The Developmental Profile

What is the Developmental Profile?

Personality profile

Much of what adults think, feel and do corresponds to their age. However, sometimes adults revert to patterns consistent with an earlier stage of development. The adult psyche is not a flat plain, but a complex landscape full of peaks and valleys.

With some mental health patients, immature patterns may be disproportionate. This can give rise to specific problems that require attention during treatment. But how do you, as a practitioner, gain insight into the unique psychological landscape of your patient?

Map of the psychic landscape

The Developmental Profile, developed in the Netherlands by Prof. Dr. Robert Abraham, offers a comprehensive method to map the adaptive and disadaptive areas in a person’s personality.

Result: a strength-weakness analysis of the patient’s psychosocial functioning. This way you not only get a diagnostic overview, but personalized starting points for the treatment as well.

The profile integrates existing classification systems – such as the DSM 5 – with the psychodynamic frame of reference, and is therefore widely applicable. In cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, it offers insight into individual thinking patterns. In psychodynamic therapy it helps you predict the role transference and countertransference will play.

Levels of Psychodynamic Functioning

The Developmental Profile distinguishes nine levels of functioning, which can occur in various combinations and thus always make a unique inner landscape visible:


Adaptive (ADAP)

Generativity/maturity: A true joint responsibility for the functioning of society, Decentralization whereby one’s personal interests are no longer of primary importance; no longer placing oneself at the centre of things.
Solidarity: Functioning in a relationship. Being part of a larger entity, without losing one’s own personality
Individuation: Self-realization; living life in one’s own way, taking into account the existing possibilities as well as the interests of others


Maladaptive (MALADAP)

Rivalry: Insecurity about one’s own qualities as an adult man or woman, together with a striving to prove oneself
Resistance: The lack of autonomy; a lack of inner freedom
Dependence: Incomplete separation, an inability to function independently


Egocentricity: An excessive and/or egoistic attitude
Fragmentation: A lack of inner consistency
Lack of structure: The lack of a frame of reference and/or the lack of certain general human abilities

How can you use the Developmental Profile?

The Developmental Profile as a frame of reference

The Developmental Profile can serve as a frame of reference, in your own practice or within your team. It offers perspective using a wealth of clinical facts and paints a clear and concise picture of complex problems. In addition, the profile provides a common language. For example, you may notice symptoms in someone diagnosed with ‘depression’ that fall within the early childhood level Fragmentation. This common language allows you to connect to this most vulnerable level of development in the treatment. At the same time, someone’s strengths can also be brought to life.

The Developmental Profile in Diagnostics and Assessment

You can also use the profile as an empirical instrument for additional diagnostics and assessment. The questionnaire and the structured interview show where your patient is functioning at an adult level and where they are not. Some training is required for this application.

The Developmental Profile Inventory (DPI)

The validated questionnaire consists of 108 items. Scores are provided in the form of nine levels of psychodynamic functioning. Scores of two control groups (the average population and a patient population in mental health care) are available for comparison. Recent statistical analyzes show that the measurements are reliable and consistent.

Common uses for the Developmental Profile:

  • As a diagnostic tool
  • For indication setting
  • To identify core problems
  • To predict (counter) transference
  • To anticipate therapy-disrupting behavior
  • To choose a focused treatment
  • To move from stagnation to progress in treatment
  • To avoid imminent drop-out
  • As a second opinion in a complex case

What do users say?

‘Provides a clear strength-weakness analysis of the personality; shows both someone’s strengths and weaknesses.’

‘In addition to the core problem, it also provides a picture of the “islands of health”. This is helpful for determining the indication for psychotherapy (more supportive or more disruptive interventions) and for the correct dosage of a treatment. Also determines which goals to work on.’

‘Gives direction to the way in which the therapeutic relationship should be shaped. Predicts which themes can be expected in the transfer relationship and visualizes countertransference in good time.’

‘Makes clear where a treatment can stagnate, and how these stagnations in the treatment can be smoothed out again.’

‘During the treatment I keep the frame of reference of the Developmental Profile in mind. That helps me to connect as closely as possible with the patient from moment to moment.’

‘By using the OP at the time, I fell, so to speak, ‘into my place’. Since then, the insight gained at that time has helped me further on my life path, with the underlying frame serving me as a mirror and as a walking stick.’

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