Positive Psychology: The Cutting Edge

Positive Psychology: The Cutting Edge

Dr. Martin Seligman is considered a leading authority in the growing field of Positive Psychology. As such, he had received international acclaim and is in demand for his expertise in bettering not only the individual, but much larger groups and even nations. What makes Dr. Seligman’s work groundbreaking in the field of psychology and beyond is his assertion that the ability to flourish, grow and excel is not only possible for any and every one, but should be a priority over the current status quo of merely reducing suffering and impairment. Dr. Seligman cites the foundational works of Freud and Schopenhauer; which normalize distress and suffering as an inevitable; as empirically invalid and myopic as he suggests resilience and wellbeing are scarcely accounted for by these academic giants.

Dr. Lisa Saponaro, your local Clinical Psychologist, has been practicing in Plantation, Florida for over 10 years. Dr. Saponaro has utilized the contemporary concepts of Positive Psychology as a main part of her treatment philosophy and effective approaches to sources of suffering such a depression or anxiety. Like Dr. Seligman, Dr. Saponaro believes that the reduction of suffering is only a small part of counseling and helps direct patients towards wellness.

In this symposium, Dr. Seligman encapsulates his theory and approach of wellbeing in the simple yet inclusive acronym P.E.R.M.A.

  • Positive Emotion is a concept that refers to the importance of seeking out and prioritizing the good, beautiful and positive aspects of our lives on a regular basis. This mental exercise of zooming in on the positive allows for an overall focus on wellbeing.
  • Engagement is a concept that refers to the identification and use of an individual’s “signature strengths” or natural talents in order to interact with the environment in a way that is best suited to that individual. It is those individual differences and strengths, Seligman suggests, that allow for such phenomena as post-traumatic growth and resilience.
  • Seligman also emphasizes the importance of Relationships in overall wellbeing noting not only what kind of relationships we choose to be in, but our chosen style of interaction. Dr. Saponaro helps couples and individuals learn Active Constructive Responding to improve communication and lead to better relationships.
  • Meaning refers to our innate human need to contribute and belong to something bigger than ourselves. This can take the form of belonging to an organization or taking part in religion, but can also refer to altruism and selfless acts for others.
  • Finally, Achievement refers to the self-discipline, perseverance or “grit” an individual displays to move forward and grow. The work by Angela Duckworth, one of Dr. Seligman’s colleagues shows that it is this “grit” that accounts for twice the significance of intelligence.

A researcher and scientist at heart, Dr. Seligman emphasized that each component of his PERMA concept is not only measurable, but easily teachable. Using today’s technology, social media (i.e. twitter) and psycholinguistics; Dr. Seligman and his team have been able to make astonishing predictions of health and wellness outcomes based on both positive and negative indicators of PERMA concepts. More astonishing have been the results garnered from the school system and US military after the implementation of Positive Psychology and PERMA education. Early research suggests improved psychological health, better grades for students and resilience and growth for our veterans. Indeed it seems that Positive Psychology and the PERMA concept has its place in any number of settings.

Borrowing a concept from economy, Dr. Seligman posits that Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” is at work when implementing Positive Psychology. He notes that all that need be done is the provision of education around PERMA concepts and the expectation that individuals need be accountable and measured on those concepts – the organization will discover the who, what where and when that suits their needs. As a Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Saponaro strives to facilitate the “Invisible Hand” of Positive Psychology in her practice through education about PERMA concepts and accountability for the individuals, couples and families that seek counseling services. She uses Dr. Seligman’s rigorous scientific data to drive effective and dynamic treatments that can not only manage depression and anxiety, but increase wellbeing and happiness.

Dr. Seligman emphasized Positive Psychology exercises as self-sustaining and even “addicting.” Exercises in PERMA make us feel good – it’s easy and even fun to keep doing them. This leads to consistent implementation of growth inducing and resilience building techniques and overall easy improvement in wellbeing. Finally! Something that is addicting AND good for us! Dr. Saponaro looks forward to getting all of Plantation, Florida hooked on PERMA and Positive Psychology. Dr. Saponaro truly believes that there is not only a solution to depression, anxiety and suffering; but that the limits of resilience, growth and the potential for happiness are endless.

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