Since its very creation, human services have focussed on the dysfunction and diseases within people. When a person sees a counsellor or therapist, they talk about their problems, what their symptoms are, and what is wrong.
Positive psychology has emerged within the last decade in order to figure out what makes people strong, resilient, fulfilled, and perhaps most importantly, happy. The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania defines it as,
“the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”
The use of positive psychology does not mean that problems will not be looked at, responsibility owned, or that everything is going to be happy and easy for the person beginning the recovery journey. Problems have to be acknowledged, accepted, and responsibility for fixing them has to be owned.
The difference here is that the solutions start with the person. Their strengths, virtues, assets, and desires for happiness are the starting point. A person’s problems are often of their own making, so there is some sense that the solutions come from them as well. One of the first things to do is conduct a strength survey, where the person must identify their strengths, values, and things that are meaningful to themselves, providing the beginning tools to use in therapy.
Positive psychology is about more than just thinking happy thoughts. It is about identifying negative, or more accurately unhelpful, thought patterns, consistent assessments and interpretations of things going on in a person’s life, and reviewing them for their usefulness. They are viewed as helpful or not helpful, and not just good or bad. The helpful thoughts are the ones that help evoke a feeling of contentment, happiness, fulfillment, or meaning. Those thought patterns are actively identified and encouraged.
Positive psychology may sound like just think happy thoughts, but it’s more complex, and more helpful than that. It looks at setbacks as opportunities to grow and learn and not something of which to be ashamed, and the concepts and techniques cross-pollinate. The goal setting and focus on happiness and fulfillment, as well as the focus on what works and what strengths the person brings with them can be both miraculous and difficult at the same time for a person who has not had much hope or joy in their lives.
Join us at College of Allied Educators to learn more about your deepest emotions, and discover how you can overcome your fears, disagreements, and challenges in order to build a happier life for yourself and your loved ones.
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