Q&A with Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive Psychologist
Q: What is your current position?
I am a licensed psychologist in the state of New Jersey with a private practice, and I am also the founder and originator of The Enchanted Self, which is a method for improving our happiness and wellbeing.
I'm involved in a positive psychology series for tweens and teens called "The Truth" series.
Q: What is positive psychology?
Positive psychology looks at people to see what is right about them rather than what is wrong.
Q: How did you get started in this field?
The way that I got started was partly serendipity. I have had a practice for a number of years, and I'm very interested in women in particular and the messages that women get in childhood that form not only our character, but our sense of how we can move in the world as we get older.
Q: What kind of preparation does someone pursuing this career need?
In my opinion, being a positive psychologist requires a doctorate in positive psychology. You have to focus either in your training or later your work on learning methods and procedures to assess and help people with all sorts of anxieties and disabilities. You need to be able to direct them to a more hopeful, optimistic attitude.
Q: How does positive psychology impact your practice?
Well, my practice is psycho-dynamically oriented with a lot of cognitive work, but I am always trying to help my clients see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
I give them assignments that will hopefully shift their thinking with practice. Clients will begin to see that when they make these shifts, more positive things come into their lives and they behave in more positive ways.
Q: What traits work well for positive psychology?
It helps to have a predisposition to feeling encouraging as well as being somewhat optimistic in general.
As far as actually being a good positive psychologist in the treatment room, you have to be able to take care of yourself too. If a therapist has a depressive side to her, tends to get very anxious or gives up pretty easily, all of that is going to wear her out. She may transfer some of those feelings to her perception of clients.
Q: What are the challenges you face in your work?
The challenges that I face in my treatment room are mainly those concerning managed care. It is very difficult sometimes to just work out the mechanics of meeting with a client.
So many people now are obligated to their managed care's list of therapists, and it just creates many difficulties.
Q: How has positive psychology developed over the last few years?
It's grown tremendously. Research is flourishing all across the country. Many people are training in different ways to enter positive psychology.
Q: How has technology shaped positive psychology?
I am a teacher and a psychologist at heart. To be able to put up a teaching video through something like YouTube once a week is to me like a dream come true. I can't speak more highly of technology.
Q: Any other advice for aspiring positive psychologists?
You have to make a clear distinction between whether you're truly a psychologist or a motivational specialist at heart.
If you're a psychologist, get the right training because you never know when a difficult client who truly needs mental care will come through your door. Once you've made the distinction, learn all the current research and start to bring it into your own life. Practice it, practice it, practice it.