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Tayyab Rashid

What is Positive Clinical Psychology (PCP) and Why is it Needed?

Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Clinical psychology, counselling psychology, social work, psychiatry, and other mental health domains have traditionally focused on alleviating symptoms, dysfunctions, and disorders. These disciplines have done reasonably well in making clients less sad, less angry and less anxious but little effort has been dispensed on making clients happier, engaged, connected, grounded, or grateful. Positive psychology, about fifteen years ago, asked the mental health field a critical question, what is good about human beings, individually and collectively? An impressive and often converging lines of research has uncovered markers and makers of good work, healthy bodies, deep learning and fulfilling work. However, the clinical domain has been somewhat staggered.

Positive psychology under the auspices of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) is uniquely positioned to create a sub-field, Positive Clinical Psychology (PCP). Despite the inclusion of the word “Positive” in its title, the overarching goal of PCP is to integrate symptoms with strengths, risks with resources, weaknesses with values, isolation with attachment, and regrets with hope in order to understand inherent complexities of human experience, as presented in clinical settings. PCP does not view clients merely as wounded souls, fatigued bodies, and listless spirits. It assesses, appreciates, and amplifies what is good about clients—without minimizing their distress—and uses these strengths as the catalyst of healing.

The word positive in PCP can easily steer clinician’s thinking—especially those weary that Positive Psychology is only about positives—that Positive Psychology is good enough as a self-help recipe but not sufficiently deep enough to grasp clinical complexities typically captured by a deficit-based approach. Our unequivocal message is that PCP is based on research and ethically sound applications of well-being. Due to a heavy emphasis on negatives, PCP as a distinct specialty is needed, at least until the mental health field gives as much attention to positives as it does to negatives. However, our earnest aim is to complement—not compete—with the traditional clinical approach. The Positive Clinical Division builds onto tremendous gains clinical and counselling research and practice have made spanning over a century. PCP also does not assert that Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) can replace well-established, empirically-based treatment protocols for specific psychiatric disorders.

I congratulate Dr. Rhea Owens, her team, and our contributors for this inaugural newsletter of the Positive Clinical Division. This newsletter provides a collegial, member-driven and shared context and concrete platform for clinicians, academics, researchers and students in advancing evidence-based practice and practice informed evidence.

Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Positive Clinical Division
International Positive Psychology Association