The ¨Strength Deployment Inventory¨ has been used widely in a variety of counselling settings including school, individual, group, marriage, and family therapy. The SDI is unique as a self and other awareness instrument in that it provides insights into one’s underlying motivations, both when things are going well and when one has encountered conflict or opposition. It provides a holistic view of the person by offering a common language and a common scoring grid for both of these mental states. It shows how conflict is related to the going-well state, how to better manage it, and ultimately how to return to a going-well state.

The SDI was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Elias Porter, a student of Carl Rogers, who was also strongly inspired by Erich Fromm. It combines elements of humanistic psychology (personal strengths and human choice) with elements of psychodynamic theory (underlying motivational values) into one assessment. It was developed for a healthy, adult population. The PVI is the easy-reading version of the SDI and is especially effective for younger populations.

In individual counselling, the Premier SDI can be used to help the individual determine what really matters to them in their life. The Portrait of Personal Strengths, included as part of the Premier SDI, will help the person to define tangible strengths that they bring to a job or to a relationship. The Portrait of Overdone Strengths, also included in the Premier, helps to define what strengths that individual may need to be wary of overdoing in their relationships. Overdone strengths can very easily generate preventable conflict by creating conflict triggers for others. In learning to manage their strengths and not overdoing them, individuals can avoid creating unnecessary conflict. The Premier SDI will help individual clients gain new insights into how they view themselves, the way they prioritise their life, and the ways they act on their values. It will also help them to define what strengths they may need to “borrow” or use more often. The Feedback SDI and “Portraits” will give the individual counselling client others’ perspectives on them. Feedback tools can be used with family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who knows the individual well. The feedback tools will show the individual what others believe to be his or her motivational values, as well as how others see them acting on those motivations. Feedback tools provide a forum for non-judgmental and powerful feedback that will help the individual to get a firmer grasp on how he or she relates to others.

In group counselling, the Premier Edition of the SDI can be used in close conjunction with the Feedback Editions of the SDI, the Portrait of Personal Strengths, and the Portrait of Overdone Strengths. By providing feedback to each other, while gaining strong insights into how they see themselves, the members of the group can come to a better understanding of what interpersonal relations are and how they are affected by the unique perspective that each individual brings to the relationship. It will help the group to understand and appreciate differing perspectives, and teach the individuals how to communicate with others in ways that will be meaningful and effective for the other individuals.

In marriage and family therapy, the Premier SDI, in concert with the Feedback tools, will help the family to understand what the source of their conflicts is, and how to address the conflicts. The suite of Relationship Awareness tools will show them that they each have an individual perspective that colours the way they see the others in the family or the marriage, and how this impacts the relationship(s). They will help the family members to avoid overdoing or misapplying strengths, thus avoiding the creation of conflict triggers. If warranted conflict is encountered, the tools will give the family members the insights into themselves and the other members that will enable to address the conflict productively at Stage 1, rather than diving deeper into the 2nd or 3rd stages of conflict (where the other people fall out of the list of concerns).

In the school counselling setting, the Premier SDI and the feedback tools will provide a basis for understanding the differences that exist between students. It will help students who feel that they are completely different or alienated to realise that they are not alone, that there are others who share their perspective. It will help diffuse anger between students who can’t understand each others’ points of view, helping to diffuse violence within the school setting. The tools will help teachers to identify ways to approach students of varying Motivational Value Systems and how to make their teaching appeal to students of every Motivational Value System type. It will aid school counsellors in understanding their students better, and how to craft advice that will matter to each individual student.

As an example of this last application, school counselling, let us look at 13-year-old middle school student, Joseph. Joseph is a misunderstood young man who spends much of his time alone. He does have friends, though none that he would call “best friends.” Joseph, while he is likeable, gets teased often. The kids teasing him mean no harm by their teasing, they’re really just not sure what to make of him, are curious about him, and teasing is the only way they have of making conversation with him. To Joseph the teasing is anything but harmless; it is painful and humiliating. Despite his growing anger, he denies that there are any problems, even to his counsellor, whom he genuinely likes and is usually honest with. As the weeks go on and the teasing continues, Joseph gets angrier and starts to withdraw from others. He doesn’t even visit his counsellor any more, and his parents start to notice him becoming more reclusive, though it is “nothing that out of the ordinary.” To the students teasing him, Joseph has become “weirder.” He avoids them, but they pursue, it’s now a game for them to see how much they can tease him. The “game” goes on for weeks, Joseph trying to avoid others while they taunt him with names and insults. He seems harmless enough, he just continues to keep to himself, avoiding others when possible, and walking away from situations, angry, but not violent. Then one afternoon, one of the kids who is in the group that usually teases him confronts him alone. It’s been a bad day for Joseph, his pet dog is ill and his parents have been fighting. The boy teases him and Joseph lashes out with vulgar language and a pen he had been holding. The boy is cut, but the primary injury is to his ego. Fortunately the counsellor stepped in and stopped the incident before it escalated.

Wondering how someone who seems as honest and kind as Joseph could hold in such anger and have it explode forth in a tirade, and wondering how she had missed the “signs,” the counsellor schedules regular sessions with Joseph. In these sessions she gives Joseph a Personal Values Inventory to complete. The results are interesting. Joseph is found to be “Green” in a going-well state, that is, he needs time alone, he likes to think things through, he has strong principles, and lives his life according to a set of rules, which he is certain are good rules to live by. His first stage of conflict is “Blue,” accommodating. His second stage of conflict is “Green,” trying to escape from the situation. His third stage of conflict has a very low score and is “Red,” or having to fight for one’s life.

Delving deeper into Joseph’s scores, the string of events begins to make sense. The other children found Joseph to be odd because he has such a strong set of principles, additionally, being “Green,” or “Analytic-Autonomising,” Joseph is inclined to want to do things on his own and to spend time by himself. The other children read this as “weird” behaviour (likely due to their own “filters” or Motivational Value Systems), and label Joseph as such and the teasing begins. As the children tease him, Joseph makes an attempt to accommodate (Stage 1 Conflict). He feels that by smiling and not asserting himself, the others will “just go away” and the conflict will be over. In Stage 1 the individual experiencing the conflict cares about their Self, the Problem, and the Other Person. Blue Stage 1 is sometimes characterised by an outward denial, explaining why Joseph did not mention the conflict to his parents or to his counsellor.

After a time, when this strategy has failed, he moves into Stage 2 Conflict, for Joseph, a “Green” response. In Stage 2 Conflict, the individual no longer cares about the other person, they care only about their Self and the Problem. In a typical Stage 2 Green response, he tries to escape the conflict and those “causing” it. Now he is a more active participant in the conflict, but his activity is an attempt to run away. He tries to avoid the children, but they pursue, and in time, this strategy too, fails him.

Joseph then moves to Stage 3 Conflict. His Stage 3 Conflict response occurs when he is accosted by the individual who usually teases him as part of a group. In Stage 3, the individual does not care about the Problem or the Other Person, they care only about Self-preservation. For Joseph this is an unusual place to be and he lashes out in what he now perceives to be a fight for his life. He lashes out with all he has, which shocks the student teasing him, the counsellor, and even himself. The counsellor now sees what could have been done.

Had she been aware earlier of Joseph’s going-well and conflict relating styles, she could have shared and explained this information to him. Joseph would have been more empowered to take control of his behaviours when he was faced with conflict. He also would not have been pushed into conflict as easily because he would have seen that the other students saw him as “weird” when he was reclusive, but he would have known that he was not weird, just different from them. Joseph also would have been aware of the ability to “borrow” behaviours that helped the other students to relate better to him. Finally, he would have been in better control of himself in the conflict situation. He could have borrowed behaviours during conflict to help diffuse the conflict before it had escalated. At least he would have been in control enough to talk to someone about what was going on with him.