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Pros & Cons of Positive Psychology: A Critical Look

5 CE Credit Hours - Online Course - $49.00

Developed by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

Course includes the works of Dr. James Coyne, Dr. Lisa Aspinwall & Dr. Stephen Soldz

This course is also offered as part of a Certificate Program: Positive Psychology 39 CE Credit Hours.

Course materials: text/webpage Articles    audio Audios

Transcripts are available for ALL MP3s in pdf format.

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  Introduction to course by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

General Course Description

We hear a great deal about positive psychology these days, and the field is booming. But how useful is it? In this course, we examine the field of Positive Psychology from a critical standpoint. An approach based on Positive Psychology is currently used with members of the United States military for the purpose of helping them accept their actions and return to active duty, and many find this ethically questionable. Ideas from Positive Psychology are also used with cancer patients, who may be set up for deep shame if thinking positively fails to eradicate their sickness. Another common objection is that humans are meant to experience the full range of human emotions, and that the classification of negative and positive emotions is harmful.

This intermediate level course is composed of five audio interviews and two text articles. Dr. David Van Nuys has been interviewing professionals in a warm and engaging manner for over seven years. The first section includes audio interviews, with Dr. Rakesh Sarin on engineering happiness and Dr. Russ Harris on "the happiness trap." The second section includes two audio interviews, with Dr. James Coyne and Dr. Lisa Aspinwall. Both of these discuss the effectiveness (and lack thereof) of using Positive Psychology with cancer patients. The third section covers the controversial issue of using Positive Psychology with members of the military for the purpose of returning them to active duty. It includes one text article by Dr. Roy Eidelson, Dr. Marc Pilisuk and Dr. Stephen Soldz, and one audio interview of Dr. Stephen Soldz. Finally, the course includes a brief article by Dr. David Van Nuys. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Educational Objectives

This course will teach the participant to:

1.    Critique Positive Psychology.

2.    Summarize the main objections to Positive Psychology.

3.    Evaluate the ethics of using Positive Psychology with members of the military.

4.    Identify potential problems with using Positive Psychology with cancer patients.

5.    Cite the importance of honoring painful emotions.

Course Syllabus

Introduction to Positive Psychology

  • Consequences of striving for a state of happiness
  • Definitions of happiness

Positive Psychology and Culture

  • Classification of pain, grief, and depression as "negative"
  • Popularity
  • Endorsement by United States government

Critique of Positive Psychology

  • Ethically questionable use with military personnel
  • Potential harm of using Positive Psychology with cancer patients
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