Person-centered Health Promotion in Chronic Disease

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C. Robert Cloninger


Health promotion must be person-centered, not organ- or disease-centered, in order to be effective because physical, mental, social, and spiritual aspects of human functioning are inextricably intertwined.  Chronic medical disorders, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and arthritis, are strongly associated with immature personality, emotional instability, and social dysfunction.  All indicators of physical, mental, and social well-being are strongly related to the level of maturity and integration of personality, so personality is a useful focus for the promotion of well-being. Assessment of personality also facilitates the awareness of the clinician and the patient about the patient’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals, thereby contributing to an effective therapeutic alliance.  Health, well-being, resilience, and recovery of function all involve increasing levels of the character traits of Self-directedness, Cooperativeness, and Self-transcendence. Person-centered programs that enhance self-regulation of functioning to achieve personally valued goals improve compliance with medical treatment and quality of life in people with chronic disease.  Effective therapeutic approaches to health promotion activate a complex adaptive system of feedback interactions among functioning, plasticity, and virtuous ways of thinking and acting.  The probability of personality change can be predicted by high levels of Self-transcendence, which give rise to an outlook of unity and connectedness, particularly when combined with the temperament traits of high Novelty Seeking and high Persistence. In summary, person-centered psychobiological treatments that facilitate the development of well-being and personality development are crucial in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of chronic medical diseases. 

Article Details

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Author Biography

C. Robert Cloninger, Sansone Family Center for Well-Being at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA

Prof Cloninger is Wallace and Lucille Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology and Genetics, and Director of the Sansone Family Center for Well-Being at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is also Scientific Director of the Anthropedia InstituteDr. Cloninger received his B.A. with High Honors and Special Honors in Philosophy, Psychology, and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, 1966.  He received his M.D. from Washington University in 1970 and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Umea, Sweden in 1983.  He has published 10 books and more than 400 articles in psychiatry, psychology, and genetics.   His recent books include the Origins of Cooperation and Altruism by Springer, Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being by Oxford University Press, and Personality and Psychopathology by American Psychiatric Press.  Among his many awards, Dr. Cloninger has received the American Psychiatric Association’s Adolf Meyer Award (1993) and Judd Marmor Award (2009), and lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (2000) and the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (2003).  He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA, a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.  The Institute of Scientific Information ranks him among the most highly cited psychiatrists and psychologists in the world. His personality inventories have been used in more than 4000 peer-reviewed publications.


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