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Applying Positive Psychology in Recovery

Applying Positive Psychology in Recovery

Learn more about how positive psychology works and if it is an appropriate treatment option for you here.

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What is Positive Psychology?

There are multiple types of psychological and therapeutic practices that can help those who are struggling with substance abuse disorders or working through detox programs. One influential and beneficial practice is positive psychology. This branch of psychology focuses on an individual’s strengths and behaviors that allow that person to flourish and grow.

The primary aspect that makes this psychology stand out from other practices is that it doesn’t just look at what makes a patient happy. Positive psychology instead looks at what can allow the patient to thrive and become the best possible version of themselves.1

Why is Positive Psychology Important?

Positive psychology programs can be important for patients who may have attempted other forms of therapy and did not achieve the desired results. These techniques also seem to leave longer-lasting impressions on patients than other forms of therapy, as it focuses on a holistic approach to living happily and healthily.

In addiction recovery, this form of therapy allows individuals to see past the struggles of their substance abuse and focus on the potential of what may come next after beginning recovery.

History of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology therapy started gaining traction after World War II. Before this, most therapy approaches were primarily focused on “abnormal” behaviors and their subsequent mental health diagnoses. However, multiple psychologists, most notably Martin Seligman, wondered what could happen if they were to focus on the strengths of human nature instead of our weaknesses.

It is known as the fourth wave of psychology, meaning that it developed from and built upon the waves that came before it. These past models were focused specifically on diseases, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology.2

Uses of Positive Psychology

The employment of this psychology can help a wide variety of patients work through substance abuse disorders or other mental health conditions they may be struggling with. While this therapy model may not work for everyone, it is a viable option that may be worth exploring with your therapist or primary care physician. Positive psychology has been shown to be especially effective for patients who struggle with mental health diagnoses like anxiety and depression.3

Other notable uses of this model include:

  • Therapy and recovery
  • Education
  • Self-help
  • Stress management
  • Workplace issues

Beginning Positive Psychology

Many recovery clinics, universities, and human resources departments have medical staff who are trained in various techniques and practices. If you or a loved one think that this psychology may benefit you, talk to your primary care provider or reach out to a trained therapist that can help you develop a treatment plan for your specific needs.

Applying Positive Psychology in Recovery

Recovery and positive psychology can work quite well together if utilized effectively. This type of psychology in addiction therapy generally looks at helping the patient move forward in order to create a positive and more fulfilling life for themselves.

In fact, a positive emotional state has been shown to lower cravings for alcohol or substances as opposed to a negative state of mind. Coping mechanisms also become easier to utilize when one has achieved a higher level of emotional well-being.5

Positive Psychology Activities in Addiction Recovery

There are a few common activities that are used in treatment. These include:

  • Meditation
  • Building connections
  • Gratitude exercises
  • Engaging activities

Some of these activities build off of the PERMA model, such as building connections and learning how to engage adequately and thoroughly in activities. These activities, while commonly used in addiction therapy, are just a small list of available options that your therapist may utilize in your specific treatment plan.

Addiction Recovery at San Diego Detox

If you or a loved one think you may benefit from positive psychology therapy, San Diego Detox is here to help. Our team of highly-trained mental health professionals is well-versed in these techniques and can help you develop a treatment plan that caters specifically to your individual needs. We will support you through every aspect of therapy and recovery. We also utilize multiple other therapy models, such as 12-Step programs, art and music therapy, and dual diagnosis treatment.

Our facility has multiple amenities, including our own chef and movie theater, that can help you feel comfortable and more at home while you’re with us. You don’t have to struggle with addiction alone; we are here to help. Contact San Diego Detox today with any questions about getting help.

The PERMA Model and Positive Psychology

The PERMA model, which stands for “positive emotions, engagement, relationship, meaning, and accomplishments,” was developed by Seligman. The five facets of the PERMA model help patients to better understand what they believe will help them to flourish.

Individuals will come to understand their own well-being in varying degrees, as each person’s definition of “flourishing” is unique The five steps of the PERMA model are detailed below.4

Positive Emotions

This tenet of the PERMA model strives to improve our positive emotional well-being. Its focus is to help patients learn how to increase their positive emotions about the past, present, and future. This does tend to be limited depending on how much a person can experience these emotions, along with what their own personal views on happiness are.


Engagement is when a person looks to fully deploy their strengths, skills, and attention to a task purely for the sake of themselves or the task at hand. To work effectively, engagement means that the individual has to be fully immersed in the task, which can range from a conversation with a friend to a challenging task like performing well at a competition.


Humans, by nature, are social beings, meaning that relationships are a key aspect of being happy and being able to flourish. This part of the PERMA model has patients focus on how they can create and maintain meaningful and important connections with others.


This tenet of PERMA focuses on how to derive meaning from specific aspects of our lives. This can include areas such as religion, family, sports, community, art, and relationships.


Finally, accomplishments are meant to offer patients a way to find joy in something they have achieved or mastered.