Positive Psychology in Practice / Edition 1

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Positive psychology is an exciting new orientation in the field, going beyond psychology's traditional focus on illness and pathology to look at areas like well-being and fulfillment. While the larger question of optimal human functioning is hardly new - Aristotle addressed it in his treatises on eudaimonia - positive psychology offers a common language on this subject to professionals working in a variety of subdisciplines and practices. Applicable in many settings and relevant for individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and societies, positive psychology is a genuinely integrative approach to professional practice. Positive Psychology in Practice fills the need for a broad, comprehensive, and state-of-the-art reference for this burgeoning new perspective. Cutting across traditional lines of thinking in psychology, this resource bridges theory, research, and applications to offer valuable information to a wide range of professionals and students in the social and behavioral sciences. A group of major international contributors covers:
• The applied positive psychology perspective
• Historical and philosophical foundations
• Values and choices in pursuit of the good life
• Lifestyle practices for health and well-being
• Methods and processes for teaching and learning
• Positive psychology at work The best and most thorough treatment of this cutting-edge discipline, Positive Psychology in Practice is an essential resource for understanding this important new theory and applying its principles to all areas of professional practice.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
Existential-humanistic psychotherapy will welcome this book about its growing and thriving young cousin, positive psychology. May, Frankl, Yalom, Bugental, et al. would be especially glad to see the chapter by Bretherton and Orner presenting an existential approach to positive psychology and psychotherapy. —Thomas Greening, Editor, Journal of Humanistic Psychology
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471459064
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 792
  • Product dimensions: 7.32 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Meet the Author

P. ALEX LINLEY is at the School of Psychology, University of Leicester, UK. He is a founding member of the European Network for Positive Psychology, and served as its chair from 2002—2004. His research interests span the applications of positive psychology in professional practice and everyday life.

STEPHEN JOSEPH is at the University of Warwick, where he is the research tutor in the clinical psychology training program. He has published numerous articles on the psychology of trauma and is coauthor (with William Yule and Ruth Williams) of Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress: A Psychosocial Perspective on PTSD and Treatment (Wiley). Dr. Joseph also has a part-time private psychotherapy practice specializing in positive therapeutic approaches.

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Positive Psychology in Practice

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-45906-2

Chapter One

Applied Positive Psychology: A New Perspective for Professional Practice


Positive psychology has a research tradition that goes back decades. Yet despite this rich tradition, many topics that we would describe as within the scope of positive psychology have typically remained isolated from each other, lacking any shared language or common identity. The emergence of positive psychology has highlighted the common traditions of many working in these areas and has provided a conceptual home for researchers and practitioners interested in all aspects of optimal human functioning. In viewing the many different strands of research from which positive psychology is drawn, and seeing them as sharing a common core identity, psychologists have taken a sustained and serious interest in the study of human nature as a whole. This rich tradition provides the foundation on which applied positive psychology rests.


Interest in what is good about humans and their lives and in optimal human functioning has long been a theme of human inquiry. From Aristotle's treatises on eudaimonia, through Aquinas' writings about virtue during the Renaissance, to the inquiries of modern psychology-whether in the guise of humanistic psychology or positive psychology-scholarly interest in the human potential for fulfillment has always existed. Within the very origins of modernpsychology, James (1902) was interested in the role that transcendent experiences may play in stimulating optimal human functioning (see Rathunde, 2001). Jung's (1933) concept of individuation speaks much to people becoming all that they can be. This theme was echoed by Allport (1961) with his work on the mature individual, together with Jahoda's (1958) seminal thinking about what might constitute mental health in the true sense of the term. Similarly, the humanistic psychology movement speaks to our inherent potential as human beings (cf. Bugental, 1964), with Maslow's (1968) concept of self-actualization and Rogers' (1963) work around the fully functioning person typically invoked here. More recently, Ryff and her colleagues have integrated much of this literature in the concept of psychological well-being, defined as engagement with the existential challenges of life, and being distinct from (but typically associated with) subjective well-being, or the more generic happiness (e.g., Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002).

But these research trajectories have typically been diverse. There has been little integration (excepting Ryff, 1989), and still less broader recognition, of the themes that run consistently through them. Unlike clinical psychology and psychiatry, who share the common language of the DSM, for researchers and practitioners interested in human potential and fulfillment, there has been no integrative grouping, classification, language, or even collective identity with which to identify and to label our work and interests.


The single most important contribution of positive psychology has been to provide a collective identity-a common voice and language for researchers and practitioners from all persuasions who share an interest in health as well as in sickness-in the fulfillment of potential as well as in the amelioration of pathology. Academic psychologists could be primarily working within abnormal, cognitive, developmental, or social areas, and yet still identify themselves as positive psychologists. Professional psychologists may work within settings that are primarily clinical, counseling, educational, forensic, health, industrial/organizational, and yet still consider themselves to be practitioners of positive psychology.

Positive psychology is unique in the ways that it transcends traditional dichotomies and divisions within psychology and offers ways of working that are genuinely integrative and applicable across settings. It is as natural for a neural scientist studying positive affect to identify themselves as a positive psychologist as it is for a social psychologist who studies varieties of religious experience, a developmental psychologist who studies resilience, or a health psychologist who works to promote health and well-being.


We start by offering this working definition:

Applied positive psychology is the application of positive psychology research to the facilitation of optimal functioning.

Applied positive psychologists may work at the level of the individual, the group, the organization, the community, or the society. Applied positive psychologists work to promote optimal functioning across the full range of human functioning, from disorder and distress to health and fulfillment. We note six points to further elaborate on this definition:

1. Facilitation: Applied positive psychology, as we understand it, is not prescriptive in the sense that it dictates to people. Rather, it is facilitative in the way that it works to help people achieve their objectives. This approach is in keeping with the organismic valuing process that we believe to be a fundamental assumption of positive psychology (see Linley & Joseph, Chapter 42, this volume).

2. Optimal functioning: We use this term as shorthand for a broad range of valued psychological processes and outcomes. These may be valued subjective experiences (such as well-being, hope, and flow), positive individual traits (such as forgiveness, emotional intelligence, and wisdom), or civic virtues that promote good citizenship (such as responsibility, nurturance, and altruism; see Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The optimal functioning of yourself and others may be facilitated through using positive character traits and acting as good citizens (positive processes); these processes will typically lead to both individual and collective well-being (positive outcomes). The desired outcomes of positive psychology (i.e., optimal functioning) have been characterized in part as happiness and well-being (Seligman, 2002). Thus, we are careful to note the distinction here between subjective well-being and psychological well-being (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, also make this distinction using the terms pleasure and enjoyment, respectively). The terms subjective well-being and psychological well-being have been carefully delineated by Keyes et al. (2002; see also Christopher, 1999; Ryan & Deci, 2001; Waterman, 1993).

Subjective well-being (SWB) is widely accepted as the sum of life satisfaction (the cognitive component) plus positive affect minus negative affect (the affective components). In common terms, this is everyday "happiness." In contrast, psychological well-being (PWB) reflects engagement with and full participation in the challenges and opportunities of life. SWB and PWB, although typically moderately correlated, are not the same. Further, although they may typically be representative of optimal functioning outcomes, again, this is not necessarily always so. Consider, for example, the case of a person who acts responsibly, but at detriment to their personal well-being. This raises the issue of the hierarchy of positive psychology values. (See Linley & Joseph, Chapter 42, this volume, for a more extended discussion of this issue.)

3. Value position: In talking of "the good life," "good citizenship," "positive individual traits," and "valued subjective experiences," we inevitably presuppose a value position. We emphasize three issues here: First, this assumption of a value position is inevitable however "value neutral" we claim science to be (cf. Christopher, 1996). Second, this value position should be stated explicitly so that it can be held open to scrutiny, criticism, and amendment (cf. Prilleltensky, 1994). Third, in assuming a value position, we also explicitly note that this position should not be prescriptive in dictating to individuals the specific ways in which they should lead their lives (see also Linley & Joseph, Chapter 42, this volume).

4. Levels of application: Applied positive psychology is relevant for individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and societies, being fully mindful of the social and cultural contexts in which our lives are embedded (cf. Christopher, 1999; Kekes, 1995; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In this volume, you will find each of these levels represented.

5. Full range of human functioning: Applied positive psychologists may work both to alleviate distress and to promote optimal functioning. We do not see these as distinct or separate roles, but are mindful of the approach that has characterized much of psychology (counseling psychology sometimes providing an exception), that when the distress has been alleviated, or the symptoms treated, the role of the psychologist is complete. In contrast, we believe that is only half the job. Applied positive psychologists aim to facilitate optimal functioning by moving their clients beyond the zero point of psychopathology (cf. Joseph, Linley, Harwood, Lewis, & McCollam, in press). Their role is not complete when psychopathology is absent, but wellbeing is not present. Rather, applied positive psychologists aim to facilitate their clients' development more fully toward optimal functioning (i.e., the presence of well-being and other valued states and characteristics). This facilitation of optimal functioning is not only about the promotion of wellbeing. The approach also serves to buffer subsequent stresses, thereby serving an additional preventive function.

6. A collective identity, not a new specialty: Finally, we record an important proviso. In using the term applied positive psychology and applied positive psychologist, we are not seeking to create a new specialty within professional psychology-far from it. In contrast, our aim is to provide a collective identity and common language for professional psychologists who work in positive psychological ways, just as positive psychology has provided that collective identity for previously unconnected researchers and academics who nonetheless shared an interest in the brighter sides of human nature.


What is the need for the positive psychological perspective? A look at some statistics from the PsycINFO database reveals this need. In Figure 1.1, we have tracked the growth of research publications for each five-year period from 1978 up to and including September 2003 for the terms depression, anxiety, subjective well-being, and psychological well-being.

Research output on depression and anxiety exceeds the research output on subjective well-being and psychological well-being by several orders of magnitude. We are encouraged by the fact that research into subjective well-being has increased by a factor of almost 180 (from 6 publications by 1978 to 1,070 by September 2003). Further, research into psychological well-being has increased by a factor of 35 (from 93 publications by 1978 to 3,231 by September 2003). However, in spite of these encouraging trends, the gulf in research output remains enormous.

We could have selected any number of positive psychological constructs to compare with these two psychopathology constructs, and the results would have been essentially the same (cf. Fernandez-Ballesteros, 2003). Similarly, we may consider the number of professional journals dedicated to furthering our understanding of psychopathology (e.g., Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Journal of Affective Disorders, Journal of Anxiety Disorders). In contrast, there are barely any journals dedicated to furthering our understanding of well-being (the Journal of Happiness Studies being a notable exception). Clearly, positive psychology is necessary (Sheldon & King, 2001).

Does this focus on psychopathology mean that our fellow human beings are uninterested in their own health, well-being, and fulfillment? Far from it, as a cursory look at the self-help section of any bookstore will show. There is a vast array of material purporting to improve people's lives, to make them healthier, happier, or more fulfilled. And yet, psychologists-academic or professional-are rarely the authors of these volumes, and even more rarely are these prescriptions based on evidence that would withstand even the most cursory scientific scrutiny. Hence, psychologists appear largely silent on these issues, while any number of other "authorities" fill the void.

Positive psychology and specifically applied positive psychology are uniquely positioned to change this situation by offering scientifically rigorous-yet accessible and user-friendly-advice and guidance, as the success of Seligman's (2002) Authentic Happiness volume testifies. Also consider, for example, the history of the development of the Values In Action Classification of Strengths. By September 2003, over 175,000 individuals had completed this assessment battery in order to identify and learn about their signature strengths-this despite a typical time investment of 40 minutes, with no material incentive or obligation to participate (C. Peterson, personal communication, October 20, 2003).

Of increasing concern to us, as positive psychologists, both practicing and academic, should be the increasing psychiatric medicalization of everyday life experiences. The growth of diagnostic categories and labels in the DSM (e.g., American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994) has been substantial (see Hubble & Miller, Chapter 21, this volume; Maddux, Snyder, & Lopez, Chapter 20, this volume). Applied positive psychology provides what we believe to be a welcome alternative. Instead of attempting to capture varied nuances of human behavior as being representative of some underlying psychopathology, applied positive psychologists, instead, look to people's strengths, capacities, and resources, the key attributes and assets that have allowed them to survive, and in some cases flourish, despite the obstacles they have faced. That is not to say that illness and disorder are to be neglected, but simply that they should be regarded as but one aspect of the person's experience (Linley & Joseph, 2003).


Excerpted from Positive Psychology in Practice Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Martin E. P. Seligman).





1. Applied Positive Psychology: A New Perspective for Professional Practice (P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph).


2. Positive Psychology: Historical, Philosophical, and Epistemological Perspectives (Ingvild S. Jørgensen and Hilde Eileen Nafstad).

3. The Good Life, Broadly and Narrowly Considered (Laura A. King, Jennifer Emilia Eells, and Chad M. Burton).


4. The Good Life or the Goods Life? Positive Psychology and Personal Well-Being in the Culture of Consumption (Tim Kasser).

5. Value Pathways to Well-Being: Healthy Values, Valued Goal Attainment, and Environmental Congruence (Lilach Sagiv, Sonia Roccas, and Osnat Hazan).

6. Doing Better but Feeling Worse: The Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz and Andrew Ward).

7. Fostering Healthy Self-Regulation from Within and Without: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective (Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan).


8. Achieving Sustainable New Happiness: Prospects, Practices, and Prescriptions (Kennon M. Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky).

9. Physical Activity: Positive Psychology in Motion (Nanette Mutrie and Guy Faulkner).

10. Balancing Time Perspective in Pursuit of Optimal Functioning (Ilona Boniwell and Philip G. Zimbardo).


11. Teaching Students to Make Wise Judgments: The “Teaching for Wisdom” Program (Alina Reznitskaya and Robert J. Sternberg).

12. Introducing Positive Psychology to the Introductory Psychology Student (Amy C. Fineburg).

13. Teaching Positive Psychology (Nick Baylis).

14. Rescuing Our Heroes: Positive Perspectives on Upward Comparisons in Relationships, Education, and Work (Michael A. Cohn).


15. Leading Well: Transformational Leadership and Well-Being (Niro Sivanathan, Kara A. Arnold, Nick Turner, and Julian Barling).

16 Strengths-Based Development in Practice (Timothy D. Hodges and Donald O. Clifton).

17. Positive and Creative Organization (Jane Henry).

18. Toward a Positive Psychology of Executive Coaching (Carol Kauffman and Anne Scoular).


19. Positive Psychology and Health Psychology: A Fruitful Liaison (Shelley E. Taylor and David K. Sherman).

20. Toward a Positive Clinical Psychology: Deconstructing the Illness Ideology and Constructing an Ideology of Human Strengths and Potential (James E. Maddux, C. R. Snyder, and Shane J. Lopez).

21. The Client: Psychotherapy’s Missing Link for Promoting a Positive Psychology (Mark A. Hubble and Scott D. Miller).

22. Positive Therapy: A Positive Psychological Theory of Therapeutic Practice (Stephen Joseph and P. Alex Linley).


23. Clinical Applications of Well-Being Therapy (Chiara Ruini and Giovanni A. Fava).

24. Strategies for Accentuating Hope (Shane J. Lopez, C. R. Snyder, Jeana L. Magyar-Moe, Lisa M. Edwards, Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, Kelly Janowski, Jerri L. Turner, and Cindy Pressgrove).

25. A Clinical Approach to Posttraumatic Growth (Richard G. Tedeschi and Lawrence G. Calhoun).

26 Positive Psychology and Psychotherapy: An Existential Approach (Roger Bretherton and Roderick J. Ørner).


27. Classification and Measurement of Character Strengths: Implications for Practice (Christopher Peterson and Nansook Park).

28. Emotional Intelligence in Practice (Peter Salovey, David Caruso, and John D. Mayer).

29. Gratitude in Practice and the Practice of Gratitude (Giacomo Bono, Robert A. Emmons, and Michael E. McCullough).

30. Facilitating Curiosity: A Social and Self-Regulatory Perspective for Scientifically Based Interventions (Todd B. Kashdan and Frank D. Fincham).

31. Approaches to a Good Life: The Emotional-Motivational Side to Wisdom (Ute Kunzmann).


32. Fostering the Future: Resilience Theory and the Practice of Positive Psychology (Tuppett M. Yates and Ann S. Masten).

33. Organized Youth Activities as Contexts for Positive Development (Reed Larson, Robin Jarrett, David Hansen, Nickki Pearce, Patrick Sullivan, Kathrin Walker, Natasha Watkins, and Dustin Wood).

34. Positive Aging (George E. Vaillant).


35. Bringing Subjectivity into Focus: Optimal Experiences, Life Themes, and Person-Centered Rehabilitation (Antonella Delle Fave and Fausto Massimini).

36. Good Lives and the Rehabilitation of Offenders: A Positive Approach to Sex Offender Treatment (Tony Ward and Ruth Mann).

37. Facilitating Forgiveness: Developing Group and Community Interventions (Frank D. Fincham and Todd B. Kashdan).


38. Human Connections and the Good Life: Balancing Individuality and Community in Public Policy (David G. Myers).

39. Happiness as a Public Policy Aim: The Greatest Happiness Principle (Ruut Veenhoven).

40. Findings on Subjective Well-Being: Applications to Public Policy, Clinical Interventions, and Education (William Pavot and Ed Diener).

41. A Population Approach to Positive Psychology: The Potential for Population Interventions to Promote Well-Being and Prevent Disorder (Felicia A. Huppert).


42. Toward a Theoretical Foundation for Positive Psychology in Practice (P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph).

Author Index.

Subject Index.

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