Divergent Factions

Client Population Adolescent females who like the Divergent series and are struggling with having empathy for others in their lives and/or struggling with separating from their family and finding their own identity.


Quiz from Divergen t book (At the end of this page and also uploaded as a Word doc)


White paper

Drawing materials of the client’s choosing (colored pencils, crayons, markers, pastels, charcoal, etc.)


Introduction to activity: In the Divergent series, society is comprised of the following factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), and Candor (the honest). When teenagers reach the age of 16, they take a personality test that determines their faction based on their strengths and how they handle various scenarios. After given the result, individuals have the freedom to choose any of the 5 factions, even if it isn’t the same faction as their families or the same as their test result. Choosing their faction is a permanent decision and choosing to leave one’s family, resulting in seeing them once a year, is often traumatic for teenagers and their families.

For this activity, the client will take the faction quiz from Veronica Roth’s (2011) novel Divergent to determine what faction they fit in best based on their strengths, interests. and priorities. The client and therapist will then discuss which faction the client would actually choose at the Choosing Ceremony, regardless of their test result (individuals in the Divergent book have this same freedom). Then, the client will list important family members and friends in their lives and will discuss with the therapist what factions these individuals might fall into. Clients can draw a map to illuminate the distinctions between the different factions (optional).

Process questions or discussions during the activity might involve questioning their own strengths while also trying to understand how others might be different from them. The clinician might also ask the client(s) to put themselves in the other person’s shoes to more adequately understand their strengths/roles.

Processing might also involve whether or not the client is a different faction from their family. How does it make the client feel to be a different faction? If your client’s results include a different faction than their parents’, did they choose to remain in the same faction, to follow their own results, or to choose a completely different faction than either? This might allow clients to discuss their differences. It might be helpful to explore how it feels to be connected to their parents but also being different or separated from them. This would allow for a discussion surrounding separation/individuation and building/trying to understand one’s own distinct identity.

Expected Results & Troubleshooting One expected troubleshooting issue might involve clients feeling that they are not artistic enough to draw. The clinician would then discuss how the objective of the project is for the client to express him/herself and not necessarily to create a masterpiece. Drawing the map might provide a greater understanding of the divisions of society; therefore, it is not necessary that the map elaborates on the client’s faction assignments or, once again, is a masterpiece. Additionally, because the map is not essential to conducting this activity, any client can continue to participate in the activity without creating the factions map. The activity can also be introduced without mention of creating a map, if the therapist thinks that a particular client(s) will not be receptive to this component of the activity.
Another possible troubleshooting issue is if the client takes the activity very seriously, and has a very difficult time confronting having to leave their family if they were living in the fictional Divergent world. This is depicted as a potentially traumatic event for the 16-year-olds in Divergent , resulting in the parents being angry and heartbroken and the teenagers feeling guilty for choosing a different faction. If, in this activity, the client chooses to leave what they assume would be their parents’ faction and seems to be taking the activity so seriously to the point where it is interrupting their level of functioning outside of the therapy room, the therapist can do some “reality checking” with the client in which they remind them that this is only an exercise to help the client explore their identity and the perspectives of others. The therapist can tell the client that they can stop the exercise at any time and discuss the same topics without the Divergent activity as an aid.

Rationale Individuation refers to a process “by which a person becomes increasingly differentiated from a past or present relational context” (Karpel, 1976, p. 66). Individuals go through their first process of individuation during infancy, when an infant learns to distinguish that his/her mother is a separate entity (Mahler, 1972). The second process of individuation occurs in adolescence, when the individual learns to see themselves as different from his/her primary caregivers (Blos, 1979). At this time, individuals begin to disengage from internalized representations of primary caregivers that were once seen as part of their identity, and they establish a sense of self that is distinct and individuated. Even though adolescents begin to develop a distinct self, they might still integrate certain characteristics or representations of primary caregivers into their identity. Looking at the Divergent series, Tris undergoes this process of separation/individuation; thus, clients may be able to relate to her process of individuation and the struggles that occur with this change. She is also confronted with the idea of leaving her family, which is something that adolescents might begin to consider during this individuation stage.
Looking at the process of this activity, skills needed in the separation/individuation phase as well as skills for being empathic with others may be bolstered. Moriarty (1973) discusses the usage of collage making in a group setting with individuals who have schizophrenia, and he initially found that allowing clients to do so independently created a sense of autonomy. Similarly, individuals participating in this Divergent activity are encouraged to be autonomous in their choices of faction, which requires the employment of autonomy and agency. By engaging in this activity, individuals begin to practice the skills that are required during the adolescent stage of development. Additionally, creating a collage in a group required clients to interact with others, trying to understand others’ perspectives (Moriarty, 1973). The Divergent activity might also facilitate a similar understanding of others, as clients would be forced to acknowledge social interactions and another’s perspective when considering what faction to assign family and friends.
Regarding the population for this activity, adolescence is known a time when individuals go through what David Elkind (1967) termed “egocentrism,” during which they are overly focused on others’ opinions of them and assume an “imaginary audience” is watching their everyday actions. This natural developmental stage of intense focus on oneself can lead to conflicts with peers and family members, since the adolescent may not be as focused on the perspectives of others. Empathy is one of the most basic components of forming relationships with others, and formal empathy training programs have been shown to improve empathy when used with aggressive teenagers, couples, and mothers (Butters, 2010). However, little research exhibits empathy training with adolescents who may not have severe psychopathology but are nevertheless having conflicts with their friends and family due to being in the the egocentrism stage (Butters, 2010). This Divergent factions activity will hopefully be a fun way for female teenagers to explore the perspectives of those around them and realize that everyone approaches conflict, and life in general, in different ways.

Blos, P. (1979). The adolescent passage. New York: International Universities Press.

Butters, R. P. (2010). A meta-analysis of empathy training programs for client populations (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from J. Willard Marriott Digital Library

Elkind, D. (1967). Egocentrism in adolescence. Child Development, 38 (4), 1025-1034.

Karpel, M. (1976). Individuation: From fusion to dialogue. Family Process, 15 , 65-82.

Mahler, M. S. (1972). On the first three subphases of the separation-individuation process. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis .

Moriarty, J. (1973). Collage group therapy with female chronic schizophrenic inpatients. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice , 10 (2), 153.

Roth, V. (2011). Divergent . New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books.

Faction Quiz (Roth, 2011)

  1. You most want your friends and family to see you as someone who…
    a) Is willing to make sacrifices and help anyone in need.
    b) Is liked by everyone.
    c) Is trustworthy.
    d) Will protect them no matter what happens.
    e) Offers wise advice.

  2. When you are faced with a difficult problem, you react by…
    a) Doing whatever will be the best thing for the greatest number of people.
    b) Creating a work of art that expressed your feelings about the situation.
    c) Debating the issue with your friends.
    d) Facing it head-on. What else would you do?
    e) Making a list of pros and cons, and then choosing the option that the evidence best supports.

  3. What activity would you most likely find yourself doing on the weekend or on an unexpected day off?
    a) Volunteering
    b) Painting, dancing, or writing poetry
    c) Sharing opinions with your friends
    d) Rock climbing or skydiving!
    e) Catching up on your homework or reading for pleasure

  4. If you had to select one of the following options as a profession, which would you choose?
    a) Humanitarian
    b) Farmer
    c) Judge
    d) Firefighter
    e) Scientist

  5. When choosing your outfit for the day, you select…
    a) Whatever will attract the least amount of attention.
    b) Something comfortable, but interesting to look at.
    c) Something that’s simple, but still expresses your personality.
    d) Whatever will attract the most attention.
    e) Something that will not distract or inhibit you from what you have to do that day.

  6. If you discovered that a friend’s significant other was being unfaithful, you would…
    a) Tell your friend because you feel that it would be unhealthy for him or her to continue in a relationship where such selfish behavior is present.
    b) Sit them both down so that you can act as a mediator when they talk it over.
    c) Tell your friend as soon as possible. You can’t imagine keeping that knowledge a secret.
    d) Confront the cheater! You might also take action by slashing the cheater’s tires or egging his or her house – all in the name of protecting your friend, of course.
    e) Keep it to yourself. Statistics prove that your friend will find out eventually.

  7. What would you say is your highest priority in life right now?
    a) Serving those around you
    b) Finding peace and happiness for yourself
    c) Seeking truth in all things
    d) Developing your strength of character
    e) Success in work or school

If you chose mostly A s, you are ABNEGATION . You don’t like to draw attention to yourself, and you are more concerned about other people’s contentment than your own. You find joy and fulfillment in making other people happier, safer, and healthier. You believe that the world would be a better place if selfishness were not so widespread. Other people see you as somewhat difficult to get to know, but also as quiet and kind.
If you chose mostly B s, you are AMITY . You are at peace when the people around you are getting along. You appreciate music and the arts, and it is easy to make you laugh. One of your goals is to find as much happiness as you can. You believe that aggression and hostility are to blame for most of the world’s problems. Others see you as sometimes flaky or indecisive. but also easygoing and warm.
If you chose mostly C s, you are CANDOR . You are honest with everyone, no matter how difficult it is, and no matter how much trouble it gets you into. You aren’t easily offended, and would prefer to hear the truth even if it hurts. You believe that if everyone would be honest and forthright with each other, the world would be a much better place. Other people see you as sometimes insensitive, but also as trustworthy and confident.
If you chose mostly D s, you are DAUNTLESS . You love a good adrenaline rush, and you don’t let other people dictate your behavior. You do what you believe is right now matter how difficult or frightening it is. You believe that the world would be better off if people were not afraid to make things right. Others see you as often abrasive, but also as strong and bold.
If you chose mostly E s, you are ERUDITE . You enjoy learning new things, and you try to understand how everything works. You tend to make decisions based on logic rather than instinct or emotions. You believe the world would be a better place if everyone were well-educated and devoted to learning. Other people see you as sometimes condescending, but also as intelligent and insightful.

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.