Positive Psychology and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder essay

PositivePsychology and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

JenniferLynn York

SouthernNew Hampshire University

PSY560 – Q3718



Whilethe stresses of life do not always render a host powerless, the chaosthat can be found in modern day society brings about trauma and otherfactors that can elicit symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). This disorder is marked by hyper-vigilance, flashbacks,nightmares, and heightened fears. War, while not the only cause ofPTSD, is the leading cause among those who have served in themilitary. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects thousands of menand women in uniform, some of whom do not seek assistance until theyare nearly debilitated. Like with other mental health concerns,leaving those affected by PSTD to fend without coping measures canlead to dire consequences for themselves and even those around them. Thankfully, research in psychology has brought about a betterunderstanding of causes of PTSD and more effective therapeuticregimens that offer healthier ways to manage symptoms.

PositivePsychology, developed by Martin E. P. Seligman, is one of the newerforms of therapy that has demonstrated usefulness in elicitingchanges in clients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This article examines whether Positive Psychology is advantageousstanding on its own or whether incorporating other forms of therapymake it more beneficial in client treatment. Also, there is also anexploration into the multiple facets of Positive Psychology with aspecial focus on how it could be advantageously applied to thosesuffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

KeyWords: Positive Psychology, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),Martin Seligman


PositivePsychology and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Positivepsychology does not ignore those things that are negative in one’slife but instead leads the individual to find positive approaches andaspects in life to bring about beneficial changes. It does notsimply minimize one’s weaknesses but instead builds upon theirstrengths. Positive Psychology includes reaching for the innatedesire to have a pleasant, meaningful, and good life. This approachdiffers in that it does not focus on mental disorders, developmentaldelays, criminality, or prejudices found in other psychologicaltheories. In addition to examining the characteristics, methods,validity, accuracy, and contemporary relevance of PositivePsychology, this article also addresses whether this approach can becombined with other therapeutic techniques in order to facilitategreater progress in tackling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or canfunction as a stand-alone method.


Backgroundand History

Theconcept of positive psychological came into being in the year 1998 byMartin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The primary goal of theintroduction of the notion of Positive Psychology was to the creationof a field that would focus on the wellbeing of humans andconditions, strengths and the virtues that allow them to thrive(Fredrickson,2001).Much of discussion of psychology has been on the treatment of mentalillnesses that affects individuals. Little regard had been put onensuring the mental health of those who are affected. Seligman andMihaly acknowledge the fact that it is crucial to have a properframework to which individuals suffering from a mental illness needto be subjected to positive psychology for the benefits that emanatefrom the same. Positive psychology has evolved in the recent yearswith over one thousand peer-reviewed articles written on the topic.

Areasthat have been covered on positive psychology include pride,forgiveness, well-being, mindfulness, happiness and psychologicalhealth. The sections covered are about the concept of physical andmental health of those affected. Findings of studies conducted haveresulted in a significant impact on change regarding positivepsychology (Wong,&amp Gingras, 2010).Ideas that have been developed in the recent years have been employedto come up with interventions that seek to improve the overallwellbeing of individuals resulting in an improved mental healthstate. Positive psychology has since found itself applied in therapy,businesses, and the military to help in the improvement of the mentalhealth state of those affected (Compton,2005).For example, the United States Army started using tenets in the fieldof positive psychology in the year 2008. The growth and applicationof the field in the improvement of those affected has however beenaccompanied by a contribution from other related aspects such asemotions.

Characteristicsand Methods

Varioustraits define the concept of positive psychology. The first featurethat presents regarding positive psychology is mastery. The characterelaborates the issue of self-control that an individual has over thecircumstances that surround them. Further, a person is determined torule what happens in their lives. The ability of the individual tomaster the issues that affect them gives them power over variousaspects. Particularly, there is the idea of the mind and how one cancontrol themselves. Mastery is a significant trait in positivepsychology since it identifies the authority that one has overthemselves (LeeDuckworth, Steen, &amp Seligman, 2005).They have the ability to dictate what affects them particularlyregarding the circumstances surrounding them.

Thesecond trait of positive psychology is self-efficacy. According tothe proponents of the concept, it is the belief an individual wouldhave the abilities they have to organize and execute differentbehaviors to achieve a particular goal (Bandura, 1997).Self-efficacyfurther identifies the significance of certain traits that enable anindividual to accomplish the specific goals that they have set. Forexample, it could represent behaviors such as perseverance that onehas to endure to at times when they are facing problems and setbacksnot foreseen to attain the goals that they have set. Individualshaving such a trait end up sticking to the plans they haveestablished to see to it they achieve the goals in place. Mastery andself-efficacy are a crucial aspect of positive psychology based onthe idea it brings out on the issue. Both concepts state the need forone to have control in their state of mind to transform their lives.

Methodsof the Theory

Positivepsychology identifies the need of an individual to apply certainmethods to achieve their mental well-being. Building relationshipswith others is a fundamental aspect when it comes to ensuring thatone attains the idea of happiness (Linley,&amp Joseph, 2004).Through the act of socializing, it would be possible for anindividual to achieve happiness. The reasoning behind the happinessis that one has access to people who share ideas that seek to improvethe mental wellbeing of a person. For example, socializing enables anenvironment where one can enjoy the company of the others. Throughsuch cues, it becomes possible for the individuals to achieve mentalhealth. Military officers who have undergone psychological trauma mayfind the need for building relationships as a crucial componenttoward recovering from the condition. Engaging in social activitiessuch as family events may be vital since they create a platform forthe individual to view the issues that are affecting the particularpatient on a positive dimension (Wong,&amp Gingras, 2010).The decision to engage in social relationships aims at ensuring thatone achieves emotional well-being, a goal of positive psychology.

Further,there is the aspect of the need for one to challenge the negativitybias. Individuals who suffer from conditions such as PTSD end upengulfing their minds with the negative issues that have beenaffecting. Former war veterans find themselves thinking much aboutthe adverse events encountered during times of war. It is for thesame reason that they start experiencing nightmares accompanied by anincrease in mental illness. Positive psychology identifies the needto concentrate on developing a positive attitude towards variousissues that are likely to have a detrimental effect on mentalwellbeing (Wong&amp Gingras, 2010).Military personnel who have been in war suffer from periodicnightmares. The same can be attributed to the events of the war. Theapplication of positive psychological methods serves as anappropriate channel through which the individuals can be assisted toovercome the mental illnesses they are facing.

Further,Seligman (2002) presents the PERMA model that may serve as aframework through which one can attain mental health. The modelstates the pathways of happiness as P-pleasure, E-engagement,R-positive relationships, M-meaning and A-accomplishments (Seligmans,2002). The application of the four concepts has the benefit ofhelping one deal with the mental illnesses that could be affectingthem. Leading a pleasant life entails the need of one having positiveemotions. Adverse thoughts characterize Post-traumatic stressdisorder. Those who suffer from the same end up having negativeemotions of themselves. They portray a lack of self-esteem. Throughthe adoption of living a pleasant life, there is the benefit of oneadopting a positive a positive feeling of themselves resulting inachievement of mental wellness. The application of the identifiedpathways to happiness have the likelihood of improving thepsychological well-being of the individual. It is crucial to considerthe need for positive psychology is to foster happiness amongst thosewho are affected. Through the same, they would be in a position toeliminate the likelihood of developing mental illness. The otherconcept that is highlighted regards the issue of engagement whereindividuals are encouraged to develop a strong character defined bypositive virtues. Such a move would be helpful in enhancing thewellness of the individuals.

Validityand Accuracy

Themethods presented by the scholars are crucial when it comes to theconcept of utilizing positive psychology to help in addressingproblems such as PTSD. The theories are critical since they seek toelaborate the significance of applying the framework of positivepsychology to help resolve the challenges faced by the individuals.The ideas are valid because of the manner in which they arehighlighted. The authors Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi present thetheory in a way that depicts sound thought with the ultimate goal ofinforming on how best to address the issue of PTSD among thoseaffected. The application of positive psychological is useful when itcomes to management of mental illnesses. The decision to embracepositivity when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses has beenproven to work through evidence-based practice. Research acknowledgesthe significance of embracing positive virtues and an uprightcharacter to help in dealing with the mental conditions. Informationis further accurate as attested by researchers who conquer with thefindings of the proponents of the theory. For instance, Keyes (2005)states the concept of flourishing as an indication of mental health.Evidently, contributions of various researchers on the concept is areaffirmation of the idea of the ability to employ positivepsychology to address the mental health illnesses such as PTSD.


Positivepsychology remains to be a crucial component when it comes tomanagement of conditions such as PTSD. Understanding of positivepsychology is helpful as it enables the comprehension of thestrengths that facilitate the recovery of an individual sufferingfrom the same. The field is relevant since people focus on ensuringthat they lead a meaningful life. In relating the concept to PTSD,patients suffering from the same tend to encounter challenges when itcomes to the entire process of coping. Happiness is the ultimate goalof every individual. Those suffering from PTSD have a challenge sincethey fail to relate well with their loved ones. Further, the mentalillness emanating from PTSD subjects one to a condition where theyhave to seek medication and constant support. In severe conditions,one undergoes counseling to help them recover from the situation.Positive psychology is relevant since it bridges the gap between theindividual’s mental illness and their health (Seligman, Rashid, &ampParks, 2006). Through the frameworks suggested by the founders of thetheory, it is possible to help one attain the happiness that theydesire to have. Through knowledge of the strengths that assistindividuals to thrive, it becomes possible to determine what can bedone to help them recover from the PTSD condition they are suffering.

ProposedSolution to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Treatmentfor PTSD should be aimed at helping the individual regain controlover their lives. It is essential to help the patient understand howthey can cope and improve on the symptoms that they are facing.Positive psychology provides a framework that emphasizes the need forone to aim at being happy (Seligman &amp Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).Further, it identifies the need for one to find meaning, pleasure andengagement in their lives. PTSD treatment can be implemented throughthe application of positive psychology frameworks. Creation of anenvironment that guarantees one happiness may serve as a crucialaspect in helping patients suffering from PTSD recover. They need tounderstand that despite the adverse mental illnesses that they aresuffering from, through happiness they can regain. Secondly, patientscan be engaged where their strengths and virtues are employed tofacilitate their thriving. It could be mandatory to identify thestrong attributes of the individual suffering from PTSD and engagethem in activities that facilitate their recovery process. Forexample, the war veterans could be subjected to taking part incommunal work where they get to learn to be busy while at the sametime improving their lives. The other framework that is theappropriate application of the meaning pathway. Through the same, itwould be possible to utilize the patient’s strength to assist themin accomplishing goals that they have set. The goal set is to recoverfrom the particular mental health illness they are suffering.

Theframeworks provided by positive psychology is crucial in enhancingthe treatment of PTSD. Further, positive psychology insists on theapplication of the life experiences and questions one has to help inthe improvement of the condition (Wong, 2010). It is out of the lifeexperiences one suffers is when it becomes possible to understandwhere the emotional breakdown may have arisen. The goal should be onenhancing the flourishing of the life of the individual to attaintheir wellbeing. The application of the intervention works best forpatients suffering from PTSD. For example, retired war veterans havehad a disturbing ordeal during the time of their service. Positivepsychology can incorporate the concept of life experience tofacilitate the treatment of such patients (Seligman &ampCsikszentmihalyi, 2000). Through the life experiences, patients getto understand the need to utilize the strength within them to improvetheir wellbeing. It is an opportunity for them to thrive and maketheir lives better despite the condition that they have been facing.

Applicabilityfor Diverse Populations

Thetreatment options presented for PTSD applies to different groups ofindividuals suffering from the same. Much emphasis is on ensuringthat those suffering from the condition achieve happiness despitewhat they are going through. The technique applies for all those whomay be suffering from the condition. However, it is critical tounderstand that PTSD presents with different symptoms among variousindividuals. In deciding the primary form of treatment for patientssuffering from the condition, it is mandatory to identify the natureof symptoms they present with. The method employed for treatmentshould aim at ensuring that the symptoms are addressed. Positivepsychology is helpful since it enables the patient to understand howbest they can use their strength to recover from the condition theyare suffering. Research has focused on how best to improve the stateof happiness of the particular individual through the application ofthe appropriate psychological therapies. Scholars concur with theeffectiveness of using positive psychology to ensure a change in themental status of the particular patient is achieved.

Themethod can be applied across different populations to bring change tothose suffering. The method applies to various groups of individualsbased on the approach that it takes. There is the fact that thetechnique utilizes the personal and community strengths to improve onhow they thrive (Seligman &amp Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It appliesacross a large proportion of people making it an appropriate choicefor anyone suffering from PTSD. The benefit is that it seeks totransform the emotional well-being of the individual through use oftheir strengths. Also, it applies to diverse populations becausepeople have the option of taking control of what happens to them. Forexample, enhancement of one’s emotional well-being serves as aprerequisite for improved treatment of mental illness.

Defenseof Solution to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Thesolution highlighted is useful when it comes to ensuring thatpatients are suffering from the condition recover. Seligman andCsikszentmihalyi (2000) identify that the goal of positive psychologyis to facilitate the application of knowledge on psychology to helpin the betterment of individuals in the society. PTSD patientsevidently suffer from the symptoms they present with. Some of themexperience nightmares, depression, and low esteem. The application ofpositive psychology in treating patients serves as an appropriatechoice of helping patients in dealing with the condition (Seligman,Rashid, &amp Parks, 2006).

Also,the use of positive psychotherapy is essential since it providesinterventions that positively influence one’s emotional status.Emphasis is on addressing the improvement of one’s emotionalcondition rather than the symptoms. Such a technique is useful inenhancing the wellbeing of the patient. The application of thetreatment method will be helpful in ensuring that there is areduction in the overall state of symptoms that accompany thedevelopment of PTSD. The treatment method can further be supplementedby other methods such as pharmacological drugs, all with the ultimategoal of improving the emotional wellbeing of the individual.Emphasizing on the change of emotions where one is assisted to attainsatisfaction, fulfillment, serenity and pride in themselves fastensthe rate of recovery by the patients (Sheldon,&amp King, 2001).The technique works best because of the approach it takes when itcomes to treatment of patients suffering from PTSD is appropriatecompared to other methods that are employed. For example, there isthe option of use of drugs to oversee the treatment of patientssuffering from the condition. The pharmacological interventionsapplied may not work best in other patients. Particularly, there isthe effect of consequences that arise from the use of drugs to treatthe condition. Such effects may be harmful and lead to other medicalcomplications. However, the application of positive psychologicalinterventions is appropriate since it focuses on enhancing theemotional well-being of the patient (Seligman, Rashid, &amp Parks,2006). Multiple benefits emanate from the use of the technique.


Theintroduction of concepts of positive psychology has become useful inthe field of psychotherapy. Ideas presented by the authors are ofsignificance in ensuring that those suffering from different mentalillnesses are assisted in recovering from the same. Positivepsychology can play a crucial role in helping patients recover fromPTSD. Psychotherapists could employ the concepts provided underpositive psychology to facilitate the treatment of patients sufferingfrom PTSD. Aside from the pharmacological treatments used intreatment, it could be vital to apply the framework provided bypositive psychology to improve the wellbeing of the patients. Thebenefits of positive psychology emanate from its emphasis onindividual strength to contribute to improving their state.Individuals are engaged to ensure they get fulfillment in their livesthereby encouraging positivity on their part.


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