Is psychotherapy a place where clients would consider going to talk about their strengths? Is psychotherapy a place where therapists would routinely inquire about a client’s strengths as a part of their initial assessment and ongoing therapy? It is unlikely this is what Emma was expecting when she presented to therapy with a slight weight problem, saying ‘‘I eat when I am bored, frustrated, anxious and angry—for psychological reasons. It makes me happy.’’ However, it was not until the second session that she revealed the real, embarrassing, and distressing reason for attending.
What she believedmade her happy was quite specific: chocolate.With almost any emotional swing she would gorge on a family-size block of chocolate, a full package or two of chocolate cookies, or a container of chocolate milk. Trying to stop any long-established behavior can be difficult, especially if it is an approach behavior, meets a psychological need, and offers such strong rewards as the chocolate was doing for Emma. It provided instant pleasure when she was in distress, and she had empowered it with the ability to ‘‘make’’ her happy. To direct therapy toward stopping something that served as an effective, thoughmaladaptive, coping strategy with such powerful rewards was obviously going to be an uphill battle.
With the exception of one or two therapeutic approaches, such as Ericksonian or solution-focused therapy, or with the occasional therapist, few therapies or therapists have oriented themselves toward spotting, enabling, and developing client strengths. Therapists and therapeutic models usually are very well versed in, and have good clinical strengths in, problem-spotting and weakness-spotting.
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