Playing to your Strengths: Strength Based Therapy and Why it Works

Dan Duncan's picture

strength-therapy-positive-successThroughout the history of psychology, counseling has focused on getting to the problem and solving it. But what if focusing on the problem becomes the problem? There are many effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Strategies that effectively address problems and help you resolve those problems. However, there is another effective way that does not necessarily address the problem, but helps resolve it. This therapy works through identifying the strengths and what works for someone, and enhancing what works to overcome what is not working. 

Dr. Martin Seligman has been proposing this strategy as an alternative to problem focused therapies for some time, and his research on the efficacy of strength based therapy has shown real promise. This is something you can even do on your own if you understand what your strengths are and can be objective about them.   

How Strength Based Therapy Works:

Every client comes to therapy with issues to address and problems to solve. Strength Based Therapies work by getting the client to stop focusing on what they are doing wrong, and start focusing on what they are doing right. For example, someone who is cycling through depression, has negative self-talk and a very poor outlook has little ability to see what they are doing right. The therapy would focus on some of the little things they are doing, such as, taking their medication, going to work, getting out of bed every day, etc. Any of these can be labeled as a strength and expanded on.

Once you have identified your strengths, you begin to explore what process and personal assets you're using to make this work for you. That asset or process, once identified, can then be applied to other areas of your life that you are not having as much success in. For example, if what gets you out of bed in the morning is your desire for a cup of coffee, that desire is your strength. What are some other small desires keep you going that can be made habits or consistent behaviors? Often, we already have many of these strengths but we do not label them as such because it is what we “should” do. 

Try it out to see if you can find what you are doing right instead of wrong and do more of it. It will help you move forward and feel better all at the same time.

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