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Positive Psychology

Positive psychology complements traditional psychological approaches to mental health. The stance of positive psychology is to study ‘what makes life worth living.’ Practitioners of positive psychology focus on interventions that develop a sense of optimism, and that foster positive attitudes (toward oneself, one’s subjective experiences, and life events). Positive psychology in its current implementation was given a boost by Martin Seligman’s presidential address given to the American Psychological Association in 1999. He proposed that although contemporary psychology successfully focused on curing mental illness it largely neglected other historical goals of helping everyone to lead more productive and fulfilling lives, and identifying and nurturing talents. Other psychologists throughout the 20th century have also aspired to help psychology focus on aspects other than dysfunction:
“The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side. It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that, the darker, meaner half.” (Maslow, 1954).
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Positive Psychology
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Assertive Communication

Communicating and acting assertively is an interpersonal skill that helps people to maintain healthy relationships, resolve interpersonal conflict, an ...

Information handouts

Gratitude Journal

Cultivating gratitude is an evidence-based positive psychology technique. This information handout describes reasons to cultivate a grateful attitude ...



Meaningful activity is value-driven. This ACT-informed worksheet explores the key domains of values and encourages clients to reflect upon what is imp ...


What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness meditation is a traditional Buddhist practice. It is now commonly taught as a practice helpful in the management of a variety of mental he ...

Information handouts



Seligman’s PERMA model proposes five elements to psychological well-being:

  • Positive emotions: including the ability to be optimistic
  • Engagement: activites which promote our full absorption (creating ‘flow’ states)
  • Relationships: humans are intrinsically social animals which require connection, love, and intimacy in order to thrive
  • Meaning: having a purpose
  • Accomplishments: having goals and accomplishments


Character Strengths and Virtues is a systematic attempt to classify positive traits. The framework describes six classes of virtues which encompass 24 character strengths. The virtues are argued to be considered good in the majority of cultures and throughout history and that these traits, when practised, tend to increase happiness.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation
  • Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, zest
  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
  • Transcendance: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality


  • Positive psychological assessment: a practical introduction to empirically validated research tools for measuring wellbeing   download  archived copy
  • Joseph, S., & Wood, A. (2010). Assessment of positive functioning in clinical psychology: Theoretical and practical issues. Clinical psychology review30(7), 830-838.  download  archived copy
  • Subjective happiness scale  download  archived copy



  • Flourish: Positive psychology and positive interventions | Martin Seligman | 2010 download  archived copy
  • Positive psychology, or other intersting things | Dr Aaron Jarden   download  archived copy
  • Positive psychology, a science of human strengths download  archived copy
  • On positive psychology | Martin Seligman
  • Living in flow – the secret of happiness | Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi | 2014 youtube

Recommended Reading

  • Johnson, J., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Integrating positive and clinical psychology: Viewing human functioning as continua from positive to negative can benefit clinical assessment, interventions and understandings of resilience. Cognitive Therapy and Research41(3), 335-349.  download  archived copy
  • Lee Duckworth, A., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol.1, 629-651.  download  archived copy
  • Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: a randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths-vs. a lesser strengths-intervention. Frontiers in psychology6.  download  archived copy
  • Seligman, M. E. (2007). Coaching and positive psychology. Australian Psychologist42(4), 266-267. download  archived copy
  • Seligman, M. E. P., & Czikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: an introduction. American Psychologist55(1), 5-14.  download  archived copy

What Is Positive Psychology / Positive Psychotherapy?

Assumptions of Positive Psychology / Positive Psychotherapy

  • Psychopathology is the result of the thwarting of people’s inherent capacity for growth, fulfillment, and happiness.
  • Positive emotions and strengths are as authentic and real as symptoms and disorders.
  • Therapy is a place where hope, optimism, gratitude, compassion, contentment, and emotional and social intelligence are given as much prominence as resentment, frustration, jealousy, anxiety, and competition.
  • Authentic happinessis composed of the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life (Seligman, 2002).
  • “Build what’s strong” is as valid as “Fix what’s wrong” (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005).

Procedures and Techniques of Positive Psychology / Positive Psychotherapy

Positive psychology interventions include (adapted from Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006):

  • identification and building of signature strengths
  • cultivation of signature strengths and positive emotions
  • expression of good and bad memories, writing tasks
  • forgiveness tasks including writing a letter of forgiveness to a transgressor
  • cultivation of gratitude
  • satisficing (accepting ‘good enough’) instead of maximizing
  • cultivating optimism and hope
  • cultivating love and attachment
  • savoring and making things last
  • giving the gift of time


  • Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 629–651.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist,61, 774–788.