Positive Emotions in Psychotherapy Theory, Research, and Practice: New Kid on the Block?

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Abstract

This article introduces the Special Section, which explores the potential importance of positive emotions in our theory, research, and practice. The authors propose that the peripheral role that psychotherapy theory, research, and practice has allotted to the variable “positive emotion” can be understood in terms of the foundational axioms of our discipline. The authors argue that psychotherapy has implicitly adopted an attitude of caution and suspicion toward the potential therapeutic value of experiencing positive emotions, an all embracing attitude toward the therapeutic value of experiencing negative emotions, and an identity focused on healing psychological wounds at the expense of promoting psychological well-being. The authors trace the adoption of these axioms to Judeo-Christian ideas of human nature and to the identity formation process of psychotherapy, and the authors speculate on the sociopolitical forces that have promoted a shift in our theorizing in the last few decades.

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