In their important article, McNulty and Fincham (2011) make several recommendations for the future of positive psychology.
"First, psychologists need to move beyond examining the main effects of traits and processes that may promote well–being on average to study the factors that determine when, for whom, and to what extent those factors are associated with well–being"
"Our review suggests that the psychological characteristics that benefit people experiencing optimal circumstances may not only fail to help people experiencing suboptimal circumstances, [people seeking therapy] but may harm them"
"Second, to adequately capture the moderating role of various contextual factors, we need to study the implications of psychological characteristics in the context of both health and dysfunction and in the context of both happy and unhappy people"
"As our review makes clear, the processes that benefit people facing optimal circumstances can harm people facing suboptimal circumstances. Accordingly, understanding how to relieve suffering requires studying people who are suffering, and understanding how to prevent suffering requires studying people at risk for suffering"
"Third, researchers need to move beyond cross–sectional studies to examine the implications of psychological traits and processes over substantial periods of time"
[Fourth] "Specifically, as earlier critics of positive psychology have contended (e.g., Lazarus, 2003), psychologists need to move beyond labeling psychological traits and processes as . Continuing to do so imposes values on science that influence not only what we study but also what we predict and thus report"
"we argue that positive psychology needs to be thought of as just plain psychology psychologists can have a fuller understanding of the complete human condition. That is, an understanding of the complete human condition requires recognizing that psychological traits and processes are not inherently positive or negative—whether they have positive or negative implications depends on the context in which they operate. Psychology is not positive or negative—psychology is psychology" (McNulty & Fincham, 2011, pp. 6–8).
Psychology can fix most things: "At least 14 disorders, previously intractable, have yielded their secrets to science and can now be either cured or considerably relieved (Seligman, 1994)" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6). Versus no, it can't: "It is a supplement, not a replacement, for the science and practice of relieving suffering. We believe that soldiers with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other disorders should continue to receive the best of treatments. We are also mindful, however, that the known treatments are of limited effectiveness (Seligman, 1993, 2006) "(Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 86).
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well–being. , (6), 1069–1081. doi:10.1037//0022–35126.96.36.1999. Reigning measures of psychological well–being have little theoretical grounding, despite an extensive literature on the contours of positive functioning. Aspects of well–being derived from this literature (i.e., self–acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth) were operationalized. Three hundred and twenty–one men and women, divided among young, middle–aged, and older adults, rated themselves on these measures along with six instruments prominent in earlier studies (i.e., affect balance, life satisfaction, self–esteem, morale, locus of control, depression). Results revealed that positive relations with others, autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth were not strongly tied to prior assessment indexes, thereby supporting the claim that key aspects of positive functioning have not been represented in the empirical arena. Furthermore, age profiles revealed a more differentiated pattern of well–being than is evident in prior research.
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2003). Flourishing under fire: Resilience as a prototype of challenged thriving. Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well–lived. In C. L. M. Keyes, & J. Haidt, (Eds.), (pp. 15–36). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Self–determination theory and the role of basic psychological needs in personality and the organization of behavior. In O. P. John, R. W. Robbins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), (pp. 654–678). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Todd Kashdan, PhD and Joseph Ciarrochi, PhD field questions on their new book, . Todd is Professor of Psychology at George Mason, author of 120+ peer reviewed journal articles and and co-editor of . Todd has also taught (available by recording).
Two highly complementary "new sources of knowledge are now available to mental health professionals: collated syntheses of narratives of recovery from mental illness, and empirical evidence about well–being from the academic discipline of positive psychology" (Slade, 2010, p. 12).
"Because most psychotherapy theories do not have a well–developed set of axioms and assumptions about the role of positive emotions (PE) in psychotherapy, our aim is to both synthesize some commonalities and highlight some distinctions drawn by the contributors to this special section" (Fitzpatrick & Stalikas, 2008, p. 249).
"In January of 2005, an exercise Web site, , was opened. This site has a book club, a newsletter, and forum discussion of positive psychology each month, but most important, one new positive psychology exercise is posted each month. The first month's exercise is the three blessings ("Write down three things that went well today and why they went well"), and the first month's subscription to the Web site is free (thereafter it costs $10 per month)" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 776).
Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs) are intentional activities such as performing acts of kindness, practicing optimism, and counting one's blessing gleaned from decades of research into how happy and unhappy people are different. This new approach has the potential to benefit depressed individuals who don't respond to pharmacotherapy or are not able or willing to obtain treatment, is less expensive to administer, is relatively less time–consuming and promises to yield rapid improvement of mood symptoms, holds little to no stigma, and carries no side effects. Although the paper found that positive activity interventions are effective in teaching individuals ways to increase their positive thinking, positive affect and positive behaviors, only two studies specifically tested these activities in individuals with mild depression. In one of these studies, lasting improvements were found for six months. Effective PAIs used in the study included writing letters of gratitude, counting one's blessings, practicing optimism, performing acts of kindness, meditating on positive feelings toward others, and using one's signature strengths, all of which can be easily implemented into a daily routine at low cost. (Layous, Chancellor, Lyubomirsky, Wang, & Doraiswamy, 2011).
"Humanistic psychologists assert that people are basically good but the process of self–actualization as improvement was not understood; humanistic psychologists were overarchingly optimistic about people's ability to change for the better. Cognitive psychologists reacted against behaviorism by applying the scientific method to the study of problem solving and rational choices. Positive psychology embraces the optimism of the humanists, the potential mechanisms of improvement of the cognitive psychologists, and the rigorous research methods of science" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 431).
"Several researchers have applied positive psychology to the workplace (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). Building from the foundation of the positive psychology movement, recent attention has been paid to positive organizational behavior (POB), defined as "the study and application of positively oriented human resource strengths that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today's workplace" (Luthans, 2002, p. 59). Three POB constructs receiving recent attention have been hope, subjective well–being, and confidence" (Hodges & Clifton, 2004 p. 263).