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The Counseling Psychologist http://tcp.sagepub.com/

The Strength-Based Counseling Model
Elsie J. Smith The Counseling Psychologist 2006 34: 13 DOI: 10.1177/0011000005277018 The online version of this article can be found at: http://tcp.sagepub.com/content/34/1/13

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10.1177/0011000005277018 Major Contribution Smith / THE STRENGTH-BASED MODEL THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / January 2006



The Strength-Based Counseling Model
Elsie J. Smith
Temple University

This article proposes a strength-based model for counseling at-risk youth. The author presents the assumptions, basic concepts, and values of the strength perspective in counseling and offers strength categories as a conceptual model for viewing clients’behavior. Propositions leading toward a theory of strength-based counseling and stages of this model are given, representative strength-based counseling techniques are examined, and a case study is used to illustrate risk factors, protective factors, and strength assessment. Ethical, research, and training implications of the strength-based model of counseling are discussed.

Increasingly, psychology is moving toward a strength perspective in both philosophy and counseling practice (Aspinwall & Staudinger, 2003; Bingham & Saponaro, 2003; Clark, 1999; Desetta & Wolin, 2000; Epstein, 1998; Gelso & Woodhouse, 2004; Goodman, 1999; Katz, 1997; Lopez & Snyder, 2004; Maton, Schellenback, Leadbetter, & Solarz, 2004; Seligman, 1998, 1999; Snyder, 2000; Snyder & Lopez, 2002; Walsh, 2004). Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association (APA), reminded psychologists in 1998 that our field has become one-sided and enamored of the dark side of human existence. He stated, “Psychology is not just the study of weakness and damage; it is also the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best within ourselves” (Seligman, 1999, p. 1). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) recently sounded a clarion call to psychologists to examine human strengths and the individual, community, and societal factors that make life worth living. Although some researchers have responded to this challenge, psychology still lacks a theoretical framework that integrates the principles and basic concepts of a counseling approach founded on clients’ strengths (Masten, 1994; Walsh, 2004). This special issue of The Counseling Psychologist answers the challenge of Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) and presents a strength-based model for counseling psychologists to use in working with clients. Although the model applies to individuals across the lifespan, I have singled out at-risk youth because youth are an endangered group in the United States (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1995; Dryfoos, 1997; Evans, 2004). THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 34 No. 1, January 2006 13-79 DOI: 10.1177/0011000005277018 © 2006 by the Society of Counseling Psychology

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14 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / January 2006

At-risk youth are defined as young people whose life situations place them in danger of future negative events (McWhirter, McWhirter, McWhirter, & McWhirter, 1998). Such youth have personal characteristics or environmental...
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