Terence Tracey

Terence J. G. Tracey, an American counseling psychologist, is a leading researcher and theorist who has made important contributions to psychologists’ understanding of vocational interests, vocational interest development, and the assessment of vocational interest structure. Tracey has also contributed significantly to psychologists’ understanding of the counseling process from an interpersonal perspective, and to methodological approaches to counseling research.

Academic Life

Tracey received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland in 1981. From 1981 to 1983 he taught and practiced as a counseling psychologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1983, and served as the associate chair of the Department of Educational Psychology (1995-1997) and Chair and Training Director of the Division of Counseling Psychology (1988-1991, 1998-1999). Tracey joined the Arizona State University faculty in 1999. He served as associate editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology from 1999 to 2005. He also serves on the editorial board of numerous academic journals spanning the counseling, clinical, vocational, and assessment areas. He has been awarded fellow status by the American Psychological Association (Divisions 7, 9, and 17), the American Psychological Society, and the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology.

Research and Influence

Tracey’s early research focused on the counseling process, client-therapist interactions, and interpersonal models of personality and psychotherapy.

Tracey examined interpersonal complementarity, or the fit of sequential interpersonal behaviors, between therapist and client. He proposed that a three-stage process of complementarity was indicative of successful therapy. He suggested that the most successful therapy outcomes are obtained when complementarity is initially high, dips to a low as therapy approaches the midpoint, and becomes high again as therapy moves toward its conclusion. Thus therapy dyads that did not follow the three-stage pattern would not result in a successful outcome. He suggested that change results from therapists altering their responses away from the historical responses established by clients, especially in the middle stages of therapy.

In the 1990s Tracey began a fruitful collaboration with James Rounds, focusing on John Holland’s RIASEC (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) model of interests and the structure of vocational interests. Tracey and Rounds published the first extensive analyses of the structural elements of Holland’s model. In this work they pioneered the use of multidimensional scaling and the randomization procedure to examine the underlying structure of interest data.

Extant models of interest structure such as Holland’s RIASEC model were based on Anne Roe and Dale Predigers’s recognition that occupations differed along two dimensions that reflected their involvement with people as opposed to things, and data as opposed to ideas. Tracey and Rounds argued that occupations also differed along a third dimension, prestige, and they proposed a spherical model that comprised eight interest types at the midlevel of prestige. The spherical model of interest structure has garnered strong empirical support internationally. Subsequently, Tracey developed the Personal Globe Inventory to measure the spherical model. Tracey’s innovative analyses of circumplexity, including his use of the randomization procedure and multidimensional scaling analysis, has strengthened the empirical base of vocational psychology and enhanced the standing of counseling psychology research in the view of experimental psychology.


  1. Tracey, T. J. G. (2002). Personal Globe Inventory: Measurement of the spherical model of interests and competence beliefs. [Monograph]. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 60, 113-172.
  2. Tracey, T. J., Heck, E. J., & Lichtenberg, J. W. (1981). Role expectations and symmetrical/complementary therapeutic relationships. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 18, 338-344.
  3. Tracey, T. J., & Ray, P. B. (1984). The stages of successful time-limited counseling: An interactional examination. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 13-27.
  4. Tracey, T. J. G., & Rounds, J. (1996). Spherical representation of vocational interests. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 48, 3-41.

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