Tips for incorporating positive psychology in clinical practice

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The practice of positive psychology belongs in clinical practice, and not just to enhance feeling better, but to inspire patients to do better, according to John Hart, PhD, of The Menninger Clinic, and Wes Clayton, LMSW, of the Houston Obsessive-Compulsive Program. The men presented on the subject during a recent Grand Rounds at Baylor College of Medicine, an affiliate of Menninger.


The two professionals suggested making patients aware of the many myths that surround the subject of positive psychology, including:

  • The absence of negative symptoms will give way to positive experiences.
  • Happiness is the natural state for all human beings.
  • If you are not happy, you are defective.
  • To create a better life, you must get rid of negative feelings.
  • You should be able to control what you think and feel.

One way to enhance a positive outlook, they said, is by being grateful. Reasons to encourage patients to feel gratitude:

  • Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.
  • Gratitude bolsters self-worth and compassion.
  • Expressing gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
  • Gratitude can help build social bonds.
  • Expressing gratitude can inhibit maladaptive comparisons.
  • The practice of gratitude is incompatible with extreme emotions.

Hart and Clayton said increasing positive emotions can:

  • Increase awareness and the quality of decision making.
  • Provide more creative and flexible options in a given situation.
  • Increase resilience in the face of negative life events.