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Positive Qualities Record

This Positive Qualities Record is a specific type of positive data log designed for working with clients with low self-esteem. It aims to help individuals develop a more balanced view of themselves and increase their self-acceptance. This is achieved by prompting them to recognize, record, and appreciate their positive characteristics on a day-to-day basis, including personal strengths, skills, gifts, and talents. Fennell (1999, 2006, 2016) refers to similar exercises as a ‘positives portfolio’, ‘positives notebook’, or ‘good point chart’.

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Languages this resource is available in

  • English (GB)
  • English (US)
  • Finnish

Problems this resource might be used to address

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

Positive data logging is often used in work with core beliefs (Padesky, 1994), and is also used in CBT for difficulties where selective attention is prevalent, including low self-esteem (Fennell, 2016) depression (Beck, 2011; Moore & Garland, 2003), perfectionism (Shafran et al., 2010), eating disorders (Waller et al., 2007), personality disorders (Beck, 1996), and generalized anxiety (Hirsch et al., 2019). Depending on the client’s needs and difficulties, positive data logs can have a variety of purposes. These include:

  • Recognizing positive life experiences.
  • Monitoring progress, successes, and achievements.
  • Identifying personal strengths, skills, and talents.
  • Counter-balancing self-critical or pessimistic thinking.
  • Strengthening positive beliefs about the self.
  • Weakening negative beliefs about the self.

Accordingly, positive data logs have different foci and formats. For instance, they might be:

  • Contemporary (e.g., the client records positive experiences in their daily life) or historical (e.g., the client identifies positive experiences from the past).
  • Broad (e.g., a client collecting data to support a positive belief might record any positive experience they have) or specific (e.g., a perfectionistic client concerned with performance might focus on logging positive aspects within a specific domain).
  • Factual (e.g., the client describes the positive event that happened) or implicational (e.g., the client describes what the experience might say or imply about them).
  • Limited to positive events (e.g., the client logs ‘good’ experiences) or combined with the absence of negative events (e.g., the client also logs ‘bad’ things they anticipated that did not happen).
  • Centred on the self (e.g., the client logs positive things they did) or centered on others (e.g., the client records positive things other people said or did).

Therapist Guidance

"It sounds as though you often struggle to recognize and accept your positive qualities. Do you think that might be contributing to the difficulties that we have been talking about? It’s actually quite common to find it difficult to acknowledge our positive qualities. One way we can address that is to start a positive qualities record. Can I show you what it involves?"

What positive qualities I should look out for?

Help the client develop an initial list of positive qualities that they can start monitoring for:

  • "Let’s start by writing down some of the positive qualities you possess that would be helpful to lookout for. What do you like or value in yourself, however fleeting? What skills, talents, or gifts do you have, however modest they might seem? What do other people like about you or compliment you on? Which positive qualities do you value in others that you also share? Which of your qualities would you appreciate if they were aspects of another person? Let’s make a list of these positive qualities."


Ask the client to record when they show a positive quality:

  • "The first thing I would like you to write in your log is when you think you might have showed a positive quality. This will help us keep track of how many positive qualities you notice each day. To help you get started, let’s write today’s date in your record."

What happened?

Ask the client to describe the action or experience that captures one of their positive qualities. Encourage the client to provide enough detail so that they can remember what happened later. Demonstrate this by recording one or two examples in the client’s record (perhaps from the current day). For example:

  • "Next, I would like you to make some notes about what happened or what you did that you think could have showed one of your positive qualities. Let’s continue the example we started. What have you done today that highlights a positive quality, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem? If we were collecting data about the positive quality of being courageous I think the fact that you came to today’s appointment would count. Can I add that?"

Positive qualities this shows

Ask the client to identify one or more positive qualities that are highlighted by the the action or experience they described. Some clients find it helpful to have a list of positive adjectives that they can refer to (e.g., adventurous, agreeable, assertive, etc.). You might say:

  • "In the next column, I would like you to note down the positive quality this experience shows in you. For instance, what positive things does it say about you? If someone you cared about did something similar, what positive qualities would you say it highlights in them? Let’s go back to our example. What positive qualities have you shown by coming to this appointment and working on this with me?"

Additional information and troubleshooting

Recommendations for helping clients get the most out of their Positive Qualities Record include the following (Beck, 1995, 2005; Fennell, 2006, 2016; Harvey et al., 2004; Padesky, 1994):

  • Help the client make a list of their strengths, skills, and talents to inform the types of positive qualities they should look out for.
  • Agree how many examples of positive qualities the client should aim to collect each day. Fennell (2016) suggests that three is often a good starting point.
  • Remind the client that entries on the record should be sufficiently detailed so that they can easily recall them. 
  • The client should record positive qualities even if they seem trivial or insignificant. This includes ‘positive habits’ they might normally overlook (e.g., caring for a pet).
  • Inform the client that self-critical and/or discounting thoughts are likely to arise during this task – encourage them to notice these thoughts and let them go.
  • Encourage the client to review their log at the end of each day and relive examples of their positive qualities using their imagination.
  • Practice filling in a log with the client before assigning it for homework (e.g., you might identify positive qualities the client has demonstrated during the session).
  • Identify visual or audio cues that will help the client remember to look for their positive qualities throughout the day (e.g., sticky notes or an alarm on their phone).
  • Remind the client that recognizing their positive qualities can be difficult at first, but will get easier with practice and persistence.

Should the client struggle to identify positive qualities during the week, therapists might respond by:

  • Asking questions:
    • “What would someone who cares about you say were examples of your positive qualities this week?”
    • “What have you done that you would say shows a positive quality for someone else?”
    • “If I were accompanying you during the week, what might I point out to you as an example of a positive quality”.
  • Helping the client practice challenging their discounting thoughts (e.g., “I helped a friend, but I could have done more… But I was still helpful and that counts”; Beck, 2005).
  • Combining the Positive Qualities Record with automatic thought or self-critical thought records.
  • Exploring the advantages and disadvantages of accepting one’s positive qualities (the client might believe that it will result in complacency or egotism, for example).
  • Ensuring the client isn’t searching for positive qualities in a toxic environment, such as an abusive relationship where they are constantly criticized (Waller et al., 2007).

References And Further Reading

  • Beck, J. S. (1996). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. In P. Salkovskis (Ed.), Frontiers of cognitive therapy (pp.165-181). Guilford.
  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. Guilford Press.
  • Beck, J. S. (2005). Cognitive therapy for challenging problems: What to do when the basics don’t work. Guilford Press.
  • Fennell, M. J. (1997). Low self-esteem: A cognitive perspective. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 25(1), 1-26.
  • Fennell, M. (2006). Overcoming low self-esteem: Self-help course (part two). Robinson.
  • Fennell, M. (2016). Overcoming low self-esteem: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques (2nd ed.). Robinson.
  • Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (1995). Mind over Mood: a cognitive therapy treatment manual for clients. Guilford press.
  • Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (2016). Mind over mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think. Guilford Press.
  • Harvey, A., Watkins, E., Mansell, W., & Shafran, R. (2004). Cognitive behavioural processes across psychological disorders: A transdiagnostic approach to research and treatment. Oxford University Press.
  • Hirsch, C. R., Beale, S., Grey, N., & Liness, S. (2019). Approaching cognitive behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder from a cognitive process perspective. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 796. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00796.
  • Moore, R. G., & Garland, A. (2003). Cognitive therapy for chronic and persistent depression. John Wiley and Sons.
  • Padesky, C. A. (1994). Schema change processes in cognitive therapy. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 1(5), 267-278.
  • Shafran, R., Egan, S., & Wade, T. (2010). Overcoming perfectionism: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioral techniques. Constable and Robinson.
  • Waller, G., Cordery, H., Corstorphine, E., Hinrichsen, H., Lawson, R., Mountford, V., & Russell, K. (2007). Cognitive behavioral therapy for eating disorders: A comprehensive treatment guide. Cambridge University Press.