A strengths-based approach to counseling has become a common therapeutic tool over the past decade. The model is just what it sounds like: a way to focus on a person’s strengths, rather than on his or her weaknesses, to help facilitate healing. Instead of looking at a client through the eyes of an expert diagnosing a disease, the therapist considers herself a partner in helping the client draw on his or her own resources of character and support to improve his or her situation.

The key to a strengths-based model is in seeking out the strengths one possesses to cope with life problems. No matter how difficult the challenges, each person has character traits, life goals, deep knowledge, and social support networks that he or she can draw on to feel empowered to work through the difficulties that life presents. Therapists will generally begin a strengths-based session by focusing more on what a client wants to achieve in his or her life than on what is going wrong. This shift in perspective allows the therapist to assist the client in seeing him or herself as a capable and valuable person who has much to offer.

In addition, a therapist using a strengths-based approach will consider him or herself a collaborator with the client, working together to find solutions, rather than telling the client how it is. The client uses the therapist as a strong and conscientious support for the client’s own self-improvement. It requires that both therapist and client be active collaborators, working together toward the client’s goal.

Empirical research has begun to show that a positive attitude will result in a healthier outcome. After all, if you believe that your situation is hopeless and that you are broken, you are unlikely to be able to improve your sense of well-being. A therapist using a strengths-based approach will help you to discover what strengths you possess and how to use them to find a sense of hope and optimism in your struggle to live a full life.