Integrating Positive Emotions Into Theory, Research, and Practice: A New Challenge for Psychotherapy

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Abstract

This article elaborates on the themes and directions that emerged from a dialogue on the potential usefulness of positive emotions in psychotherapy. In defining a positive emotion, the authors propose that there are two intersecting axes of interest. The axes are emotional experience—whether something feels good or bad to the client—and therapeutic value—how helpful the emotion is to the therapeutic process. Three of the four quadrants formed by the intersection of these axes potentially contain positive emotions. Special consideration is given to the quadrant of positive experience/positive value, which has been relatively neglected until now. In this quadrant, positive emotions generate change either in their facilitating role—often in the therapeutic relationship—or as central agents of the change process. The authors conclude by considering how positive and negative emotions interact and call for careful theorizing and research to clearly understand positive emotions in psychotherapy.

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