My Encounters With Positive Psychology
If you’ve read my other post then you’ll be aware that I wrote my first post about a psychological theory. You might have even picked up a few clues as to why I picked that theory to talk about. Well, if you were interested in knowing why or I’ve now peaked your interested in knowing why, then this is the post for you. This post is about my encounters with positive psychology.
During my postgraduate course, I was introduced to a new approach to psychology: positive psychology. At first, I just dismissed it as pseudo-psychology, or woo, akin to pop psychology and the self-help genre. But I soon changed my mind during the process of teaching myself the subject.
I pride myself on my ability to change and adapt my views if there’s the evidence to support me changing them. This was one of those times.
Whilst teaching myself the subject, I realised that I’d encountered brief attempts to use positive psychology in my previous work at a substance abuse charity. They had forms that would ask what strengths the clients thought they had in an attempt to get the practitioners and clients to somehow then use the strengths to come up with solutions to reach the client’s recovery goals.
Unfortunately, no training was given on how to use these strengths to improve recovery outcomes. Thus, most practitioners just followed the same cookie cutter approach to treatment. This was a wasted opportunity to tailor treatments to the clients as individuals. This meant that the strengths the clients listed were only really used as a one-off dose of encouragement along the lines of, “see, you are good at something”.
Furthermore, due to the cost-cutting the industry is constantly suffering from, you have little to no time to work with your clients one-to-one: it’s cheaper to only do group work. This stops you from even trying to use your client’s strengths to better aid them in reaching their recovery goals.
While I was working at this charity, I tried to implement aspects of positive psychology, albeit unknowingly at the time. It wasn’t until I was teaching myself the subject that I realised I had been trying to implement aspects of three positive psychology interventions: participate in enjoyable and meaningful activities, best possible self (accomplishments), and best possible self (accomplishments), through trying to help my clients find healthy replacement activities to keep them busy.
I had wanted to contact local colleges and adult education centres to arrange taster sessions of the classes they run and have these taster sessions done at our service. This would have given our clients the chance to find hobbies they enjoy to do in their free time, and/or help them to reengage with education. However, my suggestion wasn’t followed through on, unfortunately.
I also tried to organise day trips for the clients, which they could earn a place on as a reward. But this had the plug pulled before it was completed due to funding problems. This was a let down for both the clients and I because it would have helped them readjust to doing things with people without using substances, reinforcing their recovery goals.
Basically, my ideas were tapping into ‘hope’ which would allow them to see what they could do first hand instead of using substances, rather than simply talking about it. It also would have given them something to aim for, by showing them how life can and will be different for them if they just stick to reaching their recovery goals.
What is surprising is that I’ve not come across positive psychology whilst seeking or getting help from my own mental health. Which seems a little odd, Mind often use elements of positive psychology, and substance abuse charities are trying to find ways to introduce it into their treatment programmes, so why isn’t the NHS and their mental health trusts?
Have any of you come across positive psychology and their interventions whilst engaging with your mental health trust? Or have you encountered positive psychology in other aspects of your life? Let me know in the comments below. And if you want to stay updated on my blog, please subscribe to my newsletter.