Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is a type of psychology that takes the traditional focus on dysfunction or pathology of a client with mental disorders and instead focuses on the positive factors or strengths in their lives. Through the process of discovering what positive factors contribute to a healthy and happy life, the therapist can help the client explore what is needed to thrive. Focus during sessions is on positive influences such as positive emotions, character strengths and constructive institutions.

Positive psychology is a relatively new trend in psychotherapy that has seen positive outcomes in many clients. Up until early 2000, there wasn’t much thought put into positive human traits, and instead, psychology focused on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), which centered on the negative aspects of life as an approach to treat mental illness. In 1998, Dr. Martin Seligman, the president of the American Psychological Association at that time, introduced the concept of positive psychology as an alternative to the traditional focus on mental health concerns.

What does Positive Psychology Treat?

Whether used alone or in conjunction with other treatment modalities, positive psychology may be a practical approach to managing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some studies have suggested that people that lack positivity in their lives may see depressive symptoms intensify, although the negative focus does not cause the disorder. The therapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments for a variety of additional mental health concerns, stress or trauma. It has not been shown to be effective in treating more severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

Foundational Elements of a Positive Life

Dr. Seligman developed the PERMA model as a component of positive psychology, which contains the following five foundational elements to a happy and fulfilled life:

Positive Emotions

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, through her broaden-and-build therapy, believes that positive emotions can build up our physical, intellectual and social abilities. She claims that the people that experience positive feelings tend to connect more comfortably with others and are more creative overall.


Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believes that happiness is something that we seek and obtain through effort and performance. It does not simply “happen.”


Dr. Robert Waldinger researched and published a well-known study on adult life looking at satisfaction in many life areas. He deduced that what keeps people happy and healthy is positive relationships.


Dr. Seligman believes that our choices and behaviors are what impact our well-being. By using our gifts in helping others besides ourselves, we can experience a broad sense of meaning and satisfaction.


Research continually shows that those who are personally involved in the pursuit of their goals are happier than those who do not direct their attention toward defined goals and accomplishments.

How it Works

Positive psychology offers a very different approach over other psychotherapies. By using positive psychology, clients will be looking inward and examining their life satisfaction, self-confidence, self-esteem and joy. Topics they will focus on include: optimism, compassion, hope, gratitude and elevation.

All the exercises conducted during positive psychology sessions will direct the client to enhance their positive emotion, meaning and engagement. A variety of approaches will be used for this purpose, both during the treatment session and at home afterward.

Positive Psychology at Avalon Integrative Wellness

Avalon Integrative Wellness offers positive psychology as a part of their extensive IOP services. The program is typically intertwined with other treatment modality to ensure every client has a comprehensive treatment plan, regardless of their specific concerns or goals for treatment. To learn more about positive psychology or our IOP, contact Avalon Integrative Wellness today at 888-266-9048.