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A positive approach to rehabilitation research and practice.

The Positive Psychology movement is gaining ground and starting to shape psychology research. According to Seligman (2002) the primary mission of the positive psychology movement is to "catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life" (pg.3). When Seligman's statement is applied to therapeutic interventions and psychological services, the focus shifts from a model that stresses pathology to a model built on strengths. At a broader discipline level the positive psychology approach suggests that psychologists and psychology researchers should shift their focus from policy decisions based on the diagnosis and assessment of human deficiencies to policy decisions based on a balanced approach that incorporates both the deficits and strengths of the individual and environment (Wright & Lopez, 2002). To achieve this goal researchers need to expand their focus to incorporate human strengths, resources, opportunities and deficiencies in the environment.

For the broader field of rehabilitation the concepts of the positive psychology movement are not new. Many of the positive psychology tenets have provided the foundation for the growth and development of rehabilitation. Research in the area of psychological adjustment to disability and attitudes toward individuals with disabilities are firmly rooted in positive psychology constructs (Wright, 1983; Wright, 1988). To some extent, the field of rehabilitation has moved away from emphasizing consumer strengths and resources to a diagnosis and pathology centered approach to services.

As editors of the Journal we believe that there should be a reemphasis on the core constructs and theories that are driving the positive psychology movement. Concepts such as optimism, resilience, subjective well-being, coping, hope, sense of coherence, and self-efficacy all hold promise for reinvigorating the strengths approach to consumer services. Research in these areas can provide a solid theoretical and practical foundation for effective interventions for rehabilitation practitioners. In the end, consumers will benefit from this approach.


Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. In C.R. Snyder & S.J.Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp.3-7). New York: Oxford.

Wright, B.A. (1983). Physical disability: A psychological approach. New York: Harper and Row.

Wright, B.A. (1988). Attitudes and the fundamental negative bias. In H.E. Yuker (Eds.), Attitudes toward persons with disabilities (pp.3-21). New York: Springer.

Wright, B.A. & Lopez, S.J. (2002). Widening the diagnostic focus: A case for including human strengths and environmental resources. In C.R. Snyder & S.J.Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp.26-44). New York: Oxford.
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Article Details
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Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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Next Article:Quality of life and psychosocial adaptation to chronic illness and acquired disability: a conceptual and theoretical synthesis.

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