The invaluable BPS Research Digest reports on a study by Christoph Flückiger and Martin Grosse Holtforth which found that getting therapists to focus on a client’s strengths for just ten minutes before the first five sessions of psychotherapy (an example of resource priming) improved relationships with the client, and led to greater improvements by session 20.

Here’s the full study (downloadable PDF): Focusing the therapist’s attention on the patient’s strengths: a preliminary study to foster a mechanism of change in outpatient psychotherapy

Now that we know that therapists get better results when they prepare by paying attention to the client’s strengths, consider the implications for you:

  • if you are a manager, could you get better results from your team by focusing on their strengths rather than their weaknesses?
  • if you are in sales, could you have a better relationship with your customers and hence better sales if you focus on their good qualities as a customer?
  • if you are a teacher, could you get better results for your students if you focus on their strengths (actually, we’ve known that for ages from the “Pygmalion effect” or “teacher-expectancy effect”)?
  • if you pay more attention to your strengths, will your performance (in whatever area) improve? We would expect it to.

Why not give it a go? Try this experiment:

  1. Notice how you feel about your performance in an area of your choice and give it a score out of 10.
  2. Now take 5 minutes (no longer, no less) to write everything that’s good about your performance in that area – past achievements, signs of improvement, things you are proud of, whatever occurs to you as long as it’s good.
  3. Now, on the scale of 0 to 10, how do you feel about your performance now?

For a progressive, longer-lasting effect, keep an “Improvement Diary”. Take a moment at the end of each day to write down any improvements that you’ve noticed. If you don’t notice any straight away, you’re not looking hard enough! There will be something.

Research findings from Positive Psychology suggest that over time your self-esteem and, interestingly, your objective performance will improve.

Appreciative Therapy: Therapy Works Better When It’s Focused On The Client’s Strengths

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