Let's Understand Introjection: LMSW Exam Prep

By Emily Pellegrino on August 31, 2012

A man with cloud of thoughts floating away.

It may feel like we are bombarding you all with defense mechanisms these days, but as Bethany said in her blog post on psychological phenomena two weeks ago, they're really important to know for the LMSW exam! So without further ado, this week we are going to discuss introjection.  Let's get started with a sample question.


Which of the following BEST defines introjection?

A. When unacceptable aspects of one's own personality are rejected or attributed to another person or entity.

B. When an individual takes aspects or feelings from another person or object and directs them internally.

C. Behaving or thinking in ways that are opposite of the original unconscious trait.

D. The redirection of thoughts, feelings, and impulses that are deemed unacceptable and thus transferred to another thought, feeling or impulse, that is more tolerable or acceptable.

I think it can be really easy to get mixed up with defense mechanisms since many of them are just slightly different when you look at their definition. The Social Work Dictionary defines introjection as, "A mental mechanism in which the individual derives feelings from another person or object and directs them internally to an imagined form of the object or person" (Barker, 2003).  An example of this is if a child grows up with a verbally abusive parent.  Over time as that child grows into an adult he/she may begin to take on the negative qualities, values, and feelings of that abusive parent. In this case introjection helps the individual feel more in control and takes away the feelings of fear and helplessness that they may have experienced as a child.  On the other hand, introjection can be used in a positive manner by taking in the values of a person that we may admire and incorporating those qualities into ourselves as well.


With all that being said, it should be clear now that the best answer here is B. The additional choices are actually definitions of other defense mechanisms.  These include A as projection, C as reaction formation, and D as displacement.  Even as I write these I keep mixing them up! It's easy to confuse one for another and therefore shows why it's important to learn the differences between each definition before heading into the exam.

Coming up next week: Jurisdiction

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your LMSW exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam, check out our LMSW Study Materials. Learn more about our exam prep at the The Therapist Development Center home page.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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