Positive Healthcare?

Positive Healthcare?

By: Jennifer K. Clark, M.D.
Faculty, The Institute for Healthcare Excellence
Faculty, University of Tulsa Institute for Health Care Delivery Sciences

In the 1990’s, the field of psychology was beginning to question its foundational Freudian view of mental health. Freud believed that to be mentally healthy one was to demonstrate the absence of disordered thinking. For example, if you do NOT suffer from depression or anxiety then you were deemed to be mentally healthy. In direct opposition to this decades’ long notion, the work of Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues, began a new theory of psychology that fosters positive emotional states, thus creating the field of Positive Psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play (2018 https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/). This is achieved through coupling the repair of disordered thinking with the development of skills and habits of positive emotion, as many of us have never learned or seemingly lost the ability to experience things like joy, gratitude, pride, love, and awe. It goes way beyond the concept of happiness and is about truly cultivating meaning, purpose, relationships, accomplishment, and engagement in one’s life. The influence of positive psychology has been broad, reaching into our primary and higher education worlds to create the concept of Positive Education and into the corporate infrastructure to create Positive Institutions. So why not Positive Healthcare?

Perhaps, based on the belief that health is much more than the absence of disease, Positive Healthcare is the forging of processes and structures toward the creation of an environment for the healing AND flourishing of patients, communities and the clinicians serving them. Wouldn’t that be something?


Learn more about how you and your organization can create positive connections to patients, families, and each other here: https://www.healthcareexcellence.org

The Institute for Healthcare Excellence partners with healthcare organizations to nurture relational skills necessary to create a culture that embraces trust, respect, compassion, and teamwork – creating an environment where quality, safety, and efficiency can flourish. Through this work, physicians, nurses, and the caregiver team reconnect to purpose and restore joy to the practice of medicine. The result of the culture-transforming work is a restoration of humanity to medicine.