Positive Psychology and the Humanistic Tradition

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Abstract

Positive emotions are discussed within the context of experiential, client-centered, and related psychotherapies. An attempt is made to discuss the idea that the effects of such psychotherapies could be enhanced if positive emotions were viewed as a cause of positive psychotherapy outcomes rather than a consequence of focusing on painful and disturbing emotions. It is concluded that therapists within the humanistic tradition have highly positive views of persons and their tendency to be forward moving. Prizing patients while they express “negative” emotions seems much more likely to lead to positive emotions than the reverse. Thus, the positive psychology movement with its emphasis on giving preference to positive emotions seems misguided in a clinical context. Despite these reservations about the value of focusing on positive emotions in psychotherapy, the authors call for research to test the consequences of such a focus in experiential psychotherapy.

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