The Psychology of Everyday Life: Motivation and the Search For Happiness

Positive Psychology

What is positive psychotherapy?

In a 2006 publication, Seligman, Taayab Rashid, and Acacia Parks reported their results from their more formal study of positive psychotherapy (PPT). Here they adapted the exercises used in their Web-based study to more intensive forms of psychotherapy. The first study included forty mildly-to-moderately depressed undergraduate students. Nineteen students were assigned to two hours per week of group therapy for six weeks, while twenty-one were assigned to a no-treatment control group. Treatment involved a package of six exercises similar to the ones assigned in the earlier Web-based study. The last session focused on how to maintain therapeutic gains and continue the exercises after the study ended.

Statistical analysis showed that the students in the PPT group had lower depression scores and higher life satisfaction scores than the controls and that the improvement lasted for at least one year after the treatment ended. In a second study, more severely depressed patients were treated in individual therapy and compared to equally depressed patients in usual treatment (psychotherapy with or without medication). The individual therapy utilized many of the same techniques as the earlier two studies, but adapted the interventions to address the greater severity of depression. After a maximum of twelve weeks, patients in PPT showed more improvement than patients in treatment as usual, with greater reductions in depression and higher increases in positive emotion.


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