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The Role of Scripts in Psychological Maladjustment and Psychotherapy


  • I would like to thank Jefferson Singer and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on an earlier draft of this article.


This article considers the value of script theory for understanding psychological maladjustment and psychotherapy. Scripts are implicit expectations that individuals develop to understand and deal with emotionally significant life experiences. Script theory provides a way to understand the complex patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior that characterize personal consistency, as well as a way to address personality development and change. As such it is a vital model for understanding both personality and clinical phenomena. The article begins by describing script theory and noting similar models in personality and clinical psychology. It then outlines both idiographic and nomothetic methods for assessing scripts and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each. A survey of the author's program of research follows, using a nomothetic method to examine the role of interpersonal scripts in psychological maladjustment and psychotherapy. The article concludes by presenting a promising method for future research synthesizing idiographic and nomothetic approaches and raising important questions for future research on the role of scripts in psychological maladjustment and psychotherapy.