorders / therapy
  • Personality*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic / methods
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Psychotropic Drugs