Ten Ways to Infuse Positive Psychology in the Schools

By Huebner, Scott | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Ten Ways to Infuse Positive Psychology in the Schools


Huebner, Scott, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


TRASITIONS

School professionals, including school psychologists, have often operated from a problem- or deficit-based perspective with a focus on identifying and remediating psychoeducational disorders in children and adolescents. However, positive psychologists have argued that an exclusive focus on deficits does not offer a comprehensive perspective of children, families, or institutions. Rather, school psychologists must also consider personal strengths and environmental assets to promote optimal functioning of children and influential environmental contexts such as families, schools, and communities (Huebner & Gilman, 2003; Jimerson, Sharkey, Nyborg, & Furlong, 2004).

According to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), "Psychology is not just the study of pathology, weakness, and damage; it is also the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best" (p. 7). Examples of personal strengths (e.g., hope, engagement, life satisfaction) and environmental assets (e.g., social support, positive school climate, opportunities to participate in meaningful activities) are provided in Jimerson et al. (2004) . Although the origins of positive psychology are debatable (Froh, 2004), prominent positive psychologists have arguedthatthe purpose of positive psychology is not to replace a problem-based science and practice of psychology, but rather to complement it so that psychology is applicable to all individuals (e.g., Wright & Lopez, 2002). Increasing interest in positive psychology among numerous professional groups (e.g., clinical psychologists, social workers, organizational psychologists) has led to the development of a specific professional organizations (i.e., International Positive Psychology Association), journals (e.g., The Journal of Positive Psychology, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being), and numerous scholarly texts and popular press books.

Within school psychology in particular, noteworthy special issues of journals, including School Psychology Quarterly (Gilman & Huebner, 2003) , Psychology in the Schools (Chafouleas & Bray, 2004), and The California School Psychologist (Jimerson & Furlong, 2004), have been published drawing attention to the possible benefits of incorporating positive psychology theories, constructs, and methods into school psychology. An edited volume, the Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools (Gilman, Huebner, & Furlong, 2009) has also appeared summarizing a fairly large body of school-basedresearch. Nevertheless, the extent of the interest and actual applications of positive psychology in schools is unclear (Huebner & Hills, 2011).

The purpose of this article is thus to summarize some empirically evaluated strategies, which could be relatively easy to infuse into practice to promote positive psychology applications in the schools. Based on the notion that school psychologists provide a variety of services, I offer 10 suggestions for positive psychology applications that seem especially promising for each of five job functions of school psychologists: assessment, direct intervention, consultation, research/program evaluation, and administration/supervision. For each activity, I will highlight one promising practice at the individual level and one at the systems level to infuse into practice.

ASSESSMENT

School psychologists can incorporate a personal strengths/environmental assets section into their psychological reports for individual students. Such strengths and assets could be ipsative or norm-referenced. This practice should facilitate searching for and recognizing positives along with problems. Studies have revealed that simply including some positive data in psychological reports can promote more positive expectations for students among school professionals (Donovan & Nickerson, 2007; Wellborn, Huebner, & Hills, 2012).

At the systems level, school psychologists can help develop school-wide or districtwide monitoring systems for students' psychological well-being that incorporate measures of positive well-being as well as behavior problems or psychological symptoms. …

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