The main theory behind strength-based therapy is that through adversity, people can find their inner strengths.

We are always being encouraged to be more positive about things we are struggling with or don’t understand. More often than not, this can seem harder than it sounds.

This is where strength-based therapy can help. A type of positive psychotherapy, this method is about building up a positive mindset that focuses on finding inner strength to overcome weaknesses, failures and shortcomings. 

positive thinking: how does it work?

The main theory behind strength-based therapy is that through adversity, people can find their inner strengths. People usually cope with this adversity in two main ways:

  1. through a mindset of strength
  2. through a mindset of deficit

Those with a mindset of strength focus on their positive qualities in times of difficulty, whereas anyone with a deficit mindset focuses on weaknesses and flaws, both in themselves and in others.

Strength-based therapy aims to emphasise the positive thoughts and circumstances in a person’s life, rather than the negatives - working to approach adversity from a position of strength rather than deficit.

This focus sets up a positive mindset that helps individuals to build on their best qualities, find their strengths, improve their resilience and change their worldview to one that is more positive. 

putting theory into practice.

There is emerging evidence that this kind of therapy can work effectively with both children and adults. For children, research has identified an association between personal positive strengths in young people, and academic success, self-determination and life satisfaction (Park and Peterson, 2006; Arnold et al, 2007; Lounsbury et al, 2009).

For vulnerable children, those who received this kind of therapy recorded significantly more optimism for the future and higher confidence in their ability to make changes in their lives (Seagram, 1997). 

Leading with strengths is important for all children, and especially those who struggle with things like ADHD, autism, dyslexia or dysgraphia. These children may underperform at school, and feel negatively about themselves because of poor feedback or comparison with other children.

Strength-based approaches can work effectively here: rather than focusing on the frustration of what’s not working, identify a child’s strength, such as knowledge of a specific subject area or confidence in public speaking. If this strength is emphasised, the child will receive positive feedback and will begin to feel confident and valued. 

Similarly, strength-based therapy has worked to enhance well-being and show a positive psychological impact for adults who struggle with mental health problems.

Those suffering wanted the therapy to have the outcomes of increased hope, trust, and self-belief (Ralph, Lambric and Steele, 1996) - aiming to enable people to look beyond their immediate problems and to conceive a future that inspires them, providing hope that their lives will improve.