What is Positive Therapy?

“Positive Therapy emphasises the need to understand the positive side of human experience as well as understanding and ameliorating psychopathology and distress.”

This is the opening sentence of the book ‘Positive Therapy’ by Stephen Joseph and Alex Linley (2006). In essence a Positive Therapy approach doesn’t just focus on the reduction of negative symptoms, which is the traditional role of psychological interventions following mental health problems, but attempts to help people realise their potential.

Abraham Maslow said, as long ago as 1954, that:

“The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side. It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that, the darker, meaner half.”

At David Blore Associates Ltd. we take Maslow’s comments very seriously and so we focus on Joseph & Linley’s view of therapy. Whilst we are aware that reducing negative symptoms is frequently the priority for most sufferers, we often wonder whether the person walking into the clinic has any idea what they might be capable of when they walk out.

For instance: Mick who was suffering from flashbacks and fear was clearly traumatised on referral. Not only is he better these days, but also he is a black belt in Judo. He’d never have guessed that would be the outcome to his Positive Therapy.

Jane, who was partially crushed after a passing car frightened the horse she was riding on, is another example. Jane was suffering from chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the start of therapy. A month after completing a course of ‘Positive EMDR’ she came fourth in a riding competition. That was a few years ago, she is now an international competitor in equestrian sports.

Alison was involved in a horrific car crash and became depressed because she could see no end to her suffering. Once again EMDR treatment cleared the symptoms, she now runs a very successful company rehabilitating drivers back to driving, her biggest client these days is the insurance company she originally claimed compensation from.

Not all positive outcomes are spectacular, but many represent personal triumphs: Jonathan who was bullied at work underwent a short course of ‘Positive CBT’. At assessment he was very shy and socially withdrawn. Nowadays he tells people how much he feels for those who have problems with social anxiety and he has raised thousands of pounds for a charity through public speaking – the very thing that would have terrified him in years gone by.

Not everyone even has problems to start with, or at least not the type of problems associated with involvement in psychological trauma. Perhaps the ‘problem’ is simply a poor tennis serve or golf swing. Or perhaps it is anxiety at tacking exams or contemplating the forthcoming driving test. We also focus on performance enhancement and positive coaching aimed at removing the anxiety associated with future tasks and, importantly, producing that ‘something extra’ that means a successful outcome, sometimes a very successful outcome that can surprise the individual themselves. Do any of us understand our true capabilities?

With the 2012 Olympics coming up, are you hoping that your performance can be improved? Do you stand a chance of a medal? Do your ‘nerves’ let you down? Would a course of ‘Performance Enhancement using EMDR’ help with those vital factors that improve times, put you in the right frame of mind, or let you envisage success? Alternatively do you coach a team sport? Are there problems within the team that ‘Performance Cohesiveness’ training might address? What have you to lose?

Email us for further information.