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Contextualizing Positive Psychology: Toward a Culture Sensitive Focus on Human Strengths

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  1. Contextualizing Positive Psychology: Toward a Culture Sensitive Focus on Human Strengths Jennifer Lisa M. Edwards, Ph.D. Marquette University Teramoto Pedrotti, Ph.D. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D. University of Kansas

  2. Background • Counseling psychology, as a specialty, has a long tradition of examining and promoting human strengths through research and practice. • Researchers have asserted that some strength-focused scholarship fails to address the nuances of cultural influences (Ahuvia, 2001; Bacigalupe, 2001; Leong & Wong, 2003; Sue & Constantine, 2003; Walsh, 2001)

  3. Purpose • To stimulate and document discussion about the interface between multiculturalism and positive psychology • Summary of responses from a qualitative questionnaire to multicultural experts within counseling psychology

  4. Participants • Nine SCP members (7 women, 2 men) • Number of years as members: 3-21 • Ethnicity: White (4), Mexican American (2), Asian American (1), African American (1), Multiethnic (1) • Majority of participants’ primary position in research/academia

  5. Procedure • Identified list of 46 experts in multicultural issues within SCP and contacted each individually via email • Developed six open-ended questions for participants to answer • Participants returned responses via email • Analyzed data by question to identify specific themes as well as points of divergence

  6. Question: • What are your thoughts about the current interface between Positive Psychology and Multiculturalism within Counseling Psychology and the profession at large?

  7. Theme: • Participants believed that the interface between positive psychology and multiculturalism is logical and natural, as both are anchored in counseling psychology, but needs to be made more explicit. “It is my sense that there is a natural connection between positive psychology and multiculturalism that has not yet been explored explicitly…”

  8. Question: • It has been said that Positive Psychology is a descriptive science that can “transcend particular cultures and politics, and approach universality.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Please explain.

  9. Theme: • All participants agreed that cultural context shapes strengths and their manifestations “What determines living ‘optimally’ is culturally dependent…”

  10. Theme: • However, half of the participants believed that there may also exist some universal strengths that transcend culture “The fact that all humans have positive aspects of their behavior is universal certainly (all seek happiness, equilibrium,all work and try for healthy relationships). But, of course the manifestations of that is culturally determined…”

  11. Question: • Do you think it is important to bring cultural context into a discussion of human strengths and vice versa? If so, how can this be done?

  12. Theme: • All participants believed that it is important to bring cultural context into a discussion of strengths

  13. Question: • How do the multicultural guidelines bear on positive psychology, research and practice?

  14. Theme: • Participants believed that the guidelines should influence all counseling psychologists regardless of specialty

  15. Questions: • What, if anything, do you think needs to be addressed in the Society of Counseling Psychology with regard to the interface between Positive Psychology and Multiculturalism? • What are some strategies for bringing Multiculturalism and Positive Psychology into counseling psychology curricula? Into practice? Into research?

  16. Strategies: • Major contribution to journal (The Counseling Psychologist, Journal of Positive Psychology) • Initiate listserv conversations and other public discussions • Encourage continued research • Articulate guidelines for research and practice from a positive psychology / multicultural framework • Educate through seminars, workshops, and courses

  17. Strategies: • Include positive psychology in introductory counseling books • Expand the efforts of the Positive Psychology section • Get feedback from CCPTP about training issues • Advocate to include topic in the accreditation standards for programs • Identify the interface as the main focus of a conference (e.g., sponsored by SERD and Positive Psych Section) • Increase awareness in trainees

  18. Discussion