The founder of positive psychotherapy, Nossrat Peseschkian (1933–2010), was an Iranian-born German certified psychiatrist, neurologist and psychotherapist. He was inspired in the late 1960s and early 1970s by different sources, persons and developments:
- The spirit of that time, which brought into existence humanistic psychology and its further developments.
- Personal encounters with prominent psychotherapists and psychiatrists, such as Viktor Frankl, Jacob L. Moreno, Heinrich Meng and others.
- By the humanistic teachings and virtues of the Bahá'í Faith.
- By looking for an integrative method, specially because of problems between psychoanalysts and behaviour therapists at that time
- Based on transcultural observations in over 20 cultures, and searching for an integrative method which is cultural-sensitive
The term 'positive'
The method was called "differentiational analysis" until 1977. In 1977, Nossrat Peseschkian published his work "Positive Psychotherapie", which was published in English as "Positive Psychotherapy" in 1987. The term "positive" is derived from the original Latin expression "positum or positivus" which means the actual, the real, the concrete. The aim of positive psychotherapy and positive psychotherapists is to help the patient and client to see also their abilities, strengths, resources and potentials.
- Integrative psychotherapy method
- Humanistic Psychodynamic Method
- Cohesive, integrated therapeutic system
- Conflict-centered short-term method
- Cultural-sensitive method
- Use of stories, anecdotes and wisdoms
- Innovative interventions and techniques
- Application in psychotherapy, other medical disciplines, counselling, education, prevention, management and trainings
Development and international network
The main emphasis of positive psychotherapy during the past 40 years has been treatment, training and publication.
- In 1979, the Wiesbaden Postgraduate Training Institute for Psychotherapy and Family Therapy was established as a postgraduate training for physicians in Wiesbaden, Germany. In 1999, the Wiesbaden Academy for Psychotherapy (WIAP), a state-licensed postgraduate psychotherapy academy with a large outpatient clinic was established for the training of psychologists and educational scientists.
- Most Positive Psychotherapists are working in private office or in clinics. In Germany, Positive Psychotherapy is counted as a psychodynamic method and the health insurance covers the costs.
- Since the early 1980s, seminars and trainings in some 60 countries have taken place. Today, Positive Psychotherapy is practiced in more than 25 countries with approximately 30 independent centres and institutions. The training programs for mental health professionals consist of basic and master trainings over several years.
- The international head office is based in Wiesbaden, Germany. Positive psychotherapy is represented internationally by the World Association of Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy (WAPP). This international governing board of directors is elected every three years. There are national and regional associations in some ten countries.
- PPT and its therapists have been engaged in the international development of psychotherapy, and are active members of international and continental associations
The three main principles or pillars of positive psychotherapy are:
- The Principle of Hope
- The Principle of Balance
- The Principle of Consultation
The Principle of Hope implies that the therapist wants to assist their patients to understand and see the meaning und purpose of their disorder or conflict. Accordingly, the disorder will be reinterpreted in a "positive" way (positive interpretations):
- Sleep disturbance is the ability to be watchful and get by with little sleep
- Depression is the ability to react with deepest emotionality to conflicts
- Schizophrenia is the ability to live in two worlds at the same time or living in a fantasy world
- Anorexia nervosa is the ability to get along with few meals and identify with the hunger of the world
Through this positive view a change of standpoint becomes possible, not only for the patient, but also for his environment. Hence, illnesses have a symbolic function which has to be recognized by both therapist and patient. The patient learns that the symptoms and complaints of the illness are signals to bring his or her four qualities of life into new balance.
Principle of Balance: Despite social and cultural differences and the uniqueness of every human being, it can be observed that during the management of their problems that all humans refer to typical forms of coping. Thomas Kornbichler explains: "Nossrat Peseschkian formulated with the Balance Model of Positive Psychotherapy (an innovative contemporary approach to dynamic psychotherapy) a vivid model of coping with conflicts in different cultures." According to the balance model, the four areas of life are: 1. body/health – psychosomatic; 2. achievement/work – stress factors; 3. contact/relationships – depression; 4. future/purpose/meaning of life – fears and phobia.
Though these four ranges are inherent in all humans, in the western hemisphere the emphasis is more often on the areas of body/senses and profession/achievement in contrast to the eastern hemisphere where the areas are contact, fantasy and future (cross-cultural aspect of positive psychotherapy). Lack of contact and imagination are some of the causes of many psychosomatic diseases. Everybody develops his or her own preferences on how to cope with conflicts that occur. Through a one-sided mode to the conflict solution, the other modes are getting eclipsed. The conflict contents (e.g. punctuality, orderliness, politeness, trust, time, patience) are described in terms of primary and secondary capacities, based on the basic capacities of loving and knowing. This can be seen as a content-wise differentiation of Freud's classical model of the instances.
Principle of Consultation: Five-stages of therapy and self-help. The five stages of positive psychotherapy represent a concept in which therapy and self-help are closely interrelated. The patient and the family are getting informed together about the illness and the individual solution to it.
- 1st Step: Observation; distancing (perception: the capacity to express desire and problems)
- 2nd Step: Taking inventory (cognitive capacities: events in the last 5 to 10 years)
- 3rd Step: Situational encouragement (self-help and resource-activation of the patient: the ability to use past successes in conflict solution)
- 4th Step: Verbalization (communicative capacities: the ability to express outstanding conflicts and problems in the four qualities of life)
- 5th Step: Expansion of goals (in order to evoke forward–looking orientation in life after the problems are solved, the patient is asked: "What would you like to do, when no more problems are left to be solved? Which goals do you have for the next five years?")
Publications and research
In 1997, a quality assurance and effectiveness study was undertaken in Germany. The results show this short-term method to be effective. The study was awarded with the Richard-Merten-Prize. Today there are more than 30 major books on positive psychotherapy, of which some have been published in more than 23 languages. Some of the main ones are:
- Peseschkian, Nossrat (2006). If You Want Something You Never Had, Then Do Something You Never Did. Sterling Pvt., Ltd. ISBN 1-84557-509-1.
- Peseschkian, Nossrat N (1987). Positive Psychotherapy Theory and Practice of a New Method. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-0-387-15794-8. (translated) (first German edition 1977)
- Peseschkian, Nossrat (1986). Oriental Stories as Tools in Psychotherapy: the Merchant and the Parrot / With 100 Case Examples for Education and Self-Help. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-0-387-15765-8. (First German edition 1979)
- Peseschkian, Nossrat. In Search of Meaning. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-15766-5. (first German edition 1983)
- Peseschkian, Nossrat. Positive Family Therapy. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-15768-9., republished India: Sterling Publishers Pvt., Ltd., ISBN 978-81-207-1839-5 (first German edition 1980)
- Peseschkian, Nossrat. Psychotherapy of Everyday Life: Training in Partnership and Self Help With 250 Case Histories. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-15767-2. (first German edition 1974)
- Maxim Goncharov, Operationalization of countertransference in Positive Psychotherapy. International Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol 16, No 3, Article 4
- Maksim Goncharov, Conflict operationalization in Positive Psychotherapy, Khabarovsk, Russia, 2014. ISBN 978-5-9905455-1-9