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Home » All, Change, Strengths, Taking Action

Changing “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Strong?” 10 Strategies (Part 2 of 2)

By on April 27, 2010 – 12:01 pm  6 Comments

Bridget Grenville-Cleave, MAPP graduate of the University of East London, is a UK-based positive psychology consultant, trainer and writer. She is author of Introducing Positive Psychology: A Practical Guide (2012), and The Happiness Equation with Dr Ilona Boniwell. She regularly facilitates school well-being programs and Positive Psychology Masterclasses for personal and professional development. Find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @BridgetGC. Website. Full bio. Her articles are here.



In yesterday’s article, I described how clinical psychologists could expand the “what’s wrong?” model to include “what’s strong?”  Today, I give the specific ten strategies recommended by Tayyab Rashid of the University of Pennsylvania and Robert F. Ostermann of Farleigh Dickinson University in their paper, Strength-based Assessment in Clinical Practice.”

10 Strategies for Incorporating Strengths into Clinical Assessments

Rashid and Ostermann give us ten very clear and simple ways to adopt a strength-based approach in the process of clinical assessment:

  1. Positive assessment scales. Use a positive assessment scale to measure specific positive constructs such as hope, love and forgiveness e.g. PANAS, Hope Scale, SWL, Life-Orientation Test-Revised. These and other measures can be found in Positive Psychological Assessment: a Handbook of Models and Measures, and the Oxford Handbook of Methods in Positive Psychology.
     
  2. Strengths survey. Ask your client to complete the VIA-IS (strengths survey) online and use the resulting report for further discussion.
     
  3. Strengths-based questions during informal interviews. These need not be complex! Asking your client “What gives your life a sense of meaning?,” Let’s pause here and talk about what you’re good at,” “What strength would it be useful to have right now?” and “What are you doing when you are at your best?” are simple, but incredibly powerful, questions for a client to consider.
     
  4. Icons of particular strengths.  Use icons from history, films, or literature to depict strengths and use these as discussion points. Rashid and Ostermann suggest icons such as Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King but you could easily suggest other more contemporary examples. You could also include relevant good news stories or books which clients identify with.
     
  5. 360-feedback session. Complete a 360-feedback on the client’s strengths by seeking information (with permission of course) from the client’s family, friends and colleagues.
     
  6. Strengths during challenges. Use formal and informal measure of strengths displayed during challenges i.e. measure client’s resilience e.g. “What have you done to overcome a serious difficulty?” or “Tell me about a setback from which you learned a lot about yourself?” and so on.
     
  7. Assessment of flourishing. Assess the criteria for flourishing e.g. using the following measure:
     

    A. The individual must not have had episodes of major depression in the past year.
     
    B. The individual must possess well-being defined by:
       i. High emotional well-being (measured by positive/negative affect and life satisfaction);
       ii. High psychology well-being (measured by self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, positive relations with others); and
       iii. High social well-being (measured by social acceptance, actualization, contribution,  coherence and integration).

     

  8. Using strengths. Having identified their strengths, Rashid and Ostermann suggest you encourage your clients to utilize them as a way to experience flow, which counteracts the boredom, listlessness, brooding and rumination which often accompany mental disorder. Empirical research suggests that using your strengths in new ways provides a long-term boost to your well-being.
     
  9. If you’re a clinician who prefers not to use formal strengths measures, you can use a narrative strategy, such as the Positive Introduction – i.e. get clients to introduce themselves using a real-life story of about 300 words which shows them at their best or a peak moment in life. If they have trouble doing this, have them ask a friend or family member to help them.
     
  10. Real-life issues. Encourage clients to apply their strengths to real-life issues e.g. “Let’s discuss the strengths that you displayed in your Positive Introduction – what role might they play in your current challenging situation?”

The Rashid and Ostermann paper concludes which a case study of Riba, a 38-year-old with a major depressive disorder. Identifying her strengths using the VIA strengths survey, completing a Personal Introduction (which she was initially reluctant to do), finding out where to focus on using her strengths to shift the focus from deficit and helplessness, and noticing the genuinely good aspects of her life were central to enabling her to recover from depression and return to work. Over about 20 sessions, her scores on the depression scale reduced significantly and she no longer met the criterion for major depressive disorder.

Rashid and Ostermann’s closing advice to clinicians is to “adopt a flexible approach of strengths assessment, incorporating both qualitative strategies and objective measures and integrating strengths with weaknesses.”
 


 

References:

Baumeister, R.F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K.D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323–370.

Lopez, S.J. & Snyder, C.R. (Eds). (2006). Positive psychological assessment: a handbook of models and measures. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Ong, A.D. & Van Dulmen, M.H.M. (2007). Oxford handbook of methods in positive psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rashid, T. & Ostermann, R.F. (2009). Strengths-based assessment in clinical practice. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 488—498.

Images:

Spring Blossoms courtesy of Noël Zia Lee

6 Comments »

  • Jo Ayoubi says:

    Thanks for this very useful summary. It’s interesting that one of the key tools for doing this, 360 Degree Feedback, is mentioned as part of the patient’s therapy in this article.

    I think the 10 Strategies can also be carried over into work-related activities that are designed to help individuals get better at their jobs, and more motivated. For example, it’s a great idea for managers to recognise and develop employees’ strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses.

  • Jo Ayoubi says:

    Thanks for this very useful summary. It’s interesting that one of the key tools for doing this, 360 Degree Feedback, is mentioned as part of the patient’s therapy in this article.

    I think the 10 Strategies can also be carried over into work-related activities that are designed to help individuals get better at their jobs, and more motiveted. For example, it’s a great idea for managers to recognise and develop employees’ strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses.

    Jo at 360 Degree Feedback

  • Jo Ayoubi says:

    Thanks for this very useful summary. It’s interesting that one of the key tools for doing this, 360 Degree Feedback, is mentioned as part of the patient’s therapy in this article.

    I think the 10 Strategies can also be carried over into work-related activities that are designed to help individuals get better at their jobs, and more motiveted. For example, it’s a great idea for managers to recognise and develop employees’ strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses.

    There are more 360 Degree Feedback resources at http://www.tracksurveys.co.uk for anyone who’s interested.

  • Bridget says:

    Hi Jo

    yes that’s a good observation about the 360. I think we’re very familiar with them in a work setting, and in a clinical setting it’s different, for start you have confidentiality to deal with. So whether it works in practice is another matter – perhaps there are some clinicians reading this who would be prepared to offer their perspectives?

    And certainly there is research (I’m thinking of the Gallup Organization) which suggests that working with a strengths-approach in the workplace has benefits for productivity, profit, staff turnover and engagement.

    Bridget

  • Great summary, Bridget! I think another way to incorporate strenghts into clinical assessments is by using a case focused report during clinical assessments instead of the usual Results-Discussion style report. A case focused report highlights the strengths of an individual, hence positive psychology gains momentum. In a case focused report, the clinician can also focus on the domains that are important to a person’s well-being.

  • Bridget says:

    Hi JM

    Thanks for pointing out the case-focused report as another strengths-based approach.

    If anyone wants to know more about the case-focused report, see Chapter 15 in The Handbook of Psychological Assessment by Gary Groth-Marnat (2009; Wiley).

    Bridget

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