Published on November 27, 2023

The Power of Positive Psychology in Treating Disorders

Numbers by Statista show that around 41.7 million US adults received mental health treatment in 2021. A majority of practitioners today use the clinical approach to treating disorders, which involves addressing the underlying cause of the disorder. However, according to critics, it focuses too much on a person’s weaknesses and what goes wrong. 

This is what encouraged the development of the positive psychology movement, which centers on human development as opposed to pathology. But how is the positive approach different from the rest of psychology, and how can it address different disorders? Let’s discuss a few key concepts, the benefits of implementing positive psychology, and how it’s beneficial for addressing different disorders. 

What is Positive Psychology?

It’s a branch of psychology that involves the study of well-being and happiness to cultivate satisfaction at an individual and community level. Some researchers also define it as a study of the virtues that allow individuals and communities to thrive. Positive psychology is founded on the notion that people want to lead fulfilled lives with a sense of purpose while improving upon their skills. 

How is It Different?

Unlike the traditional approach that focuses on your weaknesses and what went wrong, positive psychology looks at what goes right. Of course, that doesn’t mean positive psychology overlooks life’s challenges. It acknowledges that people can experience adversities and difficulties, but the difference is that it adopts a shift from a problem-oriented approach. Rather, it attempts to identify factors that allow people to lead fulfilled and content lives.

Levels of Positive Psychology 

Unlike other models of psychology that focus on individual well-being, positive psychology has three levels. 

  • The subjective level focuses on feelings of happiness, optimism, and well-being with regard to your daily experience. 
  • The individual level combines the above-mentioned subjective-level feelings with additional characteristics like compassion, courage, and forgiveness. These virtues make you a well-rounded person.  
  • The group level emphasizes fostering meaningful interactions on a community level. It also includes virtues like social responsibility, selflessness, and altruism. 

Using Positive Psychology for Different Disorders 

Currently, there’s extensive research on the efficacy of applying positive psychology for treating major depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  

PTSD

The purpose of employing positive psychology for the treatment of PTSD is to promote post-traumatic development. Mental health practitioners use this approach to help clients grow through their trauma. If you’re struggling with PTSD, your therapist can employ principles such as finding a new purpose. When you find new meaning, your therapist can guide you on how to shape your actions so they align with your values. 

Additionally, they can help you build and improve meaningful connections and relationships with others. In a positive psychology approach, your therapist will still use methods like EMDR therapy and CBT, except the goal is to achieve post-traumatic growth as well. To know more about treating PTSD through a holistic approach, visit urpbehavioralhealth.com

Major Depression

Therapists can use positive psychology in combination with traditional mediums to offer a holistic approach. The aim of this approach is to alleviate depressive symptoms while increasing positive emotions and engagement in activities that give you a sense of satisfaction. 

Studies show that adopting positive psychology to treat depressive clients resulted in a reduction in the frequency and intensity of symptoms. It works by diverting your focus away from negative feelings and towards positive ones. At the same time, you’ll work with your therapist to find a sense of meaning that helps reduce feelings of worthlessness. 

Anxiety Disorders

When you struggle with a condition like generalized anxiety or social anxiety disorder, worrying becomes a constant aspect of your life. Anxiety can be overwhelming, preventing you from connecting with others and functioning properly. Therapists can implement positive psychology interventions to help you overcome worry and fear. 

This involves keeping track of the times when you feel something positive, allowing you to realize that anxiety doesn’t have complete control over your thoughts. Your therapist will also guide you on mindfulness practices that help you cope with anxiety by being aware of the present moment. 

Seligman’s PERMA Model of Wellbeing

Martin Seligman came up with the PERMA model of well-being as a way to take a closer look at people’s strengths and virtues. 

  • Positive Emotions can enhance your sense of well-being. You experience positive emotions by enjoying the present moment, being hopeful about the future, and showing gratitude for the past. 
  • Engagement refers to immersing yourself in a task – something you enjoy doing and excel at. By being engaged, you enter a state of ‘flow,’ which happens when you have adequate skills to achieve your desired goal. 
  • Relationships are a source of connection with other people, and the emotional support you receive from these connections gives life purpose and meaning. 
  • Meaning refers to applying your personal strengths to a cause that’s bigger than you, such as a charitable cause.  
  • Accomplishing and achieving goals gives you a sense of fulfillment. Rising to a challenge and proving your capabilities helps you attain a true sense of well-being. 

Interventions Used in Positive Psychology 

When elements of positive psychology are combined with traditional therapy, it allows a greater focus on overall well-being. Some examples of common interventions and exercises are:  

Gratitude Journaling 

Studies show that taking the time to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day can help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. It boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, triggering feelings of well-being, pleasure, and happiness.  

Mindfulness 

Mindfulness practices like body scan, yoga, and deep breathing can help you grow aware of your thoughts and feelings. This way, you’re better equipped to manage negative emotions instead of feeling overwhelmed. Benefits include reduced rumination, lower levels of stress, and increased focus.  Mindfulness helps you develop metacognitive awareness to enhance emotion regulation. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This is one of the most commonly used evidence-based treatments for disorders such as major depression and anxiety. In positive psychology, CBT involves diverting your attention away from negative emotions and towards positive ones. Your therapist will help you identify positive thoughts and encourage you to focus on them. 


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