Student Experiences – Positive Psychology Fundamentals (Alex Jenkins)

Forgiveness / Positive Psychology / Positive Psychology Fundamentals / Positive Psychology Research

Alex Jenkins is a Psychotherapist and Counsellor who graduated from the Level 5 Diploma Positive Psychology Fundamentals in 2022. Below is a summary of her experience on this course in her own words.

What motivated you to apply for and engage in this course?

I have always integrated and adopted aspects of Positive Psychology within my psychotherapy practice. There are many articles shared by the practitioners, researchers and media that I follow that include Positive Psychology concepts. I also encourage clients to share what works for them, these practices often come from Positive Psychology.

A lot of my beliefs seemed to align with Positive Psychology concepts. I have never been a great one for labels if they limit people and have naturally pursued answers outside the medical model whilst respecting what pharmaceuticals do well. I am cautious of diagnoses that seem to just name symptoms and provide additional labels which may not always be helpful. I am also cautious of diagnoses labelled as disorders and dysfunctions which can suggest something is fundamentally wrong with a person, when the issue is what happened to them, or their authentic selves do not fall into an expected testing range. I believe as a society in general we need to stop shaming people and employ a more compassionate and strength-based approach to empower them as suggested by Positive Psychology.

So, when I was offered the opportunity to formally study the Positive Psychology Fundamentals as a Courage Scholar I jumped at the chance (quite literally as Zest is one of key strengths!)

What are you taking away from your learning experience?

I am taking away so much from the course and have been integrating what I have learned daily into my personal and professional lives.

Right from Unit 1 (Psychology of Strengths) a clear message started to form: a positive relationship with self is key to wellbeing. This message was most compelling in Strengths – specifically Forgiveness – and Authenticity. A positive relationship with self can allow for the joy of being oneself, on purpose! During the course I compiled suggested pathways to help people move from a negative relationship to a positive relationship with themselves in different aspects of life and self. It has really helped me to see how useful and impactful Positive Psychology can be either as a primary intervention or by the strengths and virtues supporting other interventions.

This course has also been the springboard into my study of Forgiveness. I am further pursuing this in the Level 7 Research Pathway with a study entitled Exploring Forgiveness Following the Experience of Interpersonal Violence and/or Abuse.

I am also taking away an increased Love of Learning through experiencing positive education with the Positive Psychology Academy. This learning environment permits its students to challenge and explore the material and concepts authentically.

How do you plan to use your qualification in the future?

My clients have often experienced sustained, interpersonal violence and/or abuse and have been diagnosed with or have symptoms consistent with complex post-traumatic stress.

I want my psychotherapeutic practice to offer opportunities to go beyond just surviving day to day, if the client wishes to, and explore Thriving and Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). To my mind, if a client has been in a -10 situation in life, getting to 0, although a huge achievement, may not be enough for them. They deserve a +10 situation and I see Positive Psychology as a real vehicle for this. In terms of trauma work I see it sitting in ‘Stage Three’ of Judith Herman’s 1992 model.

I have found survivors of (ongoing) interpersonal violence and abuse often have a negative relationship with themselves. They can experience dissociation and may have learned to focus mostly externally for their survival, leading to unhealthy relationships with others and themselves. I believe Positive Psychology can play a significant role in moving from a negative to a positive relationship with self and others, once the client can regulate their nervous system and connect to themselves on a somatic level without being overwhelmed.

Positive Psychology appears to be available to all, seemingly without limitations such as gender or other archetypes. It enables a ‘bottom up’ approach rather than superficial symptom management. This could be important for survivors with wide-ranging symptoms that could feel overwhelming in number.

I am an integrative therapist for a reason, I believe there is no one magical therapeutic ingredient for all. We need to blend therapeutic and holistic ingredients into the best recipe for the given combination of client, therapist, situation and moment. Positive Psychology is going to be a staple ingredient of my practice.

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