Positive Psychology is a movement founded by Martin Seligman which aims to “increase the tonnage of happiness on the planet” by measuring, classifying, and increasing positive emotion and positive traits. It explicitly positions itself as the anti-DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; American Psychiatric Association, 2001), having created its own ‘diagnostic’ manual, the Classification of Strengths (Peterson and Seligman, 2004), encompassing 24 human strengths within 10 criteria. Its roots are in humanistic psychology, and positive psychology’s seeming reluctance to properly acknowledge this has been much to the chagrin of parts of the humanistic psychology movement and community. Additionally, positive psychology has positioned itself on the side of science, aligning itself with a reductionist, quantitative approach, and claiming this as superior to the anti-scientific methods used by humanistic psychology. However, there are a number of philosophical, cultural and empirical problems with positive psychology’s current position, which suggests it is still at a rather immature stage in its development. Positive psychology’s application to clinical practice is unsurprisingly also in its infancy, with only a handful of well designed studies, but even with these issues the potential benefits of the interventions are tantalising.
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