Strength-Based Therapy

What Is Strength-Based Therapy?

Strength-based therapy is a type of positive psychotherapy and counseling that focuses more on your internal strengths and resourcefulness, and less on weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings. This focus sets up a positive mindset that helps you build on you best qualities, find your strengths, improve resilience and change worldview to one that is more positive. A positive attitude, in turn, can help your expectations of yourself and others become more reasonable.

When It's Used

Anyone with poor self-esteem, or who has emotional issues resulting from an abusive relationship with a parent or partner, can benefit from strength-based therapy. This includes people with serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, who can use strength-based therapy to build confidence and reduce the stress of living with such a condition. Strength-based therapy can be used as an intervention for individuals of all ages, couples and families.

What to Expect

Strength-based therapy is talk therapy that guides you toward a retelling of your personal history of traumas, stressors, and pain with more emphasis on yourself as a survivor than as a victim, and more emphasis on your strengths and survival skills than on your weakness. The goal is for you to recognize that you already have the skills and strength to survive and can use those same strengths to deal with tough situations in other areas of your life.

How It Works

American psychotherapist Donald Clifton became known as the “father of strength-based therapy” because of his many contributions to the field in the late 1900s and early years of 2000, but the practice evolved from the work of people in various disciplines, including social work, counseling psychology, positive psychology, solution-focused therapy, and narrative therapy. The theory behind strength-based therapy is that through adversary, people discover their inner strengths. How people deal with life’s challenges depends on whether they feel they are operating from a position of strength or a position of deficit. Those with a strength mindset focus on their positive qualities, while those with a deficit mindset focus on weaknesses and flaws, both in themselves and others. Each mindset influences future thinking and behavior in a different way. Strength-based therapy emphasizes the positive thinking patterns and circumstances in a person’s life, rather than the negatives. It helps determine what works for each people by seeing people for who they are as individuals, not who they are by nature of their diagnosis.

What to Look for in a Strength-Based Therapist

Strength-based therapy techniques can be incorporated into different types of counseling and therapy. Look for a licensed, experienced counselor, social worker, psychotherapist, or other mental health professional with training in strength-based therapy. In addition to finding someone with the appropriate educational background, experience and positive approach, seek a therapist with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal issues.

Sources

Jones-Smith, E. Strengths-Based Therapy: Connecting Theory, Practice and Skills. Chapter 1. (2014, SAGE Publications.)

Xie H. Strengths-based approach for mental health recovery. Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. Autumn/Winter 2013;7(2):5-10.

Scheel MJ, Davis CK and Henderson JD. Therapist use of client strengths: A qualitative study of positive processes. The Counseling Psychologist. 2012.