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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: The premise of the field of positive psychology is to focus on the positive side of human nature without ignoring the traditional problem-focused aspect. This book integrates research with clinical practice, and concludes with searching for answers to one of the most important philosophical questions: What is the meaning of life? The first edition was published in 2002.
Purpose: According to the preface, the book is intended to help readers "look seriously at the positive in people and the world." In chapter one, the authors note, "Here, we try to make a more succinct case for positive psychology's value to the discipline and to society. We also discuss the need to enhance science and the science-practice integration over the next decade of positive psychology work."
Audience: The book would appeal to practitioners, although graduate students in clinical and counseling psychology would also benefit. Shane Lopez is research director for the Clifton Strengths Institute. C.R. Snyder, now deceased, was a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas for 34 years. The approximately 120 contributors represent an international authorship from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and South Korea.
Features: A history and introduction to the field of positive psychology begins the book. The editors and authors make an important distinction between positive psychology and the medical model or pathology-driven clinical work. Various theoretical approaches to positive psychology are introduced including emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, self-based, and biological. The book also mentions positive institutions such as schools and workplaces. It ends with thoughts about attaining greater happiness, as well as meaning and purpose in life. A shaded box with an abstract and keywords begins each chapter and discussion questions end the chapter. Tables and figures throughout help with understanding the material. This book is well written and challenges readers to see psychology in a whole new light, i.e. building on strengths and assets without ignoring problem areas. So many topics are discussed that most readers will be delighted in its breadth and depth. I particularly enjoyed chapter 52 on family-centered positive psychology and the guiding principles: family empowerment, acquisition of new skills and competencies, family-identified rather than professional-determined needs, use of existing family strengths, and strengthening social supports.
Assessment: This is an excellent book on a unique approach to psychology. The international authorship helps readers see positive psychology from many different vantage points. The book ends on a very hopeful note, talking about the importance of the work of therapists in helping clients and families find meaning and happiness — a point everyone can agree upon.