Update: The journal article associated with this blog post has since been published and is freely available (click here)
The 29th World Summit on Positive Psychology, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy was held in New York in May 2018. I presented my work on strengths profiling, an alternative, person centred approach to identifying character strengths.
View the recorded presentation here or see below for the presentation abstract.
If you would like to cite this work, please include the following reference:
Cooley, S. J., Quinton, M. L., Parry, B. J., Holland, M. J. G., Whiting, R. J., & Cumming, J. (2018, May). Strengths Profiling: An alternative approach to assessing character strengths based on personal construct psychology. Paper presented at the 29th World Summit on Positive Psychology, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, New York, USA.
The abstract for this presentation is as follows:
Statement of the Problem: Practitioners draw attention to a person’s character strengths to promote empowerment and well-being. This study explores the possibility that existing approaches for assessing character strengths (e.g., the VIA-IS1) could be even more autonomy supportive when combined with strengths profiling2, an ideographic approach informed by personal construct theory (PCT)3,4. A PCT approach ensures that: (1) knowledge is co-created (i.e., the practitioner is not seen as the ‘expert’ who leads the process); (2) that individuals are not required to ‘fit’ within a prescribed list of characteristics; and (3) that individuals are free to use their own terminology and interpretations. A combined Strengths Profiling and VIA1 approach was used in a sample of homeless youth (aged 16-25 years), who are commonly perceived as ‘hard-to-engage’.
Methodology & Theoretical Orientation: During Strengths Profiling, homeless youth (N = 116) listed character strengths that mattered most to them, before scoring themselves out of ten in areas of importance, ideal and current competencies (Fig. 1). Discrepancy scores were calculated such that a lower discrepancy score indicated greater satisfaction4. Strengths Profiling was carried out before and after a 10-week positive youth development program. Informed by pragmatist methodology, experiences were captured through a video diary room5, facilitators’ reflective notes, and pre/post measures of well-being, self-worth and resilience.
Findings: All participants (100%) completed a Strengths Profile when invited. It was found to be an autonomy supportive and empowering process. Over 200 different character strengths were identified, each with a variety of meanings, demonstrating the value in soliciting personal constructs. Using the individual meanings provided, these characteristics were categorized deductively into the VIA framework1. Discrepancy scores for each virtue correlated positively with well-being and were improved following the intervention.
Conclusion & Significance: Ideographic approaches offer a valuable and underused alternative to strengths assessment. Recommendations are made for how Strengths Profiling can be combined with existing frameworks to optimize assessment and promote well-being.
1Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2006). Character strengths in fifty-four nations and the fifty US states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 118–129.
2Cooley, S. J., et al. (under review). Identifying character strengths: The feasibility of Strengths Profiling in homeless youth.
3Kelly, G. (1955). The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Vol. 1–2. NY: Norton.
4Jones, G. (1993). The role of performance profiling in cognitive behavioral interventions in sport. The Sport Psychologist, 7, 160-172.
5Cooley, S. J., et al. (2014). Introducing the use of a semi-structured video diary room to investigate students’ learning experiences during an outdoor adventure education groupwork skills course. Higher Education, 67, 105-121.