The old medical models in psychology are being replaced by a different focus. Rather than speculation and classification, we are fostering factors that contribute a well-lived and fulfilling life. In the words of Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, this means “using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.”
There are many approaches with a completely new take on wellbeing. Positive Psychology, as you might expect, centres on positive experiences, a person’s strengths and positive relationships; Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) seeks out personal strengths and resources in order to amplify them; Interpersonal Therapy encourages clients to take control of mood and behaviour; Mindfulness-based therapy teaches techniques to encourage living in the here-and-now, rather than the there-and-then.
These are just examples, and while you might say that they too are just classifications, there is a stark difference in the way the ‘new psychologies’ regard the human condition.
When in distress, rather than being medicalised and viewed as sick, broken and in need of expert help to get better, people are seen as resourceful, doing the best they can and able to improve things themselves with a nudge in the right direction.
Quite naturally, these ideas tend to be cheaper to apply, more effective and lead to quicker and more sustained outcomes than more traditional methods (for the nit-pickers and pedants, I am not saying that traditional approaches to psychological therapy don’t work. only that there is often a better way).
Favouring simplicity, self-awareness and personal strengths has other benefits too. It means that in many cases self-help techniques can be as effective as conventional therapy, with the added bonus of encouraging personal autonomy and self-esteem. Therapy becomes redundant.
Talmon, M. (1993), Single Session Solutions; a Guide to Practical, Effective and Affordable Therapy, Addison-Wesley Publishing. Mass.
Seligman, M. (2003), Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment, The Free Press, New York.