Last updated on 4th April 2011
I've already written a couple of blog posts on the short day workshop I'm running early next month - "Psychotherapy & positive psychology: why psychotherapists should pay attention" and "Psychotherapy & positive psychology: the assessment dashboard". On the day itself I plan to start with a little background on what positive psychology is and how it has developed, then comment on why it's so relevant for psychotherapists, discuss assessment issues, and finally give examples by introducing three areas - self-determination theory, positive emotions, and self-compassion.
Interest in the good life & what helps people thrive goes back millennia through many researchers, psychologists, theologians & philosophers. Quoting from the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center "Is positive psychology a new field? No, it is not. Positive psychology has many distinguished ancestors. Since at least the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the "good life" has been the subject of philosophical and religious inquiry. Psychologists have been working in positive psychology for decades. It just hasn't been called positive psychology. To name just a few: Rogers (1951) and Maslow (1970) who are founders of the field of humanistic psychology, prevention programs based on wellness by Albee (1982) and Cowen (1994), work by Bandura (1989) and others on self-efficacy, research on gifted individuals (e.g., Winner, 2000), broader conceptions of intelligence (e.g., Gardner, 1983; Sternberg, 1985), among many others. Marie Jahoda (1958) made the case for understanding well being in its own right, not simply as the absence of disorder or distress ... Today's positive psychologists have not invented the study of happiness, well being, or strengths. The contribution of contemporary positive psychology has been to make the explicit argument that what makes life most worth living deserves its own empirically based field of study, to provide an umbrella term that brings together isolated lines of theory and research, to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas in related fields through conferences, summer institutes and research grants, to develop a comprehensive conceptual view of broad notions of happiness, to bring this field to the attention of various foundations and funding agencies, to help raise money for research, and to firmly ground assertions on the scientific method". The "umbrella term" Positive Psychology has now been up & running for about 15 years - since the mid to late 90's. The field has come a long way in that time.
Here is the 45 slide Powerpoint presentation that I'm making - sadly it's with the scanned cartoons removed (for copyright reasons). The three areas I dipped our toe into are all well represented on this website. For self-determination theory see the slides, handouts & questionnaires at "Wellbeing, time management & self-determination" , the main "Self-determination theory website" itself, and the practical exercise to be used comes from Sheldon et al's 2010 paper "Persistent pursuit of need-satisfying goals leads to increased happiness: A 6-month experimental longitudinal study". As for positive emotion and Barbara Fredrickson, see the post "How positive emotions work, and why" and her websites "Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab (PEPLab)" and "Positivity" where you can assess your positive:negative emotions ratio. The gratitude/appreciation exercise that I give as an example of savouring is downloadable from the "Wellbeing & calming skills" page of this site. And as for self-compassion, that's quite a theme of other blog posts this month. See for example "Boosting self-compassion & self-encouragement by strengthening attachment security - twelve practical suggestions" and also the web page "Compassion & criticism".