Positive Psychology and Coaching


What IS positive psychology?

In short, positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It is a rich and growing field, and aligns perfectly with coaching: both assume people are basically healthy, resourceful, and motivated to grow.

The phrase “positive psychology” was first used by Abraham Maslow in 1954, in a call to psychology to focus on humanity’s potential just as much as its shortcomings. It was again used in 1998 when Martin Seligman assumed the presidency of the American Psychological Association. Seligman recognized that the bulk of psychological research in the twentieth century had focused on human deficits and how to alleviate them, with considerably less research devoted to exploring human strengths and how to develop and promote them. Positive psychology addresses this gap in research.

What are the benefits of positive psychology coaching?

Research has demonstrated that a number of positive psychology practices can effectively raise our level of happiness. The benefits of happiness are significant and widespread and extend far beyond just feeling good.

Happier people tend to enjoy better health, live a longer life, have closer friendships, are more creative and productive at work and in life, and achieve greater success. Research studies show that the happiest people tend to:

  • Express gratitude-–that is, counting their blessings
  • Nurture relationships with family and friends
  • Practice optimism regarding the future
  • Savor the positive experience in their lives
  • Commit to and realize meaningful goals

How does positive psychology help coaches to help their clients?

Positive psychology is a natural fit with coaching. Clients seek out coaching for a full range of issues, but underneath all of these issues is a generally unstated desire to increase their overall sense of happiness and well-being. Positive psychology provides important empirical underpinnings to the techniques and strategies that coaches use to help clients realize their goals on the path to greater well-being.

Positive psychology also suggests specific interventions and practices that can be effectively integrated into the coaching relationship. For example, the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths can be used to help clients identify their character strengths. With a working knowledge of their core strengths, the client and coach can then explore how to put them to best use in the client’s work and life.

How has MentorCoach integrated positive psychology into coaching?

MentorCoach is taking a global lead in bringing positive psychology to the world through coaching. Our training program is unique in its objective to integrate the science of well-being into every coach’s practice. Our website Coaching Toward Happiness is focused entirely on applying positive psychology in your coaching, work, and life. It boasts the largest email newsletter in coaching and provides access to regular interviews with thought leaders in coaching and positive psychology.

Understanding the power of positive psychology coaching, MentorCoach has had a strong commitment to the field since 2002. Dr. Ben Dean, Founder and CEO of MentorCoach, partnered with Dr. Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association and author of Authentic Happiness, to create the Authentic Happiness Coaching Program (AHC), providing training via teleconference on the scientific underpinnings and interventions of positive psychology. From 2003 to 2005, AHC trained 1000 professionals in 19 nations in the theory, assessments, interventions and practice of positive psychology.

Following up on the great success of the Authentic Happiness Coaching classes, Ben then partnered with University of Michigan Professor Christopher Peterson to offer MentorCoach students a series of stimulating, original, and fun Positive Psychology Coach-training courses called North of Neutral and Positive Psychology Immersion: Applications in Action.

Many luminaries in the field of positive psychology have taught wonderful Master Classes for our students:

In addition to offering classes such as these, MentorCoach provides monthly guest interviews with thought leaders in the field of positive psychology and coaching. More than a 100 of these monthly interviews–each with a detailed webpage about the guest’s work and a live recording of their interview—are located here.

Sample interviews include:

Christopher-PetersonChristopher Peterson, Ph.D. (February 18, 1950-October 9, 2012) was one of the founders and leading figures in positive psychology and had taught at the University of Michigan since 1986, where he was Professor of Psychology and Organizational Studies and former Director of Clinical Training. He also held an appointment as an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, in recognition of his contributions to teaching. Chris was among the 100 most widely cited psychologists in the world. He was a member of the Positive Psychology Steering Committee, a consulting editor to the Journal of Positive Psychology, Perspectives on Psychological Science, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Positive Psychology Book Series Editor for Oxford University Press. He was co-author with Marty Seligman of the landmark volume, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification and the author of the bestselling A Primer in Positive Psychology and Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology (2013), each published by Oxford University Press. Check out his Psychology Today blog, “The Good Life.” Chris taught five Master Classes for MentorCoach, gave us numerous public and private interviews, and, with his colleague, Nansook Park, Ph.D., keynoted our Annual Conference in 2007. In 2012, 150 professionals from 10 nations took Chris’ two-month “Positive Psychology and Well-Being Master Class.” Chris’ most recent Interview is here.

lea waters mentor coachLea Waters, PhD, is a psychologist, researcher, speaker and author who specializes in positive education, positive parenting, and positive organizations. She holds the Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne and is President of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). Lea is Professor and Founding Director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Melbourne and author of The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish. Her Positive Education program, called Positive Detective, is being used in schools in United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Finland, Ghana, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. Her Visible Wellbeing initiative is being run in schools across Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria in both the State and Independent Education systems. You can hear Lea’s interview and learn more about her work here.

Walter MischelThe late Walter Mischel, PhD (2/22/30 – 9/12/18) was born in Vienna, Austria. He escaped with his family after the Nazi occupation in 1938 and went on to become one of the most famous and revered psychologists of the last 100 years. He was David Niven Professor of Humane Letters and Professor of Psychology, Columbia University, internationally known for his groundbreaking research on delayed gratification, and author of the new book, The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self Control. This was a riveting interview, one of the most popular we’ve held, covering everything from life in occupied Austria, to the lessons from his research on delaying gratification, to his plans for making contributions with his work over the next five years (age 85 to 90). He died at age 88.  You can listen to Walter’s interview and find out more information about his work, here.

Laura KingLaura King, PhD is Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Laura is one of the world’s leading experts on the study of meaning in life. A 2001 recipient of the Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, Laura has published over 90 articles and chapters and two user-friendly college textbooks, The Science of Psychology (currently in its 3rd edition) and Experience Psychology (now in its 2nd edition) both of which have an appreciative focus, looking at “what works” before examining what doesn’t, exploring function before dysfunction. She currently serves as editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Personality Processes and Individual Differences. This was a great interview. People loved it. For more information about Laura and to listen to her interview, submit your email address address here.

See More Interviews

To see many more interviews, click here.

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