Positive Psychology

For many decades the fields of psychology and medicine has been concerned with pathology and “what is wrong with the patient?” Fortunately, a movement began a few years ago that has encouraged preventative care and being more proactive in healthcare. In the field of clinical psychology, this movement is known as positive psychology. This involves identifying a patient’s strengths and building upon them. Patient care has evolved from just ending illnesses and helping to take away someone’s pain, to helping patients lead more resilient and meaningful lives. This means building upon character strengths and virtues as well as recovering from illness and disease. This means not just diagnosing a patient and working on symptom reduction, but also on assisting patients toward becoming more resilient toward future distress.
New concepts, such as gratitude, forgiveness, humility, self-control, creativity, leadership, and others are added to the focus of treatment, as growth in these areas can serve as protective factors against future stressors and psychological distress. Research into building these areas of strength has led to the beginning of many new psychological interventions aimed at becoming more resilient in the face of emotional and cognitive challenges in life. Whether it is writing a ‘thank you’ letter to someone from your past or working on becoming a more forgiving person, these interventions are not only helping patients to feel less distressed, but also helping them to grow their strengths and potentially experience more meaningful lives.
These changes are not just apparent in the field, the value of positive psychology and preventative care has been found to be valuable by healthcare companies and other organizations as well. For example, the concept of resilience has been of interest to the United States armed services. The United States Army has been screening for behavioral health concerns for many years, although more recently, interest has increased in assisting soldiers and their families in becoming more resilient before trauma even strikes. The United States Army and other branches of the armed services seem to have identified the value in helping service members and their families protect against behavioral health concerns before stressors even arrive.
Changes in the field of clinical psychology, such as positive psychology, appear to be a sign of new and valuable things to come. The ideas of preventing psychological illness before it even begins, helping people to become more adaptable in the face of stressors, and building upon personal strengths are allowing the field of clinical psychology to move closer to a model of prevention. Positive psychology seems to be a new and exciting endeavor that may indicate tremendous growth and development ahead for those willing to explore not just human suffering, but also human potential.

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