Mood disorders, as well as other mental health problems, bother many people around the whole globe. These conditions influence people’s abilities to think, feel, and behave normally by the already established norms and expectations. Mental illnesses may be of different types, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Each disease has its causes, signs, and methods of treatment. About one in five Americans are annually diagnosed with mental illnesses, and more than 50% of people are exposed to have such a diagnosis at a particular point in their lives (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
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Positive psychotherapy is one of the well-known clinical modalities in modern medicine. Although this method is relatively new, many clinics and healthcare providers have already discovered its benefits from theoretical and practical perspectives. The major focus of positive psychotherapy is happiness and the development of optimistic emotions. There are many approaches to be applied within the frames of the chosen therapy with its unique effects on disorder treatment. In this paper, special attention will be paid to the characteristics and techniques of positive psychotherapy and its use in managing such disorders as depression and schizophrenia.
Positive Psychotherapy Overview
Positive psychotherapy is one of the applications in positive psychology that is frequently used in modern therapeutic settings. The main idea of positive psychology is the recognition of factors that may positively influence human life. Rashid (2015) finds it effective to discuss this form of therapy through the prism of positive psychology that was developed by Chris Peterson several years ago. According to this theory, psychology has to be focused on both human strengths and weaknesses to create and take the best things from this life, as well as repair the worst elements (Peterson, as cited in Rashid, 2015).
In their turn, Walsh, Cassidy, and Priebe (2016) extend the discussion and prove that such a component as engagement that includes blessings journals and character strengths is applied more often than such components as pleasure and meaning. Such findings show that positive psychotherapy is a complex clinical modality with several aspects to be evaluated.
The development of the term “positive psychotherapy” is closely connected with the works by Martin Seligman, Nossrat Peseschkian, and Tayyab Rashid. Seligman was a founder of positive psychology in 1998 who believed that this type of therapy must be developed within a patient and his/her congenial or positive relationships that are based on the recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses (Harrison & Ackerman). Rashid was the first researcher who applied this modality to depressed people and considered a therapist as a coach who could re-educate patients’ attention and memory (Dobiała & Winkler, 2016).
However, Peseschkian remains the only father of positive psychotherapy as a definite psychological term and clinical modality. He explained that the essence of positive psychotherapy is not to discuss people’s problems to find out a solution but never stress them and identify only positive elements in human life (Dobiała & Winkler, 2016). As a result, such therapy helps people increase their awareness of what they can do or want to do, what their meaning of life is, and how often positive feedback may be received from people around.
Theory and Practice Techniques
The essence of positive psychotherapy can be discussed in terms of its theory and practice techniques. Harrison and Ackerman (2017) admit that it hardly replaces traditional psychotherapy techniques but may become a solid supplementary contribution to people’s intentions to get through something unpleasant or bad in their lives and thrive as a result. From a theoretical point of view, there are three main domains in positive psychotherapy, including pleasant life (pleasure), engaged life (engagement), and meaningful life (meaning) (Dobiała & Winkler, 2016).
Pleasure requires an understanding of positive emotions inherent to a particular patient, which makes this well-being component a subjective one (Gander, Proyer, & Ruch, 2016). Meaning is a component that signifies “eudaimonic orientation that emphasizes serving a greater purpose” (Gander et al., 687). Engagement, in its turn, is a condition when a person focuses on some activities and enjoys some new emotions and experiences. The main characteristics that are developed during participation in such activities are strengths and virtues that are closely related to personal values (Dobiała & Winkler, 2016). These values may vary in people, including creativity, courage, hope, humor, or kindness.
As soon as the above-mentioned components are united within one person, it is possible to say that he/she lives his/her full life. According to Rashid (as cited in Georges & Tomlinson-Clarke, 2015), this type of life entails such elements as satisfaction and happiness where engagement, pleasure, and meaning are obtained through various activities and remove several psychological problems. The achievement of such a quality of life is possible through several practical techniques. Some of them will be discussed below (Harrison & Ackerman, 2017; Rashid, 2015; Walsh et al., 2016):
- Gratitude journals. This method is one of the simplest but the most effective techniques in positive psychotherapy when a person writes something in a special notebook or diary. It includes things or events for which a patient may be grateful to focus attention on positive aspects of life.
- Beautiful day design. This exercise is based on the idea to think over a day that can be defined as a perfect one according to personal needs and desires. A therapist encourages a patient to answer simple questions like “What do you love to do?” or “Whom do you want to see?” and identify the elements of the next day.
- Self-esteem journals. This approach helps people with low self-esteem understand the main things in this life, concentrating on the events of one particular day. Prompts like “today I did well…” or “I am proud of…” stimulate a patient.
- Personal stories. This oral practice includes the necessity to talk to a therapist and describe the events as if a patient is writing a story. Some events could be imaginary and combined with real-life situations.
- Gratitude letters. Patients identify people to whom they are thankful but never say about true feelings. It is not necessary to deliver this letter, but it is expected to recognize good and positive memories.
- Meditation. This tool helps fight anxiety and other negative emotions by completing certain physical exercises combined with background music and breathing techniques.
- Progress discussions. This oral method is based on therapist-patient communication and the evaluation of recent achievements and discoveries.
- Personal satisfaction plans. This activity can be either oral or written and developed either with a therapist or alone. A patient makes a list of things to increase satisfaction levels and tries to accomplish these plans with time.
The Effectiveness of Positive Psychotherapy in Disorder Management
The application of positive psychotherapy plays an important role in mental health practices. Many disorders bother millions of people annually with different signs, symptoms, and treatment plans. As a rule, psychotherapy is treated as a form of counseling within the frames of which the identification of emotional and behavioral problems occurs. However, the list of benefits of positive psychotherapy in disorder management is impressive.
First, this practice consists of a series of meetings with a licensed expert who is aware of how to establish proper and trustful patient-therapist relationships. Second, it aims at combining a patient with the environment where he or she should live, which means that a person should not invent something or change a location but to identify the advantages of available resources (Amini, Namdari, & Kooshki, 2016). Finally, no or a limited number of medications are usually prescribed to patients who choose positive psychotherapy. Therefore, there is no threat of experiencing negative physiological side effects. Patients who have depression or schizophrenia as the major mental health disorders can benefit from using positive psychotherapy as their main treatment intervention.
Depression is one of the leading causes of human disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), today, one in 25 Americans continue living with a serious mental illness, including depression or schizophrenia. Therefore, much attention is paid to the improvement of the emotional wellbeing of populations under different conditions. Non-pharmacological and medication-based interventions are usually offered to patients who have depression as their major diagnosis. However, in the majority of cases, people find it necessary to avoid using drugs to cope with their depressive thoughts and behaviors.
Healthcare providers also believe that if depression can be treated non-pharmacologically, it is better to use this option. To decrease the negative states associated with depression, positive psychotherapy is frequently recommended as one of the possible interventions to underline human excellence, investigate health functioning, and promote positive behaviors (Lambert, D’Cruz, Schlatter, & Barron, 2016). Depression may have different causes and outcomes, and positive psychotherapy is a chance to treat this disorder from multiple perspectives.
One of the main benefits of positive psychotherapy in managing depression is the focus on positive emotions and the intentions to increase them. Depressive symptoms may be considerably decreased as soon as a patient starts developing his or her positive cognition and think of future happiness and satisfaction (Lambert et al., 2016). Another important advantage of this type of therapy is the possibility to cope with negative experiences without following adaptive means and unhealthy behaviors (Rashid, 2015). Patients can find out new purposes and evaluate their attitudes towards the environment and their appropriateness.
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Personal satisfaction plans gratitude letters are the positive psychotherapy techniques for depressive patients. However, in case a patient refuses to discover the positive aspects of life in a written form, it is recommended to use meditation and enlarge oral communication with a therapist. In this case, social support and real-life cooperation encourage people and demonstrate a high quality of care.
When patients with depressive signs are properly motivated and understand the worth of their success in positive psychotherapy, there is a high chance to obtain great rewards. When interventions are individually-based, a therapist can identify the strong and weak aspects of a person and focuses mainly on strengths to avoid negative emotions and behaviors. During group counseling meetings, a therapist must address depression as a positive stage of life during which new thoughts, additional evaluations, and personal assessment take place to be prepared for new tasks, achievements, and satisfaction.
Schizophrenia is a common mental health disorder that is observed in many Americans, as well as the citizens of other countries. This condition has a significant impact on people’s understanding of reality and their abilities to react to different events, people, and circumstances. Hallucinations and delusions are frequently observed in people diagnosed with schizophrenia, resulting in the quality of sleep, performance, and communication.
Anhedonia and apathy are the two significant characteristics of schizophrenia in people of different ages (Favrod et al., 2015). As a rule, schizophrenic people are less motivated and disoriented compared to patients with other mental health disorders, and the use of positive psychotherapy turns out to be an effective means with unpredictable results.
One of the offered interventions to this group of patients is the application of the Positive Emotions Program for Schizophrenia (PEPS) when defeatist thinking has to overcome through increased anticipation and the promotion of positive emotions (Favrod et al., 2015). Therapists use visual and audio materials to inspire patients and raise positive emotions, develop five-minute meditation sessions, and provoke various discussions.
The main task of a therapist for patients with schizophrenia is to use their imagination and project new positive emotions. The core issue in PEPS sessions is the possibility to anticipate pleasant moments and share them with the rest of the group (Favrod et al., 2015). Such techniques as a beautiful day design, gratitude letters, or personal satisfaction plans can be appropriate for managing this particular disorder. Sometimes, patients may not understand why they have to do it, or what outcomes of their work may be.
Therefore, therapists should not focus on explanations but contribute to the creating of a good environment for patients. Schizophrenia is a disease with unpredictable human emotions and reactions. Instead of challenging people and make them do what they do not understand, positive psychotherapy offers to do what makes them satisfied and pleased. Positive emotions decrease the risks of anhedonia, apathy, and depression in schizophrenic patients (Favrod et al., 2015). This goal is highly appreciated by healthcare experts and nurses. The development of such qualities like forgiveness, kindness, hope, and gratitude are important for schizophrenia treatment, and positive psychotherapy helps achieve this goal.
Due to a significant increase in mental health disorders in people of different ages and ethnicities, the necessity to develop effective plans to treat and prevent cannot be ignored. Positive psychotherapy turns out to be a strong contribution to the improvement of mental health and the control of negative emotions that may cause serious behavioral and emotional changes. There are many forms of positive psychotherapy to be used by therapists, including meditation, gratitude journals, and personal satisfaction plans.
Although patients may react to these practices in different ways, it is necessary to try each technique and check all the aspects of the chosen modality. Pleasure, engagement, and meaning are the core concepts of the therapy, and they may become the main principle in life for patients who have to live with depression or schizophrenia. A portion of positive emotions is a good chance to improve the quality of life, stay motivated, and enjoy every moment.
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