Every now and then a friend or family member will ask me what it's like to listen to people's problems all day and they wonder if becomes tiring or negative. I find myself trying to explain that therapy is more than that.
Psychotherapy has traditionally focused on the negatives. Let's face it… people come into therapy because there's something going on in their life, but that's only one piece to the intricate puzzle of the therapeutic process. The solution is in, yes talking about what's problematic, identifying where it comes from and perhaps mourning it and making sense of it, but also about finding sources of strength and happiness and developing the ability to grow those.
Positive Psychology is a branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of things like positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions and it can be just as important and valid as looking at the past and the sources of pain in ones life, as is done in the more traditional psychoanalytical approach to therapy. The combination of the two approaches can yield very powerful results.
Here's a primer on what it's all about, including a link to the Positive Psychology Center's website and a wonderful video on how the US government is using it's theories and findings to develop resiliency training programs to help combat PTSD in our soldiers.