This summer I decided to take two courses to further expand my knowledge as a counselor. One course explores death and dying and the other course delves in to crisis and trauma. Needless to say, I expected it to be a rather heavy summer. I was pleasantly surprised while reading my crisis counseling textbook the other day when I flipped the page and saw the heading “Positive Psychology.” Largely, I operate from a strengths-based perspective meaning that when working with clients I emphasize the positive and I collaboratively work with each client to find ways to encourage positive thinking patterns. A counselor operating from a strengths-based perspective helps clients identify their strengths, social supports, successes, and positive experiences in their life. There is a focus on what is working in the client’s life which can be used to address the current challenges in the individual’s life. Notice the use of “challenges” instead of “problems.” Christopher Peterson, a leader in Positive Psychology research, defines Positive Psychology as, “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (2008). Strengths-based counseling is related to Positive Psychology. Some of the phrases used in Positive Psychology are flow, flourishing, and positive individual traits. Simply put, flow is whole heartedly enjoying activities that also challenge us and push us to learn and grow. Flourishing is finding fulfillment through our strengths, building meaningful relationships, and contributing to the greater good. Some positive individual traits include the capacity for love, courage, perseverance, and forgiveness. What spoke to me the most and what I would like to share with you today are some ways to integrate Positive Psychology into your life. (From Martin Seligman (2005) founder of Positive Psychology)
1. The gratitude visit: spend some time writing a letter of gratitude to someone you may have never acknowledged or thanked for their kindness.
2. Three good things in life: Each day of the week, write down at least three things that went well.
3. You are at your best: Write a story about your life when you felt you were “at your best.” Look for your strengths and review the story every day for a week.
4. Using signature strengths in a new way: This involves taking an inventory of character strengths online and receiving feedback on your top 5 strengths. Upon receiving feedback, you will use your strengths in a new or different way each day for a week. If you are interested in checking out this inventory you can find it at www.authentichappiness.org
5. Identifying signature strengths: This is a shortened version of the previous technique that involves intentionally using your strengths more often.
If learning about Positive Psychology piqued your interest in working with a counselor that operates from a strengths-based perspective using tools from Positive Psychology, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment!
Written by: Rachel Ealy, M.Ed
Rachel is a counselor at Heights Family Counseling. She believes that counseling should be for everyone as everyone could use extra support, a place to define purpose and values, and tools to use to tackle life’s everyday problems, as well as someone to support your successes in life. Rachel specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and couples. Learn more about Rachel's counseling approach by visiting https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/amy-rollo/
Fundamentals of Crisis Counseling by Geri Miller