Amy R. Krentzman (2012) hypothesized that the application of positive psychology could be filtered into the methods of recovery and rehabilitation from substance abuse. Krentzman (2012) defines positive psychology as being “dedicated to the rigorous scientific study of “strengths, well-being, . . . optimal functioning” (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005, p. 631) and flourishing (Keyes & Haidt, 2003). Flourishing individuals are “filled with emotional vitality . . . and] functioning positively in the private and social realms of their lives” (p. 6). ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 2). My theory is that positive psychology is a key method for recovery that should be implemented into all rehabilitation programs.

This paper is a response and reaction to Krentzman’s (2012) stance on positive psychology and its integration into substance use, addiction, and recovery research. I will provide my own theory on the hypothesis by discussing why I agree with Krentzman’s (2012) view on positive psychology. Long before positive psychology, the great philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and psychological thinkers (Freud, Jung, Adler, Frankl, Rogers, Maslow) articulated theories of the good life, pleasure, wholeness, purpose, health, and actualization (Duckworth et al. , 2005; Ryff, 2003). In addition, empirical work existed on adaptation, resilience, thriving, spirituality, and growth (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010b). ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 2). In this regard, is that not what those enduring the long road of recovery from substance abuse intend to achieve?

Generally, substance abuse programs attempt to break the physiological addiction that patients have and find ways to integrate them into a modern society by means of steady employment, education, family life, etc. The idea is to, rather than fixing negative behaviors or thought patterns, introduce positive behaviors and life choices to a patient in hopes that the optimistic environment, conversation, and feelings invoke a thought process for a patient that inevitably leads them to believe that there is a better life out there.

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Positive psychology integrated into an intervention is best depicted in a few exercises. One great example is the “Best Future Self” exercise. “The “Best Future Self” exercise instructs participants as follows: ‘Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined’ (King, 2001, p. 810). ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 2).

I firmly believe that when placed in a situation where one’s environment is representative of negative factors such as being addicted to or abusing a substance that berating that person with more negativity, usually in the form of ‘you are doing this, this, and this wrong’, will only dishearten that individual further. This pessimism can often lead to relapse and hopelessness. Kentzman (2012) refers to three types of living that patients pursue while recovering through positive psychology; the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life.

I strongly agreed with the practical application of these ideals in the process of recovery. I have no doubt that when patients are encouraged to live with morals and virtues and truly begin to grasp these concepts that their outlook on recovery becomes less like fighting a disease and more like a road to a new and better life. The pleasant life is described as ensuring someone has positive feelings about the past, present, and future. It goes into detail to describe how these positive feelings cannot be replaced by immediate positive satisfaction through things like “shopping, drugs, chocolate, loveless sex, and TV” (Krentzman, A.

R. 2012 p. 6) but that virtues should be enforced leading to properly structured and long-term positive feelings. The engaged life was extremely interesting to me. It is as if the patient is brought back to an early adolescent stage and guided to experience idealistic concepts. These include; “wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence and the 24 character strengths which comprise them. The virtue of wisdom comprises the character strengths of (a) open-mindedness, (b) perspective, (c) love of learning, (d) creativity, and (e) curiosity.

Courage comprises (f) bravery, (g) persistence, (h) integrity, and (i) vitality. Humanity comprises (j) love, (k) social intelligence, and (l) kindness. Justice comprises (m) fairness, (n) citizenship, and (o) leadership. Temperance comprises (p) forgiveness, (q) humility, (r) prudence, and (s) self-regulation. Transcendence comprises (t) appreciation of beauty and excellence, (u) gratitude, (v) hope, (w) humor, and (x) spirituality. ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 6).

It is truly fascinating, and makes complete sense, to believe that a patient is completely broken down by their bout with their respective substance(s) and then reassembled in this fashion. “Using the lens of positive psychology, addiction and subsequent recovery can be understood in terms of the erosion and reacquisition of character strengths. ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 6). The meaningful life spoke loudest to me and is something I am a huge advocate for when one is facing any sort of struggle. “The meaningful life is the life of service to, and membership in, positive organizations.

These include the family, the workplace, social groups, and society at large. Positive organizations provide an environment in which character strengths and positive emotions flourish. ” (Krentzman, A. R. 2012 p. 6). Patients facing rehabilitation are, under normal circumstances, incapable of facing this task alone. The positive motivation and guidance of support groups (i. e. Alcoholics Anonymous, twelve step programs, and treatment facilities) provide hope and confidence. Also, the integration of other less relevant support groups such as church groups, sport teams, committees, clubs, etc. an also enforce stability and positivity. In conclusion, the science of studying character strengths, optimism, well-being, and reacquisition of hope integrated into the methods of recovery and rehabilitation from substance use or abuse amazed me and I agreed with the concept entirely.

There is no doubt that during the struggle with substance abuse one’s character strengths and overall outlook on life can start to diminish. To promote such rejuvenation in a scientific and professional manner while incorporating traditional recovery and rehabilitation methods is outstanding. The applicability of the theory of character strengths to the phases of addiction and recovery illustrates the potential of positive psychology to contribute to the understanding of addiction and recovery. ” I believe it does more than illustrate. I truly believe that we will find these methods being used more in the near future in rehabilitation facilities across the globe.


Krentzman, A. R. (2012, September 17). Review of the Application of Positive Psychology to Substance Use, Addiction, and Recovery Research. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10. 1037/a0029897


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