The deficit model in clinical psychology is important, but has missed critical opportunities that have been brought to light by the emergence of positive psychology. By focusing on sources of strength and resilience, positive psychology can add new perspectives to ideas about dysfunctional behavior, and has important implications for the theory and practice of cognitive therapies. This special issue of the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy reflects the growing recognition of the importance of positive psychology. The articles in this special issue present an array of topics that blend positive psychology with cognitive therapy in ways that are articulate and insightful. Taken together, these articles suggest that the yield of positive psychology and cognitive therapies may well exceed that of either alone.
Keywords: positive psychology; cognitive therapy; prevention psychopathology
Psychology has been obsessed with the negative in people. Although libido is perhaps the most well-known concept proposed by the profession's first "psychologist," the concept of thanatos also has been associated with Freud. Thanatos represents a death wish associated with the desire to give up the struggle of life. For those who decide to endure life, thanatos is manifested in hatred and destruction, which are seen as innate, albeit controllable, human tendencies. Although contemporary psychology long since has moved beyond such Freudian concepts, and no longer views life as a struggle merely to be endured, the residue of the negative has persisted. It is in this light that the rise of positive psychology is impressive. In its broadest sense, positive psychology tells us that the exclusive focus on the negative not only is misplaced, but it has devalued questions about why life is worth living (Seligman, 2003a; Snyder & Lopez, 2002b).
Although the antecedents of positive psychology are many (McCullough & Snyder, 2000; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000b; Snyder & McCullough, 2000), it has gained prominence only within the last decade (see Snyder & Lopez, 2002a). Several volumes devoted to various aspects of positive psychology have appeared in the last few years (e.g., Aspinwall & Staudinger, 2002; Keyes & Haidt, 2003; Lopez & Snyder, 2003; Snyder & Lopez, 2002a). Moreover, during this time, positive psychology has reached into many areas of human inquiry, including forays into such diverse areas as multicultural psychology (Sandage, Hill, & Vang, 2003), organizational behavior (Hill, 2003), school psychology (Baker, Dilly, & Auppwerlee, 2003; Huebner & Gilman, 2003; Snyder, Feldman, Shorey, & Rand, 2002), sports (Curry & Snyder, 2000), rehabilitation psychology (Elliott & Kurylo, 2000), coping (Snyder, 1999), spirituality and religion (Snyder, Sigmon, & Feldman, 2002), health psychology (Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991; Snyder, Tennen, Affleck, & Cheavens, 2000), diagnosis (Lopez & Snyder, 2003), personality (Snyder et al., 2000), educational psychology (Snyder, Shorey, et al., 2002), prevention (Snyder, Feldman, Taylor, Schroeder, & Adams, 2000), and lifespan issues and aging (Seligman, 2003b; Snyder, 2000a).
Reflecting this growing recognition of positive psychology, this special issue of the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy is not the first journal special issue devoted to this approach. For example, special issues have appeared in recent years in journals as broad as the American Psychologist (Sheldon & King, 2001; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000a), and as targeted as Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Snyder, 2000b), Psychological Inquiry (Martin & Erber, 2003), and International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Ironson, Lundberg, & Powell, 2003). In these special issues, the authors have articulated fundamental positive psychology principles for viewing cognitions, emotions, and behaviors.
Our view is that positive psychology also has widespread applications for clinical psychology (Snyder & Ingram, 2000a). …