It is obvious that process of globalization and growing multicultural tendencies in society push us to search more of unity in different domains of life. In a field of modern psychotherapy and psychology a humanistic tendencies become more and more evident.
Recently, there has been growing interest about two approaches to psychology and psychotherapy with similar name: “Positive Psychotherapy” (Peseschkian) and “Positive Psychology” (Seligman).
Nossrat Peseschkian and co-workers have established “Positive Psychotherapy” since 1968. Today it is worldwide recognized as resource-oriented and trans-cultural form of psychodynamic psychotherapy, which is accepted by professional associations such as World Council of Psychotherapy (www.wprldpsyche.org) and the European Association for Psychotherapy (www.europsyche.org). International Academy for Positive Psychotherapy exist since 1968 and works with more then 40 countries and 100 centers worldwide. More than 25 original books were published, partly translated into 24 languages. On the basis of this work prof. Peseschkian has received the highest award with regards to quality assurance by the medical chamber of Germany as well the order of Merit by the president of the Federal Republic of Germany. He has got much recognition as a scientist. In 2009 prof. Peseschkian was nominated for Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine.
Professor Peseschkian developed his method from the psychodynamic practice which was at that time in its mainstream predominately deficit-oriented and had long duration of treatment. Besides that, he has presented – far ahead of his time – particularly the meaning of the (trans)-cultural aspects of a positive image of man.
Professor Seligman on the other side has started his approach the background of a cognitive-behavioral research tradition. In its mechanistic image of man this tradition also was predominately deficit-oriented and not always integration-supporting.
“Positive Psychology” is a program of empirical psychology initiated and represented by Martin Seligman starting in the early 1990ties. In the last few years, Positive Psychology has gained substantial attention both in the academic field and the popular media. Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology whose purpose was summed up in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: "We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities." Positive psychologists seek "to find and nurture genius and talent", and "to make normal life more fulfilling", not simply to treat mental illness. The field is intended to complement, not to replace traditional psychology. It does not seek to deny the importance of studying how things go wrong, but rather to emphasize the importance of using the scientific method to determine how things go right. Researchers in the field analyze things like states of pleasure or flow, values, virtues, talents, as well the ways that social systems and institutions can promote them. (Wikipedia)
The similar names of the two approaches have led to both curiosity and confusion amongst experts and laymen. So, the question “What do they have in common and where do they differ?” is on the agenda.
Both approaches share a strong focus on activating resources and both have an optimistic view on the human capacity to develop and grow. They even use some similar concepts such as “actual capacities” (Positive Psychotherapy”) respectively “virtues” (Positive Psychology).
However, a closer look on their respective founding, development and organization reveals interesting differences. “Positive Psychotherapy” has been established in Europe with clinical psychodynamic practice and cross-cultural aspects of migration being important sources of inspiration, whilst Positive Psychology has its specific roots in behaviorally oriented and academic research in the United States. Against this background, some comparisons of concepts and applied aspects reveal an interesting picture. On this basis, Nossrat Peseschkian’s late call to Martin Seligman for clear naming and creative cooperation becomes an inspiring outlook into the future.
Another difference may lie in the pragmatic spirit of the times of the respective origin: Peseschkian set up the positive psychotherapy as a therapy school with integrated concept of treatment and the claim to bring together depth psychological, humanistic and behavioral ideas. Seligman on the other side developed the positive psychology as an open program for the empiric psychology. In this manner both attempts are complementary very well. Furthermore the concurrent existence psychodynamically and a cognitive reasonable positive psychotherapy offers an important contribution to overcoming the biggest splitting within the psychotherapy during the last 100 years.
According to the oriental wisdoms: “There is no elevator to happiness. You have to use the staircase” and “Who works alone can only add, but who works together can multiply.”