Tag Archives: Motivation

Positive Psychology and the Wellness Model of Mental Health

The Disease Model focuses on the problem; the Wellness Model emphasizes the solution.

Clinical psychologists posit the need for wholesale and radical change, not only in how we understand mental health problems but in how we communicate positivity and collaboration with the client. This radical change, however, should not be a dissolution of approaches but an intense review of their efficacy, and repudiation of the one-size-fits-all stance within the mental health community. 

Certain fundamentals like language, perspective, and diagnosis demand drastic adjustment. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) abandoned the word neurosis in 1980 but it remains the go-to term in the mental health community. One only needs the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020) definition of neurosis to comprehend the pathographic focus of the disease model. Neurosis is

any one of a variety of mental disorders characterized by significant anxiety or other distressing emotional symptoms, such as persistent and irrational fears, obsessive thoughts, compulsive acts, dissociative states, and somatic and depressive reactions. The symptoms do not involve gross personality disorganization, total lack of insight, or loss of contact with reality (compare psychosis). In psychoanalysis, neuroses are generally viewed as exaggerated, unconscious methods of coping with internal conflicts and the anxiety they produce. Most of the disorders that used to be called neuroses are now classified as anxiety disorders.

Establishing new parameters of wellness calls for a reformation of thought and concept. In 2004, the World Health Organization began promoting the advantages of the wellness over disease perspective, defining health as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The World Psychiatric Association has aligned with the wellness model and it has become a central focus of international policy.  Evolving psychological approaches have become bellwethers for the research and study of the positive character strengths that facilitate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance helpful to recovery. As positive psychologists point out, “psychological wellbeing is viewed as not only the absence of mental disorder but also the presence of positive psychological resources.” Wellness must become the central focus of mental health for the simple reason that the disease model has provided grossly insufficient results

Health experts define mental illness as a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria that can produce functional impairment which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Any disorder that results in 30 or more days of role impairment at work, home, or in social relationships seriously impacts one’s emotional wellbeing and quality of life. 

The pathographic or disease model of mental healthcare has been the modus operandi for centuries and it has been the overriding psychological perspective for over a century, with an insular focus on biological and neurological origins of mental illness. In Scientific American, psychologist Kinderman argues, 

We must move from the disease model, which assumes that emotional distress is merely symptomatic of biological illness, and instead embrace a model of mental health and well-being that recognizes our essential and shared humanity. Our mental health is largely dependent on our understanding of the world and our thoughts about ourselves, other people, the future and the world.

Positive Psychology

The wellness model’s chief facilitator is positive psychology (PP), which originated with Maslow’s  seminal texts on humanism, and was legitimated by Seligman as American Psychological Association president in 1998. The focus of positive psychology and other optimistic approaches is on virtues and strengths “not only to endure and survive, but also to flourish.” PP describes recovery  as people “(re-) engaging in their life on the basis of their own goals and strengths, and finding meaning and purpose through constructing and reclaiming a valued identity and valued social roles.” Positive psychology is a relatively new field (since 1998) that ostensibly complements and supports rather than replaces traditional psychology. “Positive psychology serves as an umbrella term to accommodate research investigating positive emotions and other positive aspects such as creativity, optimism, resilience, empathy, compassion, humor, and life satisfaction.” 

PP has been defined as the science of optimal functioning, its objective to identify the inherent strengths, virtues, and attributes individuals and society need to live a productive life. Cultural psychologist Levesque describes optimal functioning as the study of how individuals attempt to achieve their potentials and become the best that they can be.

Research has shown that positive psychology interventions  “improved well-being and decreased psychological distress in mildly depressed individuals, in patients with mood and depressive disorders, [and] in patients with psychotic disorders.” Studies support the utilization of positive psychological constructs, theories, and interventions for enhanced understanding and improvement of ‘mental health. 

A range of approaches promoting wellbeing has been tested in intervention research. A recent study found positive psychology interventions showed “significant improvements in mental well-being (from non-flourishing to flourishing mental health) while also decreasing both anxiety and depressive symptom severity.” Continuing research suggests that a positive psychological outlook not only improves life outcomes but enhances health directly. A meta-analysis of 51 studies with 4,266 individuals utilizing therapies focusing on mindfulness, autobiography, positive writing, gratitude, forgiveness, or kindness, found PPIs “significantly enhance well-being . . . and decrease depressive symptoms.“

The academic discipline of positive psychology continues to develop evidence-based interventions that focus on eliciting positive feelings, cognitions, or behaviors. Independent research shows PPIs “decreased psychological distress [in individuals] with mood and depressive disorders [and] patients with psychotic disorders . . . improving quality of life and well-being.” Positive psychology offers promising interventions “to support recovery in people with common mental illness, and preliminary evidence suggests it can also be helpful for people with more severe mental illness.” 

Disease (Medical) Model

  • Pathography/etiology
  • DSM intractability
  • Systemic pessimism
  • Disease, deficit and denigration
  • One-size-fits-all recovery programs
  • Doctor-client power relationship
  • Rampant Misdiagnosis

Wellness Model

  • Communication
  • Optimal functioning
  • Emerging research data
  • Positive language, perspective
  • Client strengths and abilities
  • Program integration
  • Individual dynamics

Positive Psychology

  • Optimal human functioning
  • Support and enhance traditional psychology
  • Emphasize character strengths & attributes
  • Evidence-based interventions
  • Balanced, holistic perspective

Positive Psychology 2.0.  One of the early challenges of positive psychology was its inattention to the negative aspects of the individual. Recognizing this imbalance, psychologists advocated a more holistic approach to embrace the dialectical opposition of human experience. Positive Psychology 2.0 (PP 2.0) evolved as a correction to this singular focus on optimism so that it could “move forward in a more inclusive and balanced matter, incorporating both positive and negative aspects of the holistic individual. As one critical psychologist wrote, “people are not just pessimists or optimists. They have complex personality structures.” PP 2.0 recognizes the individual achieves optimal human functioning by living a meaningful life that comes through full engagement. PP 2.0 is a balanced approach,  one that “equally considers positive emotions and strengths and negative symptoms and disorders.” 

The positive psychology perspective maintains that individuals with a ‘mental disorder can live satisfying and fulfilling lives regardless of symptoms or impairments associated with the diagnosis. Positive psychology aims “to emphasize the positive while managing and transforming the negative to increase well-being.”

Positive psychology focuses on enhancing wellbeing and optimal functioning rather than ameliorating symptoms. By emphasizing wellness rather than dysfunction, the positive-psychology movement aims to destigmatize ‘mental’ illness. Positive psychologists believe “the constructive use of positive psychology perspective is generally needed in contemporary research to complement the long tradition of pathogen orientation.” 


Why is your support essential? ReChanneling is dedicated to research and development of methods to alleviate symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort. Our vision is to reshape the current pathographic emphasis on diagnoses over individual, which fosters a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Treatment programs must disavow ineffective, one-size-fits-all approaches and target the individual personality through communication, empathy, collaboration, and an integration of historically and clinically practical methods. All donations support scholarships for workshops and practicums.

[i] Mayer, C.-H., & May, M. (2019). The Positive Psychology Movement. PP1.0 and PP2.0. In C-H Mayer and Z. Kőváry (Eds.), New Trends in Psychobiography (pp. 155-172). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-916953-4_9.

[ii] Kinderman, P. (2014). Why We Need to Abandon the Disease-Model of Mental Health Care. (Online.) Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/why-we-need-to-abandon-the-disease-model-of-mental-health-care/ 

[iii] Slade, M. (2010). Mental illness and well-being: the central importance of positive psychology and recovery approaches. BMC Health Service Research 10 (26), 1-17 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-10-26 10(26)

[iv] Schrank, B., Brownell, T., Tylee, A., & Slade, M. (2014). Psychology: An Approach to Supporting Recovery in Mental Illness. East Asian Arch Psychiatry, 24, 95-103 (2014).

[v] Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms with Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 65(5), 467–487 (2009). doi:10.1002/jclp.20593

[vi] Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4): 370-396 (1943). doi.org/10.1037/h0054346; Maslow, A. (1954). Motivations and Personality.  New York City: Harper & Brothers; Early edition.

[vii] Mayer, C.-H., & May, M. (2019). The Positive Psychology Movement. PP1.0 and PP2.0. In C-H Mayer and Z. Kőváry (Eds.), New Trends in Psychobiography (pp. 155-172). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-916953-4_9.

[viii] Schrank, B., Brownell, T., Tylee, A., & Slade, M. (2014). Psychology: An Approach to Supporting Recovery in Mental Illness. East Asian Arch Psychiatry, 24, 95-103 (2014).

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Carruthers, C., & Hood, C. D. (2005).  The Power of Positive Psychology. Parks and Recreation.  .file:///C:/Users/rober/ OneDrive/ Pending/New%20Psychobiography/carruthers%20x.pdf 

[xi] Levesque, R. J. R. (2011). Optimal Functioning. In Levesque R. J. R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Adolescence. New York City: Springer. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1695-2

[xii] Chakhssi, F., Kraiss, J. T., Sommers-Spijkerman, M., & Bohlmeijer, E.T. (2018). The effect of positive psychology interventions on well-being and distress in clinical samples with psychiatric or somatic disorders: a systematic review and metaanalysis. BMC Psychiatry 18:211, 1-17 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1739-2.

[xiii] Carruthers, C., & Hood, C. D. (2005).  The Power of Positive Psychology. Parks and Recreation.  .file:///C:/Users/rober/ OneDrive/ Pending/New%20Psychobiography/carruthers%20x.pdf 

[xiv] Schotanus-Dijkstra, M., Drossaert, C. H. C., Pieterse, M. E., Walburg, J. A., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Smit, F. (2018).  Towards sustainable mental health promotion: trial-based health-economic evaluation of a positive psychology intervention versus usual care. BMC Psychiatry 18:265, pp. 1-11 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1825-5

[xv] Easterbrook, G. (2001). Psychology discovers happiness. I’m OK, You’re OK. The New Republic, Article 27,  6

[xvi] Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms with Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 65(5), 467–487 (2009). doi:10.1002/jclp.20593

[xvii]  Schotanus-Dijkstra, M., Drossaert, C. H. C., Pieterse, M. E., Walburg, J. A., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Smit, F. (2018).  Towards sustainable mental health promotion: trial-based health-economic evaluation of a positive psychology intervention versus usual care. BMC Psychiatry 18:265, pp. 1-11 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1825-5

[xviii] Chakhssi, F., Kraiss, J. T., Sommers-Spijkerman, M., & Bohlmeijer, E.T. (2018). The effect of positive psychology interventions on well-being and distress in clinical samples with psychiatric or somatic disorders: a systematic review and metaanalysis. BMC Psychiatry 18:211, 1-17 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1739-2.

[xix] Schrank, B., Brownell, T., Tylee, A., & Slade, M. (2014). Psychology: An Approach to Supporting Recovery in Mental Illness. East Asian Arch Psychiatry, 24, 95-103 (2014).

[xx] Wong, P. T. P., & Roy, S. (2017). Critique of positive psychology and positive interventions. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology, pp 142-160. London, UK: Routledge.

[xxi]  Miller, A. (2008). A Critique of Positive Psychology— or ‘The New Science of Happiness.’ Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3-4), 591-608 (2008).  

[xxii] Rashid, T., Anjum, A., Chu, R., Stevanovski, S., Zanjani, A., & Lennox, C. (2014). Strength based resilience: Integrating risk and resources towards holistic well-being. In G. A. Fava & C. Ruini (eds.), Increasing psychological well-being in clinical and educational settings (Vol. 8, pp. 153–176). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

[xxiii]  Slade, M. (2010). Mental illness and well-being: the central importance of positive psychology and recovery approaches. BMC Health Service Research 10 (26), 1-17 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-10-26 10(26)

[xxiv] Mayer, C.-H., & May, M. (2019). The Positive Psychology Movement. PP1.0 and PP2.0. In C-H Mayer and Z. Kőváry (Eds.), New Trends in Psychobiography (pp. 155-172). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-916953-4_9.

[xxv] Ibid.

Why One-Size-Fits-All Approaches Fail

Recovery programs must reflect individual over diagnosis.

Personal recovery from physiological dysfunction and discomfort (disorders/neuroses) is an individual process. Just as there is no one right way to do or experience recovery, so also what helps us at one time in our life may not help us at another. It is myopic of recovery programs to lump us into a single niche. Individually, we are a conglomerate of personalities―distinct phenomena generated by everything and anything experienced in our lifetime.

Every teaching, opinion, belief, and influence facilitates our personality development. It is our current and immediate being and the expression of that being. It forms itself by core beliefs and is developed by social, cultural, and environmental experiences. It is constant yet fluid, singular yet multiple. It is our inimitable way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It is who we are, who we think we are, and who we believe we are destined to become. It is expressed by the simultaneous mutual interaction of our mind, body, spirt, and emotions working in concert.

Any evaluation and treatment program must comprehensively address the complexity of the individual personality. The insularity of cognitive-behavioral therapy, positive psychologies, interpersonal and regression therapies, and other approaches cannot address the dynamic complexities of our personality. We are better served by the integration of multiple traditional and non-traditional approaches, including those defined as new (third) wave (generation) therapies, developed through client trust, cultural assimilation, and therapeutic innovation. Our environment, heritage, background, and associations reflect our wants, choices, and aspirations. If they are not given consideration, then we are not valued.

In the disease model of mental healthcare, we are treated as the diagnosis rather than the individual with concerns and issues. Unfortunately, the traits, characteristics, and symptoms defined by diagnosis are subject to substantial deviations in definition, epidemiology, and treatment. Mental health experts maneuver among eight or nine types of depression, several anxiety disorders, nine obsessive-compulsive disorders, five types of stress response, and ten personality disorders sharing similar traits and symptomatology with varying degrees of impact. A cumulation of experts has social anxiety disorder comorbid with avoidant personality disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Of U. S. adults with any mental disorder in a one-year period, 14.4 percent have one disorder, 5.8 percent have two disorders and 6 percent have three or more. 60% of those with anxiety also have depression and vice versa, and both are regularly comorbid with substance abuse. 

The disease model of mental health focuses on what is wrong with us. It is based on the history of our negative behavior. The Wellness Model  of mental health focuses on our character strengths and virtues that generate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to recover. A battle is not won by focusing on incompetence and weakness; it is won by knowing and utilizing inherent strengths and attributes. That is how we successfully recover―with pride and self-reliance and determination―with the awareness of what we are capable of. 

All treatment programs are flawed to some extent; integration into a platform of approaches can compensate for that ineffectiveness. Let us use the example of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Almost 90 percent of the approaches to recovery involve cognitive-behavioral treatments. However, many critical studies dispute CBT’s efficacy, claiming it fares no better than non-CBT programs. They argue its effectiveness has deteriorated since its introduction, concluding it is no more successful than mindfulness-based therapy for depression and anxiety. 

Despite these criticisms, the program of thought and behavior modification pioneered by Beck in the 1960s is still useful in modifying the irrational thoughts and behaviors that sustain a disorder when used in concert with other approaches.

One such integration is utilizing positive psychology in the cognitive behavioral therapy model supported by other approaches. CBT would modify automatic negative self-beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and positive psychology would emphasize the potential mindfulness of inherent strengths, virtues, and attributes as positive replacement. The Wellness Model’s chief facilitator, positive psychology has its critics, too. They claim positive psychology is still in its formative stage and, despite recent scientific attention to the positive spectrum of human potential, has yet to be integrated into mainstream theory, assessment, and treatment options.

Until recently, the focus on optimal functioning’s positive aspects ignored the individual’s holism by neglecting their negative aspects. The emergence of PP2.0 rectified the lacuna. Positive psychology now emphasizes the positive while managing and processing the negative to increase wellbeing.

Platform Integration.

Focusing on the individual personality would compensate for the statistical failures of diagnosis based on the disease model’s reliance on DSM criteria. Even mainstream medical authorities have begun to recognize the unreliability of conventional psychiatric diagnosis. A recent Canadian study reported, of 289 participants in 67 clinics meeting DSM-IV criteria for social anxiety disorder, 76.4% were improperly diagnosed. The Anxiety Institute in Phoenix reports an estimated 8.2% of clients had generalized anxiety, but just 0.5% were correctly diagnosed. Experts cite the mental health community’s difficulty distinguishing different disorders or identifying specific etiological risk factors due to the fluidity and ambiguity of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

The massive number of revisions, substitutions, and changes from one DSM to the next is never universally accepted. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and researchers who specialize or survive by funding are justifiably protective of their territory. Even under the best circumstance with a knowledgeable and caring clinician, it is difficult to get a proper diagnosis. What is lacking is communication and collaboration between subject and clinician, eliminating the power dynamic of the diagnostic process. 

We are better served by the integration of multiple traditional and non-traditional approaches, including those defined as new (third) wave (generation) therapies, developed through client trust, cultural assimilation, and therapeutic innovation. Our environment, heritage, background, and associations reflect our wants, choices, and aspirations. If they are not given consideration, then we are not valued.

We must address the individual over the diagnosis and create individual-based solutions. Training in prosocial behavior and emotional literacy might be useful supplements to typical interventions. Behavioral exercises can be used to practice the execution of considerate and generous social skills. Positive affirmations have enormous subjective value as well. Data provide evidence for mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions. Motivational enhancement strategies could help clients overcome their resistance to new ideas and concepts. Many therapists tout the benefits of positive autobiography to focus on our positive life experiences. Evidence-based solutions must address issues of self-esteem.

The best solution is establishing an integrated platform of approaches as a general solution for the problem, then further customizing as determined by personality. Diagnoses must be vigorously challenged by individual concerns and experiences, and treatment programs must reflect this dynamic. 

Why is your support essential? ReChanneling is dedicated to research and development of methods to alleviate symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort (disorders./neuroses). Our vision is to reshape the current pathographic emphasis on diagnoses over individual, which fosters a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Treatment programs must disavow ineffective, one-size-fits-all approaches and target the individual personality through communication, empathy, collaboration, and an integration of historically and clinically practical methods. All donations support scholarships for workshops and practicums.