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Apr 2015 by PCI College

Positive Therapy - Helping Clients to Thrive

Jolanta Burke, Programme Leader of the Professional Certificate in Positive Therapy talks about some of the evidence for the use of positive therapies in professional practice.

Positive therapy is a new therapeutic approach the basis of which is recognising and using clients’ existing strengths and psychological resources rather than trying to ‘fix’ them. What makes it particularly useful is that it is evidence-based. It has been scientifically tested with thousands of participants. The aim of the studies was to help clients not only get better, but also thrive. This is a positive psychology-inspired initiative.

Positive Psychology is a science of optimal human functioning. It is not about positive thinking; rather changing therapist's focus from clients’ deficits and how they can reduce them and experience less depressive or anxiety symptoms, to clients’ pre-existing resources to help them create a more fulfilling life. It is an innovative way of looking at people and noticing what is right with them, rather than wrong; what they can do to manage and enhance their positive emotions, despite going through a serious adversity; or how optimistic or pessimistic they are and what they can do to change their thoughts to more optimistic ones.

Positive psychology is not about promoting positive thinking. In fact, evidence indicates that asking clients to think positively may reduce their well-being. If they knew how to be positive, they would have done it already. Rather, it helps people analyse their thoughts and make an informed decision as to how they could think differently in order to enhance their well-being.  

Positive therapy is an extension of positive psychology. One such therapy is the Quality of Life therapy created by Michael B. Frisch, PhD. This is an evidence-based approach to helping clients improve their lives in 16 areas associated with boosting an individual’s well-being. It is a manualised, theory-based practice using positive psychology findings.

In a controlled study, researchers worked for 8-12 weeks with patients awaiting lung transplant. For understandable reasons, clients' serious chronic disease lowered their well-being, increased their levels of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and had a negative impact on their parters or spouses. This resulted in majority of them experiencing some depressive symptoms. All participants were randomly selected for a positive or a supportive therapy that is currently used in the hospital. Shortly after the intervention, Quality of Life patients were signficantly more satisfied with their lives than their supportive therapy counterparts. However, more interestingly, in 3 and 6 month follow up, 76.47% of Quality of Life patients moved to within the 'average' range of clinical symptoms in comparison to 27% of the supportive therapy patients. Moreover, Quality of Life patients reported greater intimacy and closeness with caregivers at 1 month follow up and significantly less distress at 3 month follow up. Overall, in this study, Quality of Life therapy had a very promising effect in reducing depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as boosting participants' well-being.

Quality of Life therapy is just one of many evidence-based therapies we will be discussing at the Professional Certificate of Positive Therapy course held in PCI college in May.

Jolanta Burke
PCI College Lecturer and Programme Leader of the Professional Certificate in Positive Therapy

The Professional Certificate in Positive Therapy begins on Saturday 16th May at PCI College, Dublin City Centre. This is a five-day, 30 hour CPD programme for helping professionals who wish to use positive therapies in their professional practice. You can get more details and book online now at http://www.pcicollege.ie/cpd-course/positive-therapy

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