“The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.”
-Martin Seligman, American psychologist, educator, and self-help author
Principles of positive psychology and other strengths-based treatment philosophies are driving approaches in recovery from addiction and mental health issues. Instead of focusing treatment on fixing “what is wrong with you?” positive psychology asks, “what is right with you?”
Shifting Treatment to the Positive
A focus on the positive things about a person in recovery is shifting the treatment toward using strengths to solve problems. Instead of looking at “fixing” a person, positive psychology looks for what a person “brings to the table” to solve their problems. By focusing on strengths and finding solutions, therapists empower their clients to find their own path to recovery.
Positive psychology does not mean that a person puts a “positive spin” on everything or denies that a person has any problems. With positive psychology, the person looks to repair what is wrong while simultaneously building up what is right. For many years, therapy focused on just fixing the problems presented. Positive psychology looks at two aspects of treatment:
- Developing coping skills for problems
- Empowering clients to build strengths
Developing Coping Skills
Coping skills to deal with depression, anxiety, addiction, bipolar disorder, or other behavioral health concerns are critical in recovery. In positive psychology, problems are not “ignored” or “swept under the rug.” Some preconceptions of “positive thinking” might lead us to believe that positive psychology is about “putting on rose-tinted glasses” and acting like nothing is wrong. “Unwavering positivity” might be seen as unrealistic or naive; however, positive psychology recognizes that problems can and do occur in life. Positive psychology is concerned with dealing with the issues while building the person up to generate their own solutions.
Empowering Clients to Build Strengths
As a therapist helps a person discuss their concerns and issues, they also explore their strengths. When people deal with mental health issues or addiction, their lives are disrupted by both the presence of these issues AND the absence of developing other essential life skills. When a person deals with crippling anxiety, they are likely struggling with other problems, like confidence, interpersonal skills, and self-esteem. By focusing on a person’s strengths, a therapist can “bridge the gap” between solving problems and living a happy life.
Self-Esteem: A Barrier to Treatment
Treatment that focuses solely on fixing problems might miss the mark in recovery. Recovery from addiction and mental health issues is really about living life outside of treatment. When people struggle with these concerns, they might “miss out” on building essential skills and resiliency to succeed in other areas of life. For teens and young adults, spending formative years working through trauma, addiction, depression, or other challenges may impact developing healthy self-esteem.
With low self-esteem, other issues can appear much worse or perpetuate further. Low self-esteem can be both the cause of or the result of a struggle with addiction and mental health issues. Some individuals do not reach out for help or express themselves fully during treatment due to underlying self-esteem issues. They might feel like they do not deserve to be happy.
With positive psychology and strengths-based treatment, a person can develop the confidence and self-esteem needed to cope with their issues, ask for help when needed, and enjoy a meaningful life outside of treatment.
Enjoying a Meaningful Life
Finding meaning in life involves much more than just fixing problems as they occur. Living a meaningful life in recovery means contributing value to the world and feeling good about who we are. When our focus in treatment is solely on “fixing” a problem while not developing the tools to build a happy life, we might be stuck going in a cycle of waiting for the next obstacle. By setting sights on building strengths, people can start to believe in themselves.
What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
When we are at our lowest points due to addiction and other struggles, knowing or recognizing our strengths can be challenging. We might not feel good about ourselves and view ourselves negatively. Part of the therapeutic process can be reconnecting a person to the value they bring to the world. Sometimes, discovering the things that we are great at doing can help us see our problems for what they are—just another challenge that we can handle on our journey to a meaningful, happy, and fulfilling life.
Concepts in positive psychology drive recovery approaches to find “strength-based” solutions to problems in life. When kids are developing essential life skills, issues like depression, anxiety, addiction, and other disorders can stunt their growth in other areas. By helping kids cope with these challenges while building their strengths, kids can develop the skills and confidence needed to tackle issues in their lives. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, is here to help kids build the strengths they need to recover from challenging issues. Kids deserve to discover their inner strengths during their treatment to build self-esteem and realize their own value. With outdoor challenges, volunteer opportunities, and specialized academic courses, we not only help kids recover from their issues, but we focus on building them up to be healthy adults. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest.