Research has shown that one way to help suffering people is to focus on the building of strengths. Major strides in prevention have come largely by building strengths. Prevention researchers have discovered that there are strengths that act as buffers against mental illness: courage, future mindedness, optimism, faith, work ethic, hope, honesty, perseverance, and the capacity for flow and insight, to name several. Prevention can be far more effective than cure – witness how immunizations have largely eliminated polio and other diseases. Further, people care about more than just the relief of their suffering. These people also care about living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Positive psychology interventions can both increase happiness and alleviate symptoms of depression (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005). Fredrickson (2001) found that positive emotion can “undo” negative emotion and be the building blocks of resilience that combat physical illness. Lyubomirsky’s (2001) research on the conditions that enhance happiness has relevance for the practice of clinical psychology and the relief of mental disorders. Strengths function as a buffer against adversity and against psychological disorders, and they may be the key to resilience (Masten, 2001). The responsibility of a psychologist is not merely to heal damage and treat disorder, but also to guide people toward a life that can be fulfilling and meaningful.