Division 17 Section on Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues. It involves an attempt to move toward a more balanced perspective on human functioning that considers motives, capacities, and human potentials. Counseling Psychology historically and presently continues to be one of the few disciplines that highlights the values of fostering human capacities, satisfaction, and well-being. In some form Counseling Psychology always has been a vital part of promoting good health and preventing disease, including mental, physical, and social disorders for individuals and communities. It is in the context that this Section was formed. The aim of the this group is to focus on how Counseling Psychology fosters and builds human strength and well-being and in pursuing this endeavor, furthers the development of positive psychological science and practice. This site includes information about positive psychology research, teaching, and practice as well as events, strengths based books, and resources.

Each month, the Section on Positive Psychology will interview a member about their experiences in the field of Positive Psychology.


March 2019: Paige D. Naylor, PhD

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1.  What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

 I am the Clinical Health Psychology Chief Fellow at the Memphis VA Medical Center. I was previously a SPP campus representative from 2015-2016.

 2.  Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

 I joined the positive psychology section, because I was interested in expanding my knowledge within psychology. I wanted to know what more I could offer my clients beyond simply a reduction in clinical symptoms. The section was a great way to learn more about how positive psychology can be embedded into not just counseling psychology, but also clinical psychology.

 3.  How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

 I come from a unique combined integrated clinical and counseling psychology doctoral program. Therefore, finding ways to conceptually combine these two worlds was always a discussion in our coursework. Positive psychology came about naturally when discussing the bridge between these two worlds. Specifically, this unique combined approach does not simply seek to relieve clinical symptoms, integrated psychologists seek to help their patients with symptom relief, but also to have a life worth living once those symptoms are relieved. To me, positive psychology is a way to help people go beyond just “getting better,” but to instead flourish!

  4.  What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

 I incorporate positive psychology into the vast majority of my clinical work. I have found it to be particularly helpful when treating patients who have chronic illnesses, such as cancer. After cancer treatment, their bodies may have healed, but they are left feeling empty and lost. Being able to help people back to their baselines is great, but helping people foster post-traumatic growth is an amazing experience. I also enjoy discussing self-care with graduate students and interns. Helping people change their perspectives from “I have to” to “I get to,” is truly rewarding.

 5.   In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

 Prior to positive psychology, I researched and practiced mindfulness. To my delight, positive psychology has enhanced my mindful practice in many ways. One small example is growing gratitude via meditation and a gratitude journal. Although it may seem cliché, I have also started to approach situations as chance to grow and find meaning. This outlook on life enhances my appreciation and compassion for myself and others. Lastly, taking a strengths based approach in problem solving has also assisted me immensely throughout the treacherous years of graduate and post-graduate training!

May 2018: Rhea Owens, PhD

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1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of North Dakota and a Licensed Psychologist.

2. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I think I became interested in positive psychology before I knew positive psychology was a “thing.” J Growing up, I was always interested in helping others and possessed a natural positive, optimistic, and hopeful outlook on life. While in high school I had my first exposure to psychology through a senior-level class, and I was instantly hooked. I knew what career I wanted to pursue. Then, during my undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, I was incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Jeana Magyar as my professor, mentor, and research advisor, and through her I learned about positive psychology and counseling psychology. From there, I was accepted into the University of Kansas’ Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program, took a positive psychology course from Shane Lopez, and the rest is history.

3. Tell us about the highlights of your work as the previous chair of the Section on Positive Psychology. What was most enjoyable and what are you most proud of? 

I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with a number of wonderful people over the years on the Section on Positive Psychology’s Executive Board. The relationships formed and everyone’s dedication to making the world a better place has been by far the most enjoyable part of being involved. All of the Section’s accomplishments have been a team effort. I would say I am most proud of the development of the Section’s Awards and the Student Campus Representative initiative. This initiative provides students valuable leadership experience and an opportunity to get more involved with the Section, as well as the opportunity to disseminate information about positive psychology. I am also proud of our Section’s peer-reviewed newsletter and our Section’s involvement in The Counseling Psychologist’s two-part Special Issue on Applications of Positive Psychology.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?   

I am broadly interested in the clinical applications of positive psychology (in both assessment and therapy), and more specifically in the identification, use, and development of strengths. For instance, I am currently working on projects involving: (a) the benefits of inclusive, balanced assessment, (b) strengths-based mentoring, and (c) strengths-based programs for children. Positive psychology is also infused in every course I teach and my supervision and mentorship of students. I aim to train students evidence-based practices in positive psychology and promote a balanced perspective to working with clients.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I think my StrengthsFinder strength “Maximizer” defines my way of life: I tend to focus on strengths to “stimulate personal and group excellence.” I attempt to focus on activities that capitalize on my strengths, as I find the experience to be much more rewarding and enjoyable. When interacting and working with others, either explicitly or implicitly, I am attending to their strengths and attempt to organize our shared goals around everyone’s strengths. In addition, hope has a constant presence in my life. I find identifying and working towards new goals both energizing and fulfilling.

April 2018: Nicole Gabana, PhD


1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am an Assistant Professor of sport psychology at Florida State University and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) under the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). At FSU, I teach an introductory graduate course on Sport Psychology; an upper-level graduate seminar on Mental Health and Performance; and I also supervise graduate students completing their practicum in Applied Sport Psychology as they work toward CMPC certification. 

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the Positive Psychology Section because I enjoy connecting with others who are passionate about their work. Likewise, I also want to share my passion with others. One of the things I love about our field is how applicable it is to our everyday lives. Positive psychology is not only a professional interest of mine; it has shaped the way I view the world and interact with others. I have a passion for promoting our field because I believe in its life-changing effects on mental health and well-being, both in sport and in life.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

My interest in positive psychology originated by happenstance. When I entered the Ph.D. program at Indiana University, my mentor Dr. Joel Wong had just designed a new undergraduate course in Positive Psychology. As part of my doctoral fellowship, I was assigned to teach this class and instantly fell in love! I was enamored by how impactful these concepts were on both myself and my students. The holistic approach to well-being and the optimization of strengths fit perfectly with my theoretical orientation and interest in sport psychology, which focuses on optimal performance.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My research interests center on student-athlete mental health and well-being; specifically, the integration of positive psychology and sport. Recently, I have studying the relationship between gratitude and student-athlete well-being. This has involved examining relationships among relevant constructs (e.g., athlete gratitude, sport satisfaction, burnout) as well as exploring the implementation of gratitude positive psychology interventions with athlete populations (e.g., gratitude list, multi-session gratitude group program). I have additional research interests in the areas of spirituality, strengths-based approaches, resilience, music, multiculturalism, and mindfulness.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I have a chalkboard in my office on which I write three things I feel grateful for everyday when I come into work. I also use gratitude letters frequently to reflect on my own gratitude, and then express it toward others. I do a lot of journaling, so in addition to using my journal as an outlet for negative emotions, sometimes I intentionally write about positive experiences so I can remember the good. I also use the iPhone application “Insight Timer” which has a variety of guided meditations I often use when I can’t fall asleep. I particularly like the podcast “Living Awake,” especially the meditations focused on acceptance, growth, and self-compassion. In addition to these personal applications, I try to emphasize others’ strengths in both my personal and professional life.

March 2018: Nelson Zounlome


1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am a third-year counseling psychology doctoral student at Indiana University where I am currently conducting my practicum at the IUB Counseling and Psychological Services. 

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the Positive Psychology Section to deepen my knowledge in positive psychology research and to better connect with current work being done in the field. 

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I received the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman as a present a few years ago. Upon reading it, I became really interested in the idea of moving away from a deficit model and more towards a growth one and how everyone can gain meaningful positive change in their lives by better incorporating elements such as gratitude, generativity, and humor. 

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

In this area, my program of research focuses on the positive psychological constructs among communities of color such as resilience, gratitude, joy, encouragement, and generativity. Towards this end, I am currently working on a scale development project to capture the ways in which students of color attending predominately White institutions persist through and succeed in environment that may not be very welcoming. 

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I meditate and practice gratitude by listing at least three things I am grateful for each day. I also have made more of an effort to look on the positive side of situations and cultivate more meaningful interpersonal relationships in my life. 

February 2018: Meg Boyer

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Meg is the 2017 winner of the Section on Positive Psychology Student Research Award

1.  What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am a third year doctoral student in counseling psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UCSB I am currently an advanced practicum clinician at the Counseling and Psychological Services Center and Career Services. I am also a fellow of the Carol Ackerman Positive Psychology Center.

2.  Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the section as a way to stay linked to researchers and clinicians who are also passionate about the intersection of positive psychology and counseling. The section allows me to meet and stay connected to other positive psychologists, providing me with a sense of belonging and continuous inspiration.

3.  How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I first developed an interest in positive psychology through my undergraduate research in close relationships. I became fascinated by the role of positive connection in life satisfaction and wanted to continue to explore contributors to health and happiness. I maintained this passion as I moved into counseling psychology. Both my research and counseling practice focus on positive psychological concepts, including as strengths, positive emotion, self-compassion, and, of course, relationships.

 4.  What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

Almost every aspect of my current graduate school experience includes elements of positive psychology. Many of my research projects investigate topics such as positive emotions, relationships, and psychological interventions. My teaching philosophy incorporates Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory as I work to intentionally cultivate and celebrate my students’ curiosity and interest. Although I am still developing my counseling skills and identity, my work with clients is grounded in positive psychological theory. In practice, I strive to develop approach goals, utilize strengths, and promote hope. Finally, I find the application of Snyder’s Theory of Hope to be central to my social justice work, particularly in the current socio-political climate.

5.   In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

Positive psychology continually influences the way I relate to the world and myself. I work to recognize my own strengths and utilize them every day to benefit myself and others. I also intentionally cultivate moments of joy in my daily life and pursue experiences that promote interest, serenity, and love. Above all, each day I attempt to prioritize and cherish my close relationships. When life inevitably gets difficult, the relationships I have with my romantic partner, family, and friends remain my primary source of comfort and meaning. 

January 2018: John Wade, PhD

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Dr. John Wade is  the 2017 winner of the Shane J. Lopez Award for Professional Contributions to Positive Psychology.  

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am a Psychology Professor and the Director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Emporia State University.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?  

I joined for a couple of reasons.  One was simply that it seemed like the perfect professional home for me given my interest in Positive Psychology.  Another reason was to connect with others with similar interests and to be able to network and exchange ideas.  I feel like through my connection with the Positive Psychology Section I stay current and know more of what is happening at the cutting edge of the discipline.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology?  

I became interested in Positive Psychology because the concepts and research findings seemed very applicable to everyday life and resonated with me.  I started noticing that many of the books that I found myself reading were Positive Psychology related.  I think that one of the factors that really connected with me is that Positive Psychology is designed for the everyday person.  We all want to feel that we are living our lives well, with meaning and purpose.  Positive Psychology also appealed to me in terms of how I always have instinctively viewed clinical work.  Although we certainly need to understand our clients’ problems and symptoms and we certainly need to understand and honor their struggles, growth seems to occur through appreciating and valuing our clients’ strengths and successes.  Nothing succeeds like success, and helping our clients to more fully appreciate the courage they are already displaying, and the virtues and strengths that they are displaying, at times even in the midst of difficulty, can be very empowering.   

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?   

Although I am not currently working with clients, I have been a practicing psychologist for the bulk of my professional career. I think that it is important that the interventions we do with clients and the activities we ask them to try have empirical support, which is the cornerstone of Positive Psychology.  However, to work effectively with clients we have to go beyond merely knowing the research, and Positive Psychology constructs such as appreciating strengths, focusing on meaning, and practicing gratitude have to be authentically held perspectives that serve as the guiding lens of the therapeutic relationship.

Positive Psychology courses seem to be unfailingly popular with both undergraduate and graduate students.  I think it is the relevance to everyday life that the students really appreciate.  I always ask my students do the Three Good Things exercise, and as we discuss it I always ask for a show of hands asking if the exercise was pleasant/enjoyable and if it was easy.  Invariably, almost every hand goes up for both questions.  I discuss that this is critically important – that many of the things we ask our clients to do aren’t enjoyable and aren’t easy, but we are much more likely to actually practice things that are enjoyable and relatively easy. 

Professionally, applying Positive Psychology to clinical training and supervision has been a main area of focus.  Janice Jones and I developed a Strength-Based Model of Supervision which incorporates many of the research findings of Positive Psychology.  This served as the basis of the book, Strength-Based Clinical Supervision:  Applying Positive Psychology to Clinical Training and Supervision.  Positive Psychology seems to have a very broad reach.  Larry Marks, Rod Hetzel and I partnered to edit a book targeted at bringing Positive Psychology to all aspects of the university setting, titled Positive Psychology on the College Campus.  I have very much valued the relationships that have been created through projects such as these.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I frequently give continuing education workshops based on Positive Psychology.  I usually will tell the class that as a parent I tried very hard not to be a psychologist with my two daughters and to keep the parent and psychologist roles separate. But as a father, the one exception was that when my daughters were younger I did have them practice the Three Good Things exercise, which is a daily habit I have maintained myself for many years.  I think that my interest in Positive Psychology has also influenced me in some more subtle ways.  One is simply appreciating the value of research. Many things sound good but if they aren’t supported by research we simply don’t know if they work or not.  The Scared Straight program is a classic example of this – it sounds like it certainly should work but research indicates that the program has actually increased the crime rate among participants.  So, in my personal life I try to look for little ways to incorporate research findings.  One practical example is that I love the Implementation Intentions research by Gollwitzer that indicates that the more specifically we make our plans the more likely we are to carry through with them. This has greatly transformed my to-do lists.

December 2017: Richard Douglass, MS

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Richard is the winner of the 2017 Student Award for Distinguished Contributions in Positive Psychology. 

1.     What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am a 4th year doctoral candidate in the University of Florida’s counseling psychology program. Currently I conduct individual therapy and assessment at UF’s Counseling and Wellness Center as an advanced practicum student.

2.     Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I thought being a part of the Positive Psychology Section would be a great way to facilitate and maintain connections with other scholars conducting research in this area. I have been excited to see the section’s publication adopt a more formal journal-like focus as it is interesting to see what others are doing. I believe that the work of members in this section can help to inform my teaching, research, and clinical work.

3.     How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

My interest in positive psychology began when I took Dr. Ryan Duffy’s introduction to positive psychology course at the University of Florida. Up until this point, many of my psychology classes had focused on psychopathology or discussed more of the biological aspects of psychology. Positive psychology was the first course that introduced me to the idea that psychology can be used to study how people flourish and experience well-being. This course actually influenced my decision to stop pursuing a career in law and instead pursue a career as a psychologist.

4.     What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

Regarding clinical work, I often find myself using a strengths-based approach with clients. I think it’s easy for clients to get caught up in what they believe they’re doing wrong, which contributes to them looking past the things they are doing well. This idea has informed much of my research which is centered on improving the general and work-related well-being of individuals, particularly those that are part of marginalized groups. Outside of the recent positive psychology movement, the literature in many areas tends to focus on psychopathology and negative development. Instead, I seek to examine how people are resilient in the face of adversity by examining how well-being outcomes are impacted by discrimination. I hope that my line of research can help balance what I believe is an over-emphasis on negative development by focusing less on psychopathology and more on how to promote well-being and meaning in life.

5.     In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

Co-leading a mindfulness based group at UF’s Counseling and Wellness Center has led me to incorporate my own mindfulness practice into my day-to-day routine. Whether it be an extended meditation or a brief mindful pause, I try to set aside time for myself on a daily basis. Additionally, I try to incorporate my signature strengths--derived from the Values in Action Inventory--into my interactions with others. Lastly, I have found gratitude journaling to be immensely beneficial. Similar to how I described my work with clients, I feel that sometimes I lose sight of the things I have to be thankful for, and gratitude journaling helps to bring the positive aspects of life back into focus.

November 2017: Marilyn Cornish, PhD


1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I am an assistant professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling at Auburn University in Auburn, AL. I’m a core faculty member of the Counseling Psychology PhD program, and I also contribute to the clinical mental health, school, and rehabilitation counseling masters programs.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

In part, because I know some great people who are members! Joining this section was a way for me to more directly connect my research to the umbrella of positive psychology and to have a clearer way to affiliate with my colleagues who are doing similar work.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I found anecdotally that people I knew who practiced positive psychology principles—like mindfulness, humor, and gratitude—had better quality of life than those who didn’t practice those approaches. It wasn’t that they experienced fewer hardships than others. Instead, they seemed better able to cope and have resilient responses compared to those who didn’t engage in positive psychology practices. I wanted to know more—for the benefit of my loved ones, my students, my clients, and myself. 

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

One of my main interests related to positive psychology is self-forgiveness. In particular, I conduct research on the process people engage in after they have hurt others in some way. There is a good research base that demonstrates how the emotional end-state of self-forgiveness (e.g., showing oneself kindness, avoiding self-punishment, etc) following interpersonal wrongdoing is beneficial for intrapersonal wellbeing. Yet, less research has examined the process by which people arrived at those self-forgiving emotions. I’ve done some work recently (as have others) showing that some people have emotional responses that appear to be self-forgiving, yet are not accompanied by an acknowledgement of the harm caused or attempts to inter- or intrapersonal restoration. As one can imagine, this pattern of response to one’s relational transgressions is not very conducive for healthy relationships. Therefore, I’m interested in doing further work to identify that process by which people can acknowledge responsibility, work through one’s negative emotions, engage in restoration, and experience a sense of self-renewal. Knowing what helps people engage in this challenging, yet growth-promoting, process is a key part of my current research program, as is examining how that self-forgiveness process is beneficial for both intrapersonal and interpersonal wellbeing. I have also developed an individual counseling intervention designed to help clients forgive themselves for a past interpersonal transgression, which was found to be effective in a recent waitlist-controlled trial. It has been rewarding to translate this self-forgiveness counseling program to other more specific populations (e.g., clients with regrets related to past substance abuse, women who are in prison) for both research and outreach purposes.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I have a tendency to always be looking ahead, thinking about obligations, and so forth. So I find it helpful to intentionally bring my focus back to the present and the things I am grateful for right now. I do this periodically throughout the day, but I also have a morning ritual with my 4-year-old daughter. Right after she gets up in the morning, we go to our living room and have ‘snuggle time’ on the couch. We spend that quiet time together—even if just for a few minutes—with me savoring the moment and experiencing gratitude rather than thinking about all the things I need to get done for the day. I find that this ritual has a grounding effect for my day and allows me to start off on a positive note.



October 2017: Pauline Venieris, PhD

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Dr. Venieris is the winner of the 2017 Student Award for Distinguished Contributions in Positive Psychology. 

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 
 I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). I received my PhD in Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University.
2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 
As a clinician, sometimes my work can be isolating. Being connected to other psychologists, researchers, teachers, and other professionals invested in understanding, investigating, applying, and expanding positive psychology is personally and professional invigorating for me while also creating a sense of community and shared meaning in my work.
3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 
I was originally working in the humanities before I switched to psychology as part of a major life change sparked by a traumatic family event. As someone who had felt like they had found their calling after something terrible had happened, I remember feeling unsatisfied by only learning about dysfunction and illness and abnormality. I longed for learning about how people tap into their deepest, wisest, and truest selves to overcome difficulty, find meaning, and become better for it. As an avid Ted-Talk-watcher, I remember seeing Shawn Achor's talk "The Happiness Advantage" and just nodding my head in agreement at what he was saying. I felt like he had finally hit on what had been missing for me. While my personal experience echoed what I loved and cherished about positive psychology, that video shifted my professional focus in my research and my clinical work.
4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  
I am deeply invested in understanding how and helping others design the lives they want to live. Thus, I am drawn to happiness in positive psychology. This means looking at the ingredients - mental states, internal and external resources, behaviors, etc. - that create happy, fulfilling lives. As a trauma-informed yoga teacher, I am drawn to mind-body interventions and often incorporate mindfulness, exercise, and other somatic interventions into my work. In working with student activists and social justice leaders as well as survivors of trauma, I am interested in resilience and post-traumatic growth, meaning-making, and spirituality. Lastly, I also love PERMA, VIA strengths, and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion. 
5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?
Positive psychology permeates my life in many ways. I strive to meditate and exercise daily. I keep a gratitude journal. I invest in friendships (I have been a part of a group of 10 girlfriends for over 20 years!). I am committed to being and staying hopeful, even in the midst of a very difficult sociopolitical climate. I really try and practice what I preach because it doesn't really work to encourage clients to take care of themselves if I am not doing the same. It's like a dentist telling people to floss and take care of their teeth - all while she has rotting teeth herself. It's my pleasure and my responsibility to take care of myself - to really live a life worth living for myself and for others.

September 2017: Collie Conoley, PhD

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What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I’m a professor at UC Santa Barbara and the founder and Director of the Carol Ackerman Positive Psychology Center at UCSB. Also, I serve as Muse to the President of California State University- Long Beach.
2. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

 My interest in positive psychology existed long before the term positive psychology. In graduate school at the University of Texas the teachings of Carl Rogers convinced me of humans’ innate abilities and goodness. Also, I remember a quote that I attribute to Rollo May that we should never take away a client’s beliefs without first replacing the belief with one more helpful to the client. The good fortune of meeting both Insoo Kim Berg and Steve DeShazer, as well as training in family systems, helped me gain invaluable that treatment is independent of the problem’s cause. Finally, taking to heart the importance of fostering strengths as central to Counseling Psychology, positive psychology was an ideal fit!
3. Tell us about your latest book co-authored with Mike Scheel: Goal Focused Positive Psychotherapy: A Strengths-Based Approach. What led you to write this book and what is the take-home message from this book?
I’m very excited about our new book that integrates current positive psychology research and theory with psychotherapy entitled Goal Focused Positive Psychotherapy: A strengths based approach. We wrote the book to further the integration of positive psychology and psychotherapy that began with strengths centered therapies such as Elsie Smith’s (2006) Strengths-Based Counseling for Adolescents, and Joel Wong’s (2006) Strengths-Centered Therapy. Strengths and positive emotions provide a highly ethical approach for psychological growth.
The take home message is that that positive psychology fits well with the humanistic and existential traditions in psychotherapy, and perfectly with the Counseling Psychology tradition of identifying and using client strengths. Our book takes a step forward in positive psychology by describing a comprehensive treatment model that includes a theory of change (i.e. Broaden and Build) along with therapeutic goals and processes. We include our three-year study revealing that Goal Focused Positive Psychotherapy created change for clients to a similar extent as Cognitive Behavioral and Short Term Psychodynamic in a community clinic. However, clients rated the therapeutic alliance significantly higher for GFPP! Clients favored GFPP’s focus upon strengths. The book contains case examples, a training model, many therapeutic techniques, and a philosophical overview. We hope you’ll get a copy and give us feedback or collaborate with us in the further development of the model.
4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  
I teach doctoral level psychotherapy practica in the Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology Department at UCSB that focuses on training in Goal Focused Positive Psychotherapy. Occasionally I teach undergraduate and graduate level classes on positive psychology research, theory and application. Recently I have enjoyed consulting with a company to increase the happiness of the employees.
5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?
Positive psychology is active in my daily life. As an existentialist I believe that we make our own meaning in life. Positive psychology helps me in creating and choosing my life’s meaning. Also, my interpretation of positive psychology reminds me that depression and anxiety are unavoidable life experiences that distract me from my goals and meaning. Knowing that I can be happy again, helps me face life’s persistent suffering more bravely. I attempt to engage in mindful activities, mindful meditation, gratitude, and frequent engagement in positive emotion enhancing activities daily.

Summer 2017: Katherine Moore

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am an undergraduate student completing a Bachelor of Arts in psychology at the University of British Columbia. I'm also a Research Assistant for Dr. Rhea Owen's SHINE Lab, a core research member for UBC's Wellbeing in Learning Environments initiative, a Steering Committee member for First Call (a provincial advocacy non-profit), a student mentor for UBC's Arts Co-op Program and the Director of Student Advocacy and Political Engagement for the Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Student Network. Additionally, I am Canada's first Campus Rep for the APA's Positive Psychology Section. 

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

Maintaining a balanced perspective on human functioning is very important to me since I yearn to support growth at any point in someone’s life. This might mean that I accompany someone who is working through undesirable circumstances or encourage the development of their strengths when things are going well. Joining the Positive Psychology Section connects me with a group of inspiring people who share a similar philosophy as me and through these connections, I learn more about how I can support people to the best of my ability.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

When I was 14, I learned to meditate. Every Sunday I would visit my meditation teacher and we would practice cultivating and maintaining an emotional state of love and joy. These sessions helped me develop a positive outlook on life that guided me through rough times. Inevitably, positive habits like meditation became very important to me and I wanted to learn more about them. But, after starting my undergraduate degree in psychology I felt disjointed with the field once I noticed that most of my classes had a strong pathological rhetoric. I often found myself wondering when we would talk about strategies for cultivating joy or analyze the experience of laughter. Thankfully, I came across a short blurb about Positive Psychology in one of my textbooks and I knew I found a place in psychology where I belonged.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

I am most interested in positive institutions, specifically social policies. I dream of a future where the framework used to develop government policies includes not only the goal of alleviating suffering, but also includes the aim of achieving life satisfaction and wellbeing for the target community. The family unit is of particular interest to me as it is a child’s first learning environment and has a great deal of influence over their future development and psychological outcomes. Because of this, I hope to split my time working as a policy advocate and positive psychologist to support families. My aim is to spread knowledge derived from positive psychology that can enhance one’s life experience while also supporting the development of sustainable social infrastructures that do the same for future generations.  

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson’s 2005 article about positive interventions and Fredrickson’s broaden and build theory inform the bulk of my daily positive psychology habits – aside from meditation. In Seligman et al.’s article, the authors found that using one’s signature strengths in a new way and recalling what went well in your day as well as why, decreased depressive symptoms while also increased happiness at the six month follow-up. Because of this, I try to use my strength’s in creative ways each day. For example, I express my kindness by picking up garbage while on a hike or sharing what I admire about someone in my class. I’ve also connected my understanding of how to elicit feelings of love and joy with Fredrickson’s broaden and build theory to cope with challenging times. When I’m feeling down, I focus on positive emotions as a way to prevent myself from becoming too narrow minded about my situation and unlocking the opportunity for enhanced problem solving.

May 2017: Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D.

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role? 

I’m education director of the global, nonprofit organization – VIA Institute on Character. This is a leading organization in positive psychology that has a very clear mission: advance the science and practice of character strengths. That is the focal point my work/role. Since 2009, I’ve been connecting with thought leaders, researchers, and leading practitioners in the science of positive psychology, learning what’s new and forthcoming, catalyzing research ideas, distilling science into best practices, and disseminating that research into applications for practitioners who work one-on-one with people, in groups, in teaching, in business/management, in healthcare, and in other settings. To this end, I write popular books in positive psychology for practitioners, educators, and academics (for example, Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for PractitionersMindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing; and Positive Psychology at the Movies 2: Using Films to Build Character Strengths and Well-Being), peer-reviewed/invited articles, and user-friendly (blog) articles. My role involves creating (and/or delivering) resources for people to learn about character strengths, such as through individualized professional reports on character strengths, videos, on-demand and live courses, keynote addresses and workshops, handouts, and other online materials. In short, sometimes I refer to myself as part-educator, part-practitioner, part-researcher, and part-writer.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

An important element of my work involves keeping my finger on the pulse of what is new, forthcoming, and happening in the science and practice of positive psychology. This section offers a good opportunity to stay connected, meet innovative and thoughtful professionals, and presents an outlet for sharing new findings in strengths. I value the people I have connected with thus far in this section and welcome meeting new people interested in this work.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I’ve been interested in the science of positive psychology and well-being since I was a graduate student in clinical psychology in the late 1990s.  Despite my clinical training, I knew there was much more to the human being than simply their deficits, weaknesses, and problems that they were wanting help with. My approach was to use a biopsychosocial-spiritual model to assess and treat clients. As the science of well-being unfolded, new assessments and interventions became available. I was inspired to delve deep into the positive psychology research and begin teaching and writing about these concepts, research findings, and best practices.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My work (and areas of interest) are all-things-character strengths. While the science of character strengths in fields such as business/organizations, education/schools, and coaching/counseling is doing quite well, other areas are thriving to a lesser degree, such as character strengths in health, parenting, sport/performance, spirituality/religion, and disability. Our work at the VIA Institute is to encourage good science – to really advance the knowledge and best practices of these strengths that are best in us – so that means to study, catalyze, and distill the practices in both popular and less popular areas. Luckily, progress is now being made on all of these aforementioned fronts. One could say I am interested in each of these areas and more! I have a special interest in the integration of character strengths with other phenomena such as “the sacred,” flourishing, mindfulness, savoring, flow states, trance states, morality, positive relationships, achievement, and meaning/purpose.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

It is paramount to practice what we preach. Related to that is the concept of applying new ideas/interventions personally before trying them out with clients. I try to take this approach with positive interventions and assessments of character strengths, positive emotions, mindfulness, and savoring.

I treasure using savoring practices with my children, taking “mindful pauses” throughout my work-days, and deploying my signature strengths at work and home. My three children are quite young (all 6 and under) and I enjoy writing about moments I have with them, in addition to the unique things they do and say; I refer to this as my savoring log.

My signature strengths are love, hope, curiosity, fairness, honesty, and appreciation of beauty; hence there are virtually limitless opportunities for expressing these in a mindful way during my day. Our core team at the VIA Institute on Character has regular “walk the talk” meetings in which we try out new character strengths activities, conduct Character Strengths 360 evaluations of one another, and share positive experiences and strengths we’ve been using throughout the week at work.

Because it is my job to live and breathe this work, I am able to cue myself regularly about these topics of character strengths, mindfulness, savoring, and so forth. This opens me up to the opportunity to use them more and in new ways. Of course, this is all done imperfectly!

April 2017: Hsiu-Lan Cheng, PhD

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of San Francisco. I have been a member of Divisions 17, 35, and 45 of APA for several years. I am also a member of the Asian American Psychological Association. I currently serve on the Editorial Board of Asian American Journal of Psychology and The Counseling Psychologist.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I am a brand-new member to the section. I joined this section because I am interested in connecting with other members of the section. I appreciate that the section provides a forum for collectivizing our interest and vision for bringing positive psychology to the daily lives of others and ourselves

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

During my undergraduate years, I took an elective course on leisure education and the course used many positive psychology constructs (e.g., flow theory) and interventions. I hardly knew anything about positive psychology at that time, but it was one of my favorite courses and it stuck with my memory throughout the years. In graduate school, I became very intrigued by mindfulness psychology and practices as a result of some of the courses and training I received. In recent years I have become very interested in constructs related to character strengths (e.g., hope, gratitude, courage, perseverance, forgiveness, generosity, encouragement).  I attribute the development of this interest largely to the influence of many wonderful mentors and close friends who have shown me those strengths and to some of my life experiences.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?

When I was a counseling staff psychologist at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, I often incorporated mindfulness and strengths-based approach to my counseling work with clients. After moving to academia, I find myself naturally applying many positive psychology concepts to teaching, training, and mentoring of graduate students. For example, in almost every course I teach, I emphasize the importance of incorporating strengths in the thinking and discussion of the subject matter (e.g., career counseling, counseling theories). In training and mentoring, I take a strengths-based approach to establishing connections with my advisees or students. The positive effect of encouragement and affirmation of students’ strengths has amazed me again and again! In the realm of research, I have been working with Ryon McDermott and Joel Wong on studies related to positive psychology constructs of hope and encouragement. I have also just started collecting data on gratitude in ethnic minority communities. I hope to expand my research program to the intersection of positive psychology, minority psychology (race/ethnicity, sexual orientation), and health.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I ask myself two questions: what am I thankful for today and how can I be a source of positivity for others today?  I have found that the practice of positive psychology in daily life is very much similar to training a muscle group in my body (e.g., physical exercise). It takes efforts and discipline to get it started and repeated, but once it has started/repeated it runs a life course of its own in a positive way: the more I do it, the better I get at it!  Everyday there are many things to be thankful for, big and small, and there are many ways I can be a source of positivity for others, even as small as offering a word of affirmation or a compassionate gesture. Such practice has brought a well of joy and meaning that enriches my everyday life.  I am hoping that I may find ways to incorporate positive psychology into my work with people in community settings, particularly those that might be the most vulnerable in a wide range of ways (e.g., cultural-politically, socio-economically). 

March 2017: Mandrila Das

1.      What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a third year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Texas Tech University and currently serve as the division representative for my program. I am a psychologist in training at the TTU Student Counseling Center and UMC Southwest Cancer Center. Additionally, I teach an undergraduate Health Psychology course.

2.      Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the Positive Psychology section during my second year in the program to better understand and contribute to the field. It has been a great opportunity to connect with others who share similar values in their research, teaching, and clinical work.

3.      How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

The values of positive psychology have always been part of how I viewed the world, however it wasn’t until starting graduate school where I realized they aligned well with my professional values. After working with Dr. Christine Robitschek, I was better able to understand and incorporate these values in my professional work.

4.      What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

I try to take a holistic health perspective in my teaching and clinical work. While looking at mental health disorders is a critical part of understanding each individual, I believe you also need to understand their strengths and overall well-being in order to be fully effective. Specifically, I focus on self-compassion and mindfulness exercises in my work with clients and students. Additionally, I try to emphasize the role of positive psychology in promoting physical, psychological, and social health. In my research, I primarily focus on how self-compassion and mindfulness predict disordered eating, depression, and exercise-related health behaviors.

5.      In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I actively try to incorporate aspects of positive psychology into my personal life. I strive to be compassionate towards others and take a similar compassionate stance towards myself through difficult times. I believe in trying to continuously facilitate growth within myself and my loved ones, and I’m grateful that I have wonderful family, friends, and colleagues to support me through my journey!

February 2017: Rita bender, psyD


1.   What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a licensed clinical psychologist in New York and Connecticut.  I have a private practice in Bedford, NY,  www.bedfordpsychology.com  and also work for a large group of psychologists based in NYC.   I've had the good fortune of training across various settings and populations, and that diverse background allows me to provide effective and meaningful care to a wide range of people, from testing with children to psychotherapy with geriatric populations.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I've always had a particular interest in successful aging, and it seems to me that positive psychology is a natural companion along that journey.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

In my mind, this questions sounds something like saying “how did you begin your interest in chocolate”.  Positive psychology is something that has been a natural component of my academic and professional life since the get-go.  I just didn't know what it was called back then; so I leaned into successful aging and life meaning.  For me, this goes back about twenty years when I was able to garner information from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin as well as the earlier MacArthur studies of successful aging while I was doing research.  I did some independent studies relating to the concepts of love and spirituality within psychology and it seems those also fell into the realm of positive psychology more than clinical psychology.  

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology? 

I’m an enthusiastic learner about positive psychology.  For me as a practitioner, understanding clinical pathology is crucial.  To be a good at what I do, I need to understand psychopathology  and disorder.  At the same time, many of the goals of positive psychology, including flourishing, are simply more inspiring than clinical goals of alleviating or stabilizing a disorder.  Blending positive and clinical psychology helps me to be practical, enthusiastic, and authentic about my work.  

I apply concepts of positive psychology across the board; most recently I was treating a specific phobia and using concepts of mindfulness along with positive psychology to reframe a cognitive behavioral strategy which wasn’t working for the patient.  I like to combine exercise, humor, and intellect as basic ingredients toward a recipe for improved mental health.
5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I love reading about positive psychology.  I find it inspiring and optimistic whether it's a known researcher like Sonja Lyumbomirsky, participating with a learning program through IBP,  learning about mindfulness from a well known religious figure like Thich Nhat Hanh, or reading just off the local library shelf about happiness, e.g. Gretchen Rubin.  I try to take a little of what I read and apply what speaks to me in a creative or meaningful way.  I look through the broad positive psychology lens and apply what I can to my relationships with friends and family.  I also especially enjoy finding  and learning about resources from the division 17 list serve!

January 2017:Vanessa Malinowski, BS 

1.   What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 
I am a research interviewer at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research, and I am a volunteer with 365 Hospice.  In the Fall 2017, I would like to start in an APA-accredited Ph.D. counseling psychology program.
2.   Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 
I joined the Positive Psychology Section so that, as a counseling-psychologist-in-training, I can support our field’s focus on people’s strengths.  I also joined to get to know others in the Section who are truly good people.
3.   How did you become interested in positive psychology? 
Reading Seligman probably got me interested in positive psychology.  Seligman wrote about positive psychology from a clinical background, emphasizing that positive psychology is not about pathology, and I thought that was refreshing to take in.  I continued to think about being psychologically healthy as more than just being free of disease, but also embracing wellness, and that resonated with me.  Positive psychology pays attention to the good; counseling psychology pays attention to everyone - I like what DIV17POSPSYCH is and where I see it is going.
4.   What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology? 
My research interests related to positive psychology are in death/dying and life/living.  More generally, they are in grief/loss and growth/gain. Thanatology (the study of death/dying) appeals to me because I am interested in the big picture. Positive psychology and having a zest for life is relevant to this field.  There are many occasions when behaving with a surge of optimism is appropriate. Examples include birthdays, anniversaries of all sorts (just pick a date of a time that mattered to you in the past and actively remember it), celebrations for when some accomplishment deserves recognition, and random points at which you proactively decide to be happy because externally the situation to act accordingly did not present itself, etc. To only live this way is not feasible, though.  Factually, human beings live, and they die.  However, positive psychologists may have relevant perspectives to share in helping people work though grief/loss and understand death.

 I am also interested in meaningful life/living, especially meaningful work.  Counseling psychology places an emphasis on career development just as it does strengths, and this is another reason I love the field!  I am also curious about the positive aspects of workaholism and perfectionism – the ways in which these lifestyles are good and bring about success.  When workaholism and perfectionism are considered in terms of the problems they can bring, namely the problems for interpersonal relationships, they also intersect with my research interests in grief/loss, as well as life/living.

 With regards to counseling, I would like to work in a university counseling center unit or other campus-based clinic because of my interest in college students.  Adults with education-based career goals as well as gifted children and adolescents (who are somewhat adult-like) are also populations I want further training with.
5.   In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?
I consider myself to have a strong work ethic and focus, but I also integrate positive psychology into my non-work endeavors.  I listen to music (classical, pop, rap, etc).  I like coloring in mandalas as I listen, then giving the mandalas away to others as random acts of kindness.  Also, I like reading the PsycINFO database for fun getting ideas for things I can do in real life based on what I read and the original thoughts that I have, things that do help people.  Reading books (with content that serves a double purpose of boosting my learning in productive ways and others’ learning when I share what I learn) in their entirety, and reading as many as I can in several weeks while taking countless pages of notes, just for an extra challenge, is a trusted activity I turn to.  I also look up inspirational quotes, or just quotes in general.

When I am being more extroverted, I like sharing music videos on Facebook and commenting on friends’ posts.  I like emailing and calling the authors of the psycINFO articles and books that I read, too. Finally, when I am really extroverted, I like being physically around others, participating in campus- professional-, and community-based organizations.

December 2016: Lisa Edwards, PhD

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)?  

I am an Associate Professor in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology department at Marquette University. I’m the director of our counseling master’s programs and co-director of the Latina/o Well-Being Research Initiative at MU.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?  

I joined this section because positive psychology has been a passion of mine since I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. I love to see how the field has developed and how counseling psychologists are contributing in this area and training the next generation.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology?  

 I had wonderful mentors at the University of Kansas who introduced me to positive psychology and modeled how to do research and practice in this area. One of my mentors, Dr. Diane McDermott, invited many of us in our first year to join her research team to investigate hope among Latina/o youth. We presented together at APA and my love of research grew through these early experiences. My doctoral advisor, Dr. Shane Lopez, was the most influential mentor I have ever had. He taught me about positive psychology and encouraged me to get involved with various training opportunities such as the Positive Psychology Summer Institute through the University of Pennsylvania. Shane and I collaborated on many projects over the years and his influence and spirit are present in everything I do in this area. 

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?   

 My professional interests focus on the intersection between positive psychology and culture. I am fascinated by cultural influences on strengths and how we can better understand well-being among culturally diverse individuals and communities. My current research is about perinatal mental health among Latinas and how to best support Latina moms during pregnancy and postpartum. I also do pro bono counseling with undocumented and uninsured Latinas during the perinatal period. My dream is to have programs and resources in Milwaukee to ensure that every Latina mother experiences optimal development and well-being for her baby, family, and herself. 

In addition to research about cultural strengths, I have had the opportunity to co-edit two positive psychology volumes: Perspectives on the Intersection of Multiculturalism and Positive Psychology (with Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti) and the third edition of the Handbook of Positive Psychology (with Lopez, Snyder and Marques).

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I have the privilege of doing work in an area I love, so I find that my personal and professional worlds often get blurred. I try to use positive psychology inside and outside of the office, and I find myself most often using savoring, gratitude, mindfulness and hope. Recently I started a blog, www.hopefulmama.com, which combines my love of positive psychology and motherhood. The blog is designed to provide science-informed and mommy-inspired strategies for well-being for mothers. Even though I started the blog before Shane Lopez passed away, its mission is closely connected to the lessons I learned from him about giving hope away.  

November 2016: Joel Wong, phd

Dr. Wong is the winner of the 2016 Shane J Lopez Award for Professional Contributions to Positive Psychology.

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)?  

 I am an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Indiana University. I am also a fellow of the APA (Divisions 17, 45, and 51) and of the Asian American Psychological Association. 

 2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?  

 I joined the section to get to know other colleagues who have an interest in positive psychology. I have remained in the section because it has been such a welcoming community! I feel at home in the section, and I’ve enjoyed connecting with colleagues from the section at business meetings and social events.

 3. How did you become interested in positive psychology?  

 Early in my doctoral education, I found that positive psychology concepts, such as character strengths and virtues, resonated with me. Moreover, I found myself drawn to solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy, both of which are strength-based therapies. I also began applying positive psychology activities to my personal life (e.g., the best possible self intervention), which I found quite meaningful.

 4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?   

 My positive psychology research interests are in the areas of encouragement, gratitude, and the intersection of culture and positive psychology.  I recently published a conceptual paper on the psychology of encouragement in a Major Contribution article in The Counseling Psychologist (Wong, 2015). In this article, I argued that encouragement can be “conceptualized, at different levels, as an act of interpersonal communication, a character strength, as well as an ecological group norm (p. 178).” In my Division 17 fellow address at the APA convention this year, I also spoke about the power of encouragement and how it has made a difference in my personal and professional life. My colleagues and I are currently involved in a series of projects to operationalize and measure encouragement as well to evaluate an encouragement intervention. In regard to the psychology of gratitude, I am fortunate to have received a grant from the Greater Good Science Center (funded by the Templeton Foundation) to study the efficacy of a gratitude writing intervention for psychotherapy clients. Additionally, I recently developed a gratitude group program (details below), and my students and I have collected data to evaluate the preliminary effectiveness of this program. In the future, I hope to apply for another grant to test the efficacy of the gratitude group program on a large scale. Finally, in the area of culture and positive psychology, my colleagues and I have studied lay conceptions of subjective well-being as well as indigenous well-being constructs (e.g., dialectical coping) in culturally diverse populations. 

With respect to counseling, I developed Strength-Centered Therapy (Wong, 2006), a social-constructionist, virtues-based therapy. I also recently developed a 5-week psychoeducational group program to help individuals cultivate gratitude in their lives. My students and I conducted three gratitude groups last semester and the feedback from group members was quite positive. In the long run, I hope to run these groups in diverse settings – schools, universities, hospitals, community centers, and religious organizations. 

In regard to teaching, I developed an undergraduate course in positive psychology, which is currently part of our Counseling Minor Program at Indiana University. Next semester, I will be teaching a new course to train graduate students on the application of positive psychology in group settings. Over the past few years, I have also conducted many workshops on cultivating meaning, happiness, and gratitude for lay people.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I try to write down three things I’m grateful for (and to explain why) in a personal online journal five times a week. (I encourage you to try it!) This has been a profoundly meaningful self-care activity for me. This habit has changed the way I think, such that I have begun noticing positive things in my everyday life even when I’m not journaling.  In every class I teach, I try to write a few individually tailored emails to students in my class to affirm their strengths and encourage them. 

October 2016: Hanna Suh, phd

Dr. Suh is the winner of the 2016 SPP Student Award for Distinguished Contributions to Positive Psychology. Below is her interview with SPP Member Joel Wong.

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. I am affiliated with the APA-accredited combined doctoral program in counseling psychology and school psychology. I just got hired this year at UB after finishing my doctoral training at the University of Florida.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the section last year to connect with researchers and clinicians who are passionate about positive psychology. I was intrigued to see the bridge between counseling psychology and positive psychology, and it has been a very welcoming and vibrant community to be in thus far.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology? 

I became interested in positive psychology as an undergraduate student at Yonsei University, South Korea. In my sophomore year, I took a class named subjective well-being that was taught by a personality psychologist. This class particularly emphasized the role of personality as it relates to one’s well-being and the relatively stable nature of personality traits. I remember feeling unnerved only to be introduced to the “unchangeable” nature of one’s personality and their well-being levels. To find meaning for myself, I started reading books by Viktor Frankl (Man’s search for meaning) and Irvin Yalom (Staring at the sun), which led me feeling fascinated at the willpower and resilience of individuals.

These personal experiences naturally led me to a professional commitment to counseling psychology, which focuses on the other half of the story emphasizing how people change. In my second year of graduate school at the University of Florida, I took a course called “The mindful therapist” led by Dr. Roberta Seldman. This was when I first realized and felt the power of mindfulness, self-compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness. I was also intrigued at

the scientific application of mindfulness and positive psychology interventions to influence one’s well-being. I was studying individuals who are highly self-critical for my research, and I started thinking that mindfulness and self-compassion would be useful interventions for this population.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My primary research interest lies in examining stress and resilience, with an emphasis on exploring the feasibility and effectiveness of wellness-promoting interventions. Particularly, I focus on understanding the well-being of individuals exhibiting certain stress profiles (e.g., perfectionists) and how mindfulness-based interventions can mitigate an underlying emotion dysregulation process. In conjunction, I also draw attention to whether cultivating mindfulness increase eudaimonic well-being such as wisdom and meaning in life. This is where I believe the positive psychology framework undergirds my research. That is, I study the meaning-making process as a mechanism through which well-being is built and experienced and explore the role of self-acceptance and authenticity in creating well-being. Ultimately, my research goal is to provide a comprehensive framework to adapt mindfulness- and acceptance- based interventions to promote optimal functioning among stress-prone individuals, incorporating technological advancements (e.g., online platform).

In my clinical work, I rely heavily on humanistic and interpersonal theories while empowering clients to build their own stories. Ultimately, I believe clients heal through genuine relationships and finding meaning for themselves within a secure relational bond. I also believe that they have the inherent capacity to recreate their own narratives.

This year, I am teaching a course entitled “Coaching for Wellness and Physiological Integration.” This is one of five courses in our Advanced Graduate Certificate in Mindful Counseling program here at UB, and many students from occupational therapy, audiology, rehabilitation counseling, and mental health counseling take this course to learn more about themselves and to serve their clients better. This year, I put a new spin to this course and incorporated positive psychology concepts and interventions (e.g., counting blessings, expressing gratitude, acknowledging values and strengths) that they can implement with their clients and patients. So far, I have received positive feedback from students indicating that it has allowed them to understand the resilience of their clients and the transient nature of pain (physical and psychological). It is great to see that the impact of positive psychology extends beyond psychology to other related disciplines.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

 Having the positive psychology lens allows me to take in moments in my life with gratitude. I have become much more authentic and genuine in my personal and professional relationships, which has brought me so much joy and fulfillment. Ultimately, I think we all do what we do to make a meaningful impact in the world and find joy in that (or so is how I am biased!), and there is no better way to do that than incorporating positive psychology into what we do and who we are. Taking time to express gratitude, being compassionate towards myself and others, practicing mindfulness, and relating authentically to others are some of the ways that I incorporate positive psychology into my personal life.

September 2016: Ryon Mcdermott, phd

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

 I'm a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the APA accredited Combined-Integrated Clinical and Counseling Psychology (CCP) PhD program at the University of South Alabama. For the time being, I am also the Associate Director of Clinical Training. I  am a member of division 51 (psychology of men and masculinity), as well as division 17. I'm currently the secretary for division 51, and I am on the Editorial Board of the Psychology of Men and Masculinity. My professional roles at the University of South Alabama involve teaching and research. As associate director of training, I handle a number of student -related issues and prepare all students for internship. 

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

 I am a brand-new member to the section, but I've been interested in positive psychology for a number number of years. The only reason I had not joined before was that I thought I would be too busy to add another thing to my list, but I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at the next APA and making some new friendships. Joel Wong convinced me to join, and I'm grateful to be able to work and collaborate with him especially. 

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology (e.g., who influenced you or what did you read that spurred your interest)

For as long as I can remember, I've been exposed to positive psychology, because my mother, Diane McDermott, was a counseling psychologist teaching at the University of Kansas for 35 years. She was also a pioneer in The Psychology of Hope with Rick Snyder, and Shane Lopez was her student (along with many others). I grew up in that Department, and, sadly, my Mom, Rick, and Shane have all passed away well before their time. I was extremely fortunate to be able to work with each of them in various ways, and my Mother and I were very close. She wrote several books about how to create the necessary conditions for hope to flourish in children, and many of those examples were from my childhood. Thus, you could say that I have been raised in a positive psychology-affirming environment. Our house was always full of warmth and laughter, and my mother encouraged me to find and pursue my strengths. When she passed away about three years ago, I decided to incorporate hope into my research program, and I was able dedicate the inaugural article to her in TCP (McDermott et al., 2015). If there is an afterlife (and I believe there is), I'd like to think my Mom, Rick, and Shane are reading and digesting that study. 

McDermott, R. C., Cheng, H., Wright, C., Browning, B. R., Upton, A. W., & Sevig, T. D. (2015). Adult attachment dimensions and college student distress: The mediating role of hope. The Counseling Psychologist43(6), 822-852. doi:10.1177/0011000015575394

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My initial research interests were in the psychology of men and masculinities, but I've now broadened those perspectives to focus on the intersections of culture and individual differences to address real-world problems. For the most part, the real-world problems I'm addressing are related to personal and relational college student well-being. I've been working with the academic retention center at our university and am fortunate to be able to incorporate hope and other positive psychology instruments into our first year experience survey assessments.  Although we (my research team and I) have not published the study yet, we recently found that hope was the strongest predictor of academic retention variables at the end of the semester over and above a variety of positive psychology variables, even when controlling for hope at the beginning of the semester. I'm also working on research connecting hope to college students help-seeking intentions. 

Recently, I was fortunate to be a Co-PI on a funded 824K NSF training/research grant addressing multicultural competence in middle school teachers, and I plan to incorporate hope and strengths in our research. Finally, in a more general positive psychology perspective, I'm working on developing a measure that captures positive-prosocial masculine role norms. In other words, these are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have personal and relational benefits and are also expected of men. My hope is that this instrument will provide a novel approach to addressing many of the problems driven by men (e.g., sexual assault, violence, college and high school completion, etc.).

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I learned many things from my mother, and one of the most important  things that I try to do is to list five positive things that happened each day. In addition, I've created a hope-inspired to-do list. I list out what I have to do that day, breaking each goal into smaller subgoals, and I outline pathways for how I'm going to do each one. I also identify potential barriers and figure out pathways around those. I call it my hope plan, and I try to make one around the beginning of each month that serves as my master to-do list, as well as smaller to-do lists each day focused on the subgoals. Relatedly, another thing I learned from my Mother is to give yourself credit for everything. Thus, I put things on my to-do list that are not necessarily work. By doing so, I validate those important self-care activities. Plus, the list always has some stuff crossed off each day. Indeed, I might not get much writing done on one day, but at least I relaxed and played guitar for an hour! Finally, I am firm believer in the power of gratitude, and, although I've had loss in my life for sure, I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life that I have gained: My wonderful life-partner (Heidi), my adorable 1 year old son (Avery), and my many friends and colleagues (especially my colleagues here at USA).

May 2016: Donnie Davis, PHD

1.    What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Counseling Psychology. I am also a member of the Counselor Education and Practice and the Mental Health Counseling programs.
2.    How did you become interested in positive psychology (e.g., who influenced you or what did you read that spurred your interest)

Work on forgiveness was my first love. As a senior at Yale, I was supposed to write a thesis in order to graduate. I had taken a variety of psychology courses, but all but one of these was focused on basic research. I had also taken a variety of courses on religion and spirituality. I was curious how counselors would ever deal with cultural factors such as spirituality. Forgiveness was where I started. I knew that many religions focused on forgiveness as a virtue. I also assumed that forgiveness, or something similar, might come up in therapy, such as couples counseling or clients struggling to deal with major offenses. So it seemed that if there was a point of overlap between these disciplines, it might occur in the area of forgiveness.

I was supposed to write a systematic literature review. Now that I know what that is, I realize my paper wasn’t very good, but it did introduce me to two important scholars. One was Miroslov Volf. Volf grew up in Croatia during intense ethnic conflict between Christians and Muslims. He wrote several books on forgiveness and humility that have strongly influenced my thinking. One of his more acclaimed books is “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.” The writing is dense, because the book is a major work of political theology. He later wrote a popular book that extended some of these ideas to relationships between Christians and Muslims (i.e., Allah: A Christian Response). I also recommend his book, “Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.”

The second was Everett Worthington, one of the leading forgiveness researchers. After completing a masters in counseling and deciding I wanted to pursue a career in psychology, I worked with Ev for my doctorate. My initial interests were nurtured into a research program in our positive psychology research group (PPRG) at Virginia Commonwealth University. We had a weekly meeting in which members of our lab and a variety of other teams presented our work, which invariably led to talking about other ideas. We learned that science happens in teams. We learned to push each other’s ideas forward. We learned norms to help us write together effectively. We also learned to set challenging personal goals. Being part of this group launched many careers, including my own, and had a major influence on how I think about my own research team. It was a personally and intellectually stimulating environment to grow and learn. Ev is retiring soon and there are a cadre of people who are tremendously grateful for his rare combination of talent, work ethic, and human kindness.

In addition to forgiveness, another primary line of work in my research program is on humility. Our research group got interested in the paradox of trying to measure humility. The field was somewhat stuck, because researchers didn’t trust self-reports. Claiming to be humble on a self-report measure seemed like bragging about one’s humility. Attempting to solve this puzzle led to the body of work that is the basis for my tenure application this year. Here is a concise summary of some of the big ideas we are exploring. 
3. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  
Pre-tenure I tried to focus on projects that I could finish within a few years, but I am starting to consider longer-term goals (and pipe dreams), which include application and dissemination of positive psychology. Our team has done research on forgiveness interventions, and I remain interested in cultural adaption of these interventions. I am also interested in integration of spirituality and counseling. I want to help psychologists and counselors partner (e.g., participatory-action research) with spiritual communities to do a better job disseminating what we know about positive psychology. The things I really hope to do require becoming a bridge builder, which is gradual work that involves giving to relationships and earning trust over time.

In addition to writing and research, I have also started to integrate positive psychology more squarely into my teaching. For example, a colleague and I are currently developing a course on humility and contemplative spiritualty (we are setting up a study abroad to India). Students in our programs regularly request more practical training on how to address spirituality with clients, so this course seeks to address that need. The focus will be on using mindfulness and other contemplative practices with clients of various faith backgrounds including non-belief. We will use a cultural humility framework to consider ways of increasing client receptivity. 

4.    Based on your work, what have been your most important insights about positive psychology?

One of the more sobering aspects of science is that things don’t always work out like you think. I thought adapting therapy to religion would really help, but our meta-analysis showed that religiously-adapted treatments work as well as but not better than non-adapted treatments. I thought religion should influence forgiveness, but it turns out the effect is small. Based on meta-analyses, forgiveness interventions work pretty well, but gratitude interventions still need work to increase effect sizes. Science is about testing ideas and not all ideas are created equal.
5.    In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I love writing and I write about things I want to learn more about. So personal life is pretty entwined with my research (as they say, “research is me-search”). 

When I was 30, I had a conversation with Julie Ancis (a colleague at Georgia State, now at Georgia Tech) and told her that I hadn’t experienced any massive betrayals. I was trying to be honest. I had applied some of our ideas to moderate offenses, but I hadn’t applied our ideas to some of the life shattering offenses I heard from some of my clients. I am now 35, and I had the chance to apply what I learned to some bigger offenses. 

The first step of our model involves recalling the offense differently. This step aligns with cognitive therapy. The stories we tell about the offense eventually shape who we are, and this story is somewhat more malleable in the first few months after an offense. We need people who love and care about us to validate our feelings, offer support, and help us develop an adaptive story about what happened that doesn’t leave us strapped with bitterness and resentment. 

The next step involves developing empathy and other compassion-based emotions towards the offender. We have the amazing ability to juxtapose compassion with even the most distressing and painful emotions, and this is precisely how healing occurs. Our model focuses on two different types of forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness can occur in a moment, like a light switch. We can decide to forgive. We can decide to treat someone as though the offense did not occur, refusing to retaliate or seek revenge. This is an act of the will. Emotional forgiveness occurs more gradually. If you put a piece of ice in a pot of boiling water, it lowers the temperature by a few degrees. Similarly, emotional forgiveness occurs through juxtaposing empathy and other compassion-based emotions with the negative emotions of unforgiveness. Over time, the hot feelings of resentment subside and can be replaced with greater compassion. 

(The last three steps involve working towards a more robust forgiveness that will hold up over time and become a way of life. You can read more about this model here.)

I had a chance a few years ago to see if this model worked on a major offense. It did. Sometimes spiritual people put too much pressure on themselves to forgive quickly. Because this is something I’m interested in and had thought a lot about, I tried to avoid this trap, but at the same time I did not just passively accept and give in to resentment and bitter thoughts and feelings. This model gave me a mental map to understand that healing was going to require an emotional process that would take a lot of time and it allowed me to trust that process and go easy on myself along the way.

March 2016: Hang-Shim lee, phd

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am an assistant professor in the Counseling Psychology program at Oklahoma State University. I joined this OSU program two years ago, after earning my Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 2014.

2. Why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the Positive Psychology Section in the spring of 2015. I am very interested in enhancing humans’ optimal functioning and psychological well-being in life and at work. I recently learned about the Positive Psychology Section in Division 17, and I am excited about the various opportunities to join this community.

3. How did you become interested in positive psychology (e.g., who influenced you or what did you read that spurred your interest)

Since I was an undergraduate student at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea, happiness, well-being, positive thinking, and a good attitude have been my keywords to live by. In my first-ever counseling psychology course at Ewha, I was thrilled to discuss how psychology can play an essential role in fostering the full functioning of humans by increasing their psychological well-being. By attending conferences (e.g., the International Positive Psychology Association), I became even more interested in the positive psychology field.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My primary research interest is to enhance the psychological well-being and work satisfaction of gender and ethnic minorities, including those within the international community. I am very interested in exploring the effects of adaptive personalities (e.g., grit, resilience, and openness) and coping strategies to overcome unique career barriers in academic and work settings among gender and ethnic minorities.

In terms of teaching and mentoring students, I utilize an individualized and strengths-based approach from positive psychology. My positive belief in my students’ ability and performance facilitates the process of helping them achieve their optimal growth.

 5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I apply mindfulness, acceptance, and gratitude in my personal life. In terms of fostering a positive atmosphere in my personal life, positive psychology has been and continues to be a useful tool to develop a healthy balance in my life.

February 2016: Rebecca Kinsey, MA

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a second year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Ball State University in Indiana. I currently serve as the Student Representative for Ball State and the Practice Representative for the section. I do individual and group psychotherapy at the Ball State Counseling Center. I also rotate among conducting research, teaching undergraduate psychology courses, and supervising students in our master’s program.

2. When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

 I joined the Positive Psychology Section my first year in my doctoral program, to learn more about positive psychology within counseling psychology.  This was also a way to connect with people who were just as passionate about positive psychology as I am.

3. What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section? Please describe your role as the Practice Representative of our section.

It has been so valuable to be informed of how counseling psychologists are using positive psychology in their teaching, research, and clinical work. I have also had the opportunity to work with and learn from other members (thanks Rhea and Blake!). I am incredibly thankful for being able to develop professionally within the field of positive psychology.

As the Practice Representative, I let members know about new positive psychology research or resources related to clinical work. This allows me to stay up to date on the ever-changing field, and it is exciting to see so much progress within counseling and positive psychology over the last few years! 

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My long-term goal is to work in academia and see clients part-time either in a private practice or university counseling center. I am hoping I will one day be able to teach a positive psychology course or a career theories course while incorporating meaningful work research. I enjoy working with clients and seeing them grow, flourish, and show compassion towards themselves while using positive psychology interventions to facilitate those outcomes.

Currently, I am working on my dissertation, which is, broadly speaking, exploring the relationship of gratitude and meaningful work. My advisor, Dr. Chan, and I are in the process of implementing an online savoring intervention for university students. We are also assessing the psychometric properties of the Short Form Grit Scale (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009) using an adolescent sample in Hong Kong.

5. In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

Positive psychology has been a very important part of my life! As you can probably guess by my research interests, I value the expression of gratitude. I try to keep a regular gratitude journal, savor positive experiences, and make meaning from my experiences.  I also try to show others and myself compassion.


Dr. Bryan Dik was interviewed regarding his recent article, "Purpose and Meaning in Career Development Applications," published in the May 2015  Special issue on Positive Psychology Applications in the Counseling Psychologist.  Special thanks to Nancy Goodrich, a student representative at Indiana University Bloomington for conducting the interview.

1.) What is your affiliation/professional role(s)?

I love variety, so I count myself blessed to have multiple roles.  My primary role is Associate Professor of Psychology in the counseling psychology program at Colorado State University.  I also serve as Associate Chair of Online Education within our department.  In addition to my work at CSU, I am co-founder and Chief Science Officer of jobZology, a start-up company that spun off from CSU and that provides career assessment software and services designed to better connect job-seekers to opportunities that fit them well.  In 2016 I am also serving as a Rand Fellow with the Life Reimagined Institute, the career development organization started by AARP.

2.) What are "purpose" and "meaning" in relation to career development and how did you become interested in these concepts?

In a technical sense, I think purpose is best defined as a person's identification of, and desire to pursue, overarching life goals that really matter to them, whereas meaning is best defined as the sense that people make of their lives and the significance they feel as a result. It is important to recognize, though, that although purpose and meaning are conceptually distinct, research participants tend to view the terms as synonymous. Work is, for many people, one of their primary pathways for pursuing purpose and experiencing meaning.  I became interested in these concepts, I suppose, as part of my effort to experience meaning and pursue purpose within my own life and career.  These aspects of eudaimonic well-being are personally important to me, and they have historically been largely overlooked, or at least not directly studied, within career development. I guess I view part of my calling as helping steer the conversation so that these kinds of concerns are more carefully considered and addressed--by scholars, clinicians, organizations, and individuals.

3.) What are some of the take-away points you want your readers to gain from the article?

Our TCP paper clearly emphasizes breadth rather than depth, so it was mainly an effort to raise awareness of all the important scholarly and applied work being undertaken right now that address various aspects of purpose and meaning within career development.  The paper reviews pretty disparate areas of work that are, really, rather fragmented. For example, research on calling is being carried out within vocational psychology and management; job crafting is mainly the domain of management and I-O researchers;  topics like strengths and flow are traditionally considered "positive psychology" constructs. I rather bemoan the silos that have emerged as this area of scholarship has evolved, but I know it's hard to find time to read broadly, across multiple disciplines.  Weaving these related threads together was one of the goals of the team that worked on this paper.  We had this same goal for our recent edited book Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace (2013, APA Books).  Beyond this increased awareness, three takeaways would be: 1) People long for more from their work than "job satisfaction," the way job satisfaction is typically measured--they want it to matter in a more existential sense. 2) There are many ways to foster a sense of purpose and meaning at work, but a common theme is to link one's day-to-day activity to a broader, more global sense of purpose. And 3) this is a really exciting area of research and practice, so come and join us and be part of it!

4.) How do you think purpose and meaning in career development will impact the future of positive psychology?

Positive psychology has long been interested in "the life well-lived," but an ongoing challenge is to develop innovative ways at cultivating that kind of life within various particular life domains.  The work role has attracted fairly robust research and applied activity, and much of what is being discovered and applied can generalize to other life roles.  This already is happening with research on calling, which is now extending to callings within the parent role and marriage.  We see obvious linkages of job crafting to personal relationships as well.  So as research on purpose and meaning in career development evolves, I think there is a lot of potential for it to inform other streams of research that target other life domains.

5.) More broadly, what are your interests in positive psychology and in what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

My own sense of purpose might be summarized as helping people better understand their gifts, and to identify opportunities to express them in meaningful ways that make the world better.  I've been drawn to the work that I do because I see it as a calling, and in that sense most of the effort I make to generate research and translate it into applications is an expression of my own attempt to live my calling.  The basic notion that one's day-to-day activity should align with what one views as most important in life is central to my worldview, and is something I am always trying to improve on. 

November 2015: beatriz bello, ma

 What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)?

I am a fourth year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology emphasis in the department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology program at University of California, Santa Barbara. I currently serve as Division 17’s Positive Psychology Student Representative for UCSB. I am in my third year of clinical work with various community agencies conducting psychotherapy with both English and Spanish speaking clients in the community and am currently working at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?

I joined the Positive Psychology Section soon after being admitted to the CCSP program at UCSB while working under Dr. Collie Conoley. With his mentorship I began learning about the section’s initiatives and the intersection between Positive Psychology and counseling psychology, which relates to my research and clinical interests.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

Being part of this section has allowed me to become connected to the most recent activity that is taking place within the Positive Psychology sphere in APA. As counseling psychologists we have been moving towards a new era focused on Positive Psychology informed interventions and strength based perspectives, which have ignited my interests in how these tenets may be applied with populations of interest. As part of this section I am informed about the latest applied research in the area that not only allows me to consider how to expand upon the literature but also provides best practice applications for my clinical work. It has also been a platform in which I have been able to express my interests and have engaged others in dialogue about important topics moving this field forward.

What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?

My individual interests in positive psychology focuses on the cultural applicability of Positive Psychology interventions with Latino/a immigrant populations within the therapy context. To date, we have applied Positive Psychology within an elementary school context of family therapy among Spanish speaking families seeking to improve family functioning and child school functioning using Goal Focused Positive Psychology therapy (GFPP; Conoley & Conoley, 2009). Preliminary qualitative results suggest that GFPP improved family bonds. I also use positive psychology informed interventions in my clinical work in order to increase hope and positive emotions using Fredrickson’s (2000) Broaden and Build theory.

Additionally, my research with my advisor Dr. Collie Conoley, has also led to published results about the application of positive psychology and the therapeutic process of Positive Empathy. Our research on this topic has focused on highlighting a subtype of empathic process focused on an individual’s wishes and goals for change, rather than simply connecting with a client’s pain. Results from our research show that individuals feel equally understood but are more likely to work towards accomplishing goals and actively working towards change.

 In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

Positive psychology is very meaningful to me not only in my professional journey but my personal life journey as well. Although, previous psychological research has focused on understanding past patterns focused on problems, I feel that positive psychology is a way of supporting an individual’s journey towards change and increasing feelings of empowerment; particularly among disenfranchised and discriminated populations. As a minority student of immigrant parents, I not only see the resilience that is characteristic of many underrepresented communities, but I have also seen the need for bolstering and supporting these individual’s self concepts within my clinical work. I see positive psychology as not only capable of addressing issues of resilience and strength among all people but also among disenfranchised and minority populations that might not realize their strengths or the importance of how building upon them may increase their well-being and life satisfaction.

Any other useful information or comments?

Positive Psychology is a fast emerging field and there is a need to advance the research and application of this field.  I would encourage everyone to examine how this field may intersect with one’s current interests and further explore how and with whom to apply positive psychology. I believe that growth is promoted when focusing on strengths and that collaboration is the best way to grow, not just within this section but with the larger APA forum as well, as a way to further Psychology as a whole. I would invite others to continue exploring this fast growing field and to add to this literature, particularly focusing on how to infuse the field with multicultural considerations (gender, sex, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, class, etc.).

October 2015: Christine robitschek, phd

What is your affiliation/professional role(s)?

I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University. My primary appointment is in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program. I also teach undergraduate courses.

When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?

I joined the Section when it was first forming. It was an exciting time! Finally there would be a place within Counseling Psychology for those of us who identify as Positive Psychologists to gather, share our ideas, draw on each other’s strengths, and collectively advance our field.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

I most value two things about section membership. One is staying connected with colleagues with whom I share a commitment to Positive Psychology within a Counseling Psychology framework. The second thing I value most (and equal to the first) is the opportunity to meet and support the next generation(s) of Counseling Psychologists who are coming to the table. Section membership is an opportunity for me to mentor, encourage, and learn from the creative new minds that are entering our field.

What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?

My primary area of research expertise is personal growth initiative (PGI), which is a skill set for changing and improving ourselves. Current research in our PGI lab includes (1) understanding the role of PGI as a protective factor against PTSD and in promotion of post-traumatic growth in veterans and college students; (2) explorations of PGI in people seeking outpatient therapy, including protection against suicide risk, timing of help-seeking, and therapy outcomes; and (3) increasing our understanding of cross-cultural and multicultural factors that impact understanding of and expressions of intentional growth processes. We have an additional line of research conducting randomized clinical trials (RCTs) to determine outcomes of Intentional Growth Training (IGT), which teaches PGI skills. Current studies in this series of RCTs are testing the extent to which IGT can prevent the onset of depressive symptoms and the mechanisms of action in this prevention process.

In teaching, I integrate positive psychology constructs and principles into all the courses I teach. In my doctoral research methods class I use positive psychology research as examples of topics we are discussing in class. In Vocational Psychology, we include positive psychology topics in the curriculum. When I teach practicum, we include client strengths in case conceptualizations and treatment planning. I am currently teaching an undergraduate Positive Psychology course for the first time. What a delight it is to teach this course! Students are inherently interested in the material and it’s easy for them to apply it to their own lives. Now I understand why my colleagues at other universities have been so thrilled to teach this course over the years.

In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I am a humanist at heart. That was true long before I knew anything about Positive Psychology. But I like the additional terminology and understanding I can add to my world view from a Positive Psychology perspective. I believe that at any given moment each of us is doing the best we can. It might not look like that to others. We might not be meeting the expectations others hold for us, or even our own expectations. But I believe in that moment we each do the best we can. Holding this belief allows me to have more patience with myself and my perfectionism each day. It also helps me see and appreciate the effort other people are putting into being their best possible selves, even when that person might not believe it, or others around them might not see it. Of course, as someone who studies PGI I believe that personal growth and change are not only possible but really good things. But the fact that I intentionally try to improve myself does not change the fact that today I am doing the best that I can. Holding this perspective gives me more peace, patience, and forgiveness for myself and for others.

September 2015: Shu-Yi Wang, MS

What is your affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a third year doctoral student in the counseling psychology program at Indiana University Bloomington.  Currently, I am also a Graduate Assistant working on promoting multicultural understanding among campus.  With regard to clinical work, in addition to my practicum at a community college, I coordinate/provide Mandarin counseling services in our department training clinic.   

When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I joined the Positive Psychology Section in 2014 because I realized that my research interests, teaching, clinical work, and my conceptualization of clients fit well with the values and missions of the Section.  I thought that joining the Section could not only help me further develop my skills and knowledge within this field, but also connect me with other like-minded people.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

I find it valuable to know that there are a group of people, be it graduate students, faculty members, or clinicians, who are dedicated to promoting the development of a balanced psychology.  I am also excited about the possibility of collaborating with colleagues in the Section on various research projects.  Last, ideas from other Campus Representatives on how to recruit more members inspired my own work! 

What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

I am always amazed by the intrinsic strengths of my clients when working with them, which to me is the most fascinating aspect about counseling.  I have witnessed numerous instances in which clients demonstrated the positive, but understudied, side of humanity.  Since then, my conceptualization of clients has changed from a primary focus on problem etiology to a more comprehensive view that includes both problems and strengths.  What strengths does the client have already had that could help him or her move forward?  I think this is one of the fundamental questions asked in positive psychology.

With regard to teaching, in last academic year, I have taught two sections of undergraduate level positive psychology developed by my advisor, Joel Wong.  I enjoyed it because the subject matter is where my passion lies.  It is also rewarding to hear from my students that the course made them feel happier than before!

Last, my research interests reside mainly in the intersection of indigenous psychology and well-being.  Specifically, we (my advisor and I) have been studying Chinese indigenous well-being constructs and their effects on mental health.  In a nutshell, we argue that well-being is a culturally situated notion, so well-being should take on different forms depending on how people define "well" and "being."  Thus, we propose that Chinese well-being could be seen from the perspectives of three influential Chinese philosophical traditions: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddism.  For example, Confucianism advocates harmonious relationships, so interpersonal harmony may represent the Confucian vision of well-being.  Our initial findings were intriguing, and we believe that this topiccould be an area worth attention from researchers.  If you are interested in this topic, please feel free to contact me.

In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I have personally tried out all the positive psychology interventions I had taught to my students.  I have been counting three things that I am grateful for each day.  I have written my brother a letter of encouragement and gratitude.  I practice mindfulness nearly everyday.  Last, I try my best to perform acts of kindness whenever possible.

August 2015: Jennifer teramoto Pedrotti, phd

What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am Professor in the Department of Psychology & Child Development at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, and have taught here at both the undergraduate and graduate level for 12 years. I teach courses in Positive Psychology (one of the first undergraduate courses on this topic in the country), Multicultural Psychology, Intergroup Dialogues, Research Methods, and Counseling and Clinical Psychology. I also work for the BEACoN Mentoring Program for our university under the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity, mentoring underrepresented students across the campus. 

When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

I was one of Shane Lopez's graduate students while he was gathering signatures to formally create the section, and helped him during this process. I served as Co-Communications Officer for the first year after the section was officially created. For me it has  been a great place to have good conversations about positive psychology and where we see it going as a part of the field. 

What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

It's always nice to connect with others who have similar research and teaching interests, and the section has been a great place to do that. APA is such a large organization, but getting to know folks within Division 17, and then in the even smaller circle within the section of Positive Psychology has been really easy -- we're a friendly group!

What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  

My main area of research and writing is the intersection of multiculturalism and positive psychology -- specifically I study strengths from within a cultural context. Lisa Edwards (Marquette) and I edited a volume entitled Perspectives on the Intersection of Multiculturalism and Positive Psychology(Springer Science) in which we have chapters on many specific cultural facets (e.g., race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, SES, etc.) and discuss ways in which positive psychology and strengths work in different multicultural contexts (e.g., therapy, schools, the workplace, etc.). 

I also have an undergraduate textbook entitled Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths (Sage) with Shane Lopez and Rick Snyder -- our third edition just came out this past September and we've incorporated information here on a number of different constructs and topics in the field. We've also tried to couch that information in a multiculturally competent way so as to make it relevant to the experiences of a wider range of people from all walks of life.

In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

I use positive psychology every day in my life. Studying under Shane Lopez and Rick Snyder taught me about the hope model and its value in taking on new tasks and dealing with various difficulties in life. Working as a multicultural advocate on my campus helps me to recognize tremendous courage in my students in the BEACoN program. I also try to use mindfulness every day with my three children -- taking time to pay attention to what's happening right NOW is almost a necessity with kids -- they find joy in so many things moment to moment and staying in the present with them lets me experience that boundless joy too.

June 2015:  Dominika Borowa, MA

What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

I am a counseling psychology doctoral candidate at Texas Tech University; I will be applying for the pre-doctoral internship this fall. I am currently a psychologist in clinical training at the UMC Southwest Cancer Center, TTU Student Counseling Center, and a neuropsychological assessment clinic.

 When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section? 

 I joined the Positive Psychology Section during the spring of 2014, primarily to be part of a group that is involved with and promotes positive psychology in both research and clinical practice.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

This section provides an excellent forum to discuss salient positive psychology topics. Attending the section’s meetings is a valuable experience because it allows members to meet others interested in this area of study, to share ideas, and to collaborate. By being a member of the section, I am also more informed of opportunities within the field of positive psychology that I may otherwise not have known about.

 What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology? 

 One of my research interests involves studying Personal Growth Initiative (PGI; Robitschek, 1998, 1999) as a protective factor against posttraumatic stress and suicidal ideation, and promoter of posttraumatic growth, in military veterans. Additionally, I am interested in positive interventions and their use in therapy. I have conducted several randomized controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of a positive intervention that teaches PGI skills in protecting against an increase in depressive symptoms. I have also translated and conducted a validation study of the Personal Growth Initiative Scale-II (Robitschek et al., 2012) with a Polish population to promote use of the scale in the Polish scientific community.

I have a strengths-based approach in my clinical work and regularly integrate positive psychology interventions in therapy. I believe it’s important to not only alleviate symptoms of distress but also to promote growth and well-being in counseling, and positive psychology has much to offer to facilitate this.

 In what specific ways do you apply positive psychology to your personal life?

 Positive psychology has come to be quite significant in my life. I practice mindfulness while eating, commuting, or exercising. I reflect on what in life I am grateful for and the positive relationships I have with others. I focus on strengths that I have and build upon them to reach my goals. I actually frequently find myself discussing positive psychology concepts with friends – it’s an uplifting topic. J

May 2015: Jeana Magyar-Moe, PhD

Magyar Moe

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)?

I am a Eugene Katz Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. I am also a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Wisconsin. My professional roles are varied. I have a 4-4 teaching load of clinical and counseling psychology courses and I incorporate positive psychology into each of them. I also developed and teach a course devoted entirely to Positive Psychology and a First Year Seminar based entirely upon Strengths Theory and other positive psychology content. I see clients part-time and implement a positive psychological approach in my work with them. I also do business and sport psychology consulting utilizing positive psychology content, methods, and processes. My research typically centers around applications of positive psychology in various contexts including within counseling and therapy, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and inclusivity and social justice issues.

2. When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?

I was actually a graduate student under the mentorship of Shane Lopez at KU when he developed the Section in Formation. I remember helping him to collect signatures to support the formal development of the Section on Positive Psychology back in 2000 or 2001. After completing my PhD, I ran for and was elected treasurer of the Section and then went on to serve as the Chair of the Section for three years and remain an active member to this day.

3. What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

What I have found most valuable is getting to know other Counseling Psychologists with an interest in positive psychology and having opportunities to work to get more of our Division 17 Members on board with this important area of scholarship. In fact, the Special Issue of TCP that just came out this month on "Applications of Positive Psychology" grew entirely out of the work myself and others have done within the Section over the past decade.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?  You can talk about the your book, Therapist's Guide to Positive Psychological Interventions, which I've found incredibly helpful and practical!

I apply positive psychology to all facets of my work life. My greatest passion is for applying positive psychology to counseling and therapy and teaching/training others how to do this as well. Hence, my reason for publishing an entire book on this topic entitled "Therapist's Guide to Positive Psychological Interventions" and co-leading the development and implementation of the Special Issue of TCP on Applications of Positive Psychology previously mentioned. I also have a strong interest in applying positive psychology to teaching, learning, and organizational/work place development. Taking the available scholarship and teaching people how to apply it in their own work and in their own lives is where I see my own strengths within this field.

5. In what way is positive psychology relevant to your personal life?

I use it all the time! I turn to the principles of positive psychology often, whether it be to help me to get through a challenge or overcome an obstacle or simply in my everyday interactions with others. I strive to live my life, raise my children, and nurture relationships through the principles of Strengths Theory, gratitude, hope, active-constructive responding and more!


April 2015: Blake Allan, MS

1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)?   

I am a graduate student in counseling psychology at the University of Florida, and I am completing my pre-doctoral internship at the University of Miami Counseling Center. In the fall, I will begin an Assistant Professor position in counseling psychology at Purdue University.

2. When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?

I joined summer 2014 because I wanted to get more involved in the community and help promote the science and practice of positive psychology.

3. What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section?

I find it valuable to meet colleagues and friends in the section and collaborate on various projects. It's great to meet other people interested in positive psychology and then work towards common goals.

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology?

My research focuses on the experience of meaningful work. This has taken various forms, but right now I am examining helping behaviors and how sociocultural factors constrain access to fulfilling employment. For example, we are currently running a community based study looking at the impact of helping behaviors on meaningful work and productivity. We are also conducting studies investigating if meaningful work is conceptually different from prosocial work. As for sociocultural factors, I am becoming more interested in underemployment and social class. For example, we recently conducted a difference score analysis of ideal versus actual hours worked (i.e., one measure of underemployment) and found that underemployment and overemployment were negatively related to meaningful work and work volition. If you are interested in any of these topics, I would love to collaborate.  

I also integrate positive psychology perspectives and techniques into my teaching and clinical practice. For example, I find gratitude and self-compassion exercises to be helpful with clients. Positive psychology is also important in my conceptualization of client issues. For me positive psychology is about seeing the whole person, and you can't see the whole person without seeing the good.

5. In what ways is positive psychology relevant to your personal life?

Gratitude and compassion are two important concepts for me. I try to build a sense of thankfulness for the important people and meaningful experiences in my life. I also try to give back to my community and help others.

March 2015: Michael J. Scheel, PhD, ABPP



1. What is your title/affiliation/professional role(s)? 

Professor, Director of Training, Counseling psychology program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I see my professional role to be an academic psychologist. I am highly involved as a teacher, researcher, and trainer of my students.

2. When and why did you join the Positive Psychology Section?  

I joined the positive psych section of SCP a few years ago. I learned about the many great things that the section was doing to promote positive psychology and I wanted to be a part of it. I also learned about the section through one of my former students, Brian Cole, who is on the executive board. And…one of my long time co-conspirators, Collie Conoley, who is also on the board. I truly admire both of them, and thought that if they are involved with this section, it must be something great! I also was really excited about the survey that the section initiated, because it helps to promote positive psychology in counseling psychology. I have discovered that there are several counseling psychologist in the section who are very dedicated to the promotion of positive psychology in counseling psychology.

3. What do you find most valuable about being a member of the section? 

I am extremely supportive of the movement within the section to promote positive psychology in SCP. Focusing on assets and strengths is foundational to counseling psychology, yet our psychology specialty was initially hesitant to embrace some of the wonderful developments in positive psychology over the last 20 years. I think we now are starting to fully incorporate positive psychology into our identity and what we do as counseling psychologists. There are so many exciting new developments in PP. For instance, in my role as associate editor of TCP, I have been a part of creating a special issue on applications in positive psychology which will demonstrate how our field has embraced through research, practice and theory building the essence of positive psychology. 

4. What are your counseling, teaching, research, and/or other applied interests related to positive psychology? 
I have been saying for some time now that teaching positive psychology is a sure-fire method of assuring the sustainability of counseling psychology programs in Colleges of Education. Here at Nebraska, I have created an undergraduate course that meets general education requirements for all undergraduate majors. The course is called Happiness and Well-Being through Positive Psychology. Within two days of advertising the course for the first time online, it filled up, and it has been full every semester since then. We have gotten great feedback from the students who have taken the course and from our Dean who loves the enthusiasm of the course. We are now in the process of expanding the course to an undergraduate minor. We also conduct research through the course by offering and assessing the effects of self improvement groups in which students learn and apply principles of mindfulness and self compassion, flow and optimal functioning, and positive social connections. 

I am also very excited about the integration of positive psychology into psychotherapy processes and approaches. To this end, my students and I have developed a categorization system of positive psychotherapy therapist interactions. We have validated a coding system from the categories for use in analyzing psychotherapy transcripts. The positive codes are helping us to study the influence of positive therapist interventions and processes on the alliance and on outcomes of therapy. We have a strong ambition to validate Fredrickson’s (2000) Broaden-and-Build phenomenon through our coding system. I also have been involved with the validation of a new measure for psychotherapy, the Hope for Change in Counseling Scale. This will allow researchers and practitioners to measure client positive factors. 

Finally, I believe we have integrated positive psychology principles and theories throughout our doctoral training program at Nebraska. This includes implementing the complete state model of mental health. All doctoral students learn to assess client assets and strengths along with client deficits and problem symptoms. Research training as well includes consideration of both deficits and strengths. For example, in one study, a student of mine is researching both the presence of shame and the presence of self compassion to understand the relationship between these two competing states. 

5. Any other useful information or comments (maybe advice for students or early career professionals)? It's ok if you don't have a response to this question. 

It is such an exciting time to be a counseling psychologist. I am someone who tends toward a strength orientation in how I think about people and psychology. Thus, I see the evolution of positive psychology to be in an extremely exciting stage. Many opportunities exist for students and professionals in the field to be involved with firming up the practice and science of positive psychology in counseling psychology. Lastly, I will add, that in this stage of my career, I have discovered that my involvement in positive psychology has made me a better person by drawing my attention toward strengths, assets, gratitudes, hope, forgiveness, self compassion and many more positive perspectives…all wonderfully enlivening concepts that feed the soul!