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When Martin Seligman, a well known psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, became President of the American Psychological Association in 1996, he did a review of the psychological literature over the previous three decades. He found that during that period there were 46,000 papers in the psychology literature on depression - and just 400 on joy. Astounded, Seligman made it his mission to encourage the further study of mental health - finding what makes us happy and joyful - to balance out psychology's focus on dysfunction - what makes us less happy and joyful.

Since then, the field has grown significantly and has come to be known as Positive Psychology. It parallels the rise of Appreciative Inquiry and the study of Flow, both of which also advise us to study healthy people and groups and find out what makes them healthy rather than only studying disease and how to fix it. Psychology's obsessive focus with what is wrong, along with its stigmatizing disease-based model of patients, are some of the reasons I left the mainstream mental health field to start Emergent Associates. The rise of Positive Psychology is a ray of hope in helping to create more balance in that field.

Psychology certainly should continue delving into the origins of states such as depression and anxiety. But they should simultaneously be applying knowledge gained from those who are models of the states toward which they hope to help their clients move.

Learn more in these Positive Psychology Resources.

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