Roberto Martínez: "Positive Psychology provides a broader view".
Psychologist Roberto Martínez talks about the key ideas on which Positive Psychology is based.
Not all areas of applied psychology are oriented to the treatment of psychopathologies. A clear example of this can be found in Positive Psychology, whose objective is to help people to take advantage of their talents and their sources of potential, going beyond the overcoming of their own problems.going beyond overcoming discomfort.
In this interview to the psychologist Roberto Martínez, this professional talks about his experience applying this form of psychological intervention from the Positive Psychology.
Interview with Roberto Martínez: Positive Psychology and its applications in mental well-being.
The psychologist Roberto Martínez is an expert psychologist in Positive Psychology. and Schema Therapy. He has his main practice in Montevideo, where he treats adults and adolescents. In this interview he talks to us about the theoretical and practical principles of Positive Psychology and its application in therapy and psychological assistance.
What, from your point of view, characterizes Positive Psychology and distinguishes it from other areas of activity in Psychology in general?
I consider that Positive Psychology provides a broader and more integrative view of the person, his or her reality and potentiality. A look that not only sees and attends to what is happening in the person's life and worries him/her, but goes beyond that, sees the potential, the resource, what has worked in the past and now is not being used.
To what extent is there a clear line between what is a psychological problem, on the one hand, and a need for personal development or tapping into our potential and talents, on the other?
I don't see a clear line separating one from the other, except in cases of really serious disorders. Several studies on depression have confirmed that classic therapies achieve acceptable results in reducing symptoms, but this is not reflected in the person feeling better or more satisfied with life.
We must treat the disorders, collaborate with the patient to overcome that situation, but as a psychologist, I consider that we must go a little further, helping that person to be better, with more well-being.
Well-being in general is related to a greater sense of life, commitment and personal fulfillment. This type of intervention drastically reduces relapses and makes the intervention sustainable over time.
It is sometimes said that Positive Psychology tries to completely eliminate "negative emotions", those that cause you discomfort. Myth or reality?
It is a myth. Emotions are divided into positive and negative for didactic purposes, but all of them are useful and if after several million years of evolution we keep them, it is because they definitely have a utility.
Positive Psychology tries to value all emotions, to understand their meaning, to be aware of them and to understand their magnitude. Positive Psychology has marked a real therapeutic milestone by identifying and promoting positive emotions as a resource to treat people, couples and organizations.
Today we know that positive emotions favor creativity, expand our consciousness and favor social interactions, generating a barrage of neurotransmitters that promote well-being in the moment and allow us to generate a kind of "reserve fund" for hard times.
It is said that positive emotions produce a "cushioning" effect that is especially useful in the hard moments of life.
All emotions have a utility, a meaning, a purpose. Sometimes, for different reasons, people tend to interpret them in a way that is not very adaptive, to undervalue them or to overestimate them, and this tends to be a source of psychological discomfort.
What do you think are the main utilities and benefits of Positive Psychology applied to psychological assistance for people who come to the consultation?
The main benefit is to help the person to see himself from the resource; that with what he has, with what he knows, we can organize it in such a way that he feels better, faces the challenges of everyday life in a more satisfactory way and achieves a fuller life, a life worth living, as Martin Seligman says.
People who come to my office usually have a pretty clear idea of what is not working well in them, what they have problems with, some of them even have a clear idea of the origin of these problems. Despite that knowledge they are no better off.
When I ask them about their talents, about their strengths, about those things in which they Excel or simply enjoy doing, there is usually a face of surprise and silence. From an early age we are told what to improve, to reinforce those things we have deficits in, but little is said about how to improve our talents and strengths.
At other times people come with a very strong emphasis on what happened to them in the past, which, although it conditions, does not necessarily determine.
How we are today depends largely on what we do today and what we plan to do. Naturally there are exceptions, especially in psychology, which is not an exact science, but it is a full-fledged science.
We can work thinking about the future, there are strengths such as hope or optimism that are very powerful and help a lot to overcome difficult times.
The people I work with, usually end the processes we undertake with greater self-knowledge, they know themselves better, that allows them to make better decisions, for example. They also end up knowing what their preferred ways of dealing with difficulties are and if these ways help them or prevent them from feeling better, we review them and modify them.
There are no wrong ways of coping, just as we were talking about emotions. The problem usually lies in rigidity, in the use of only one or two ways of dealing with everything that happens to us. People are often unaware that there are options, that is why the value of psychoeducation as a therapeutic tool in my way of working is very important.
In general, our modality of work favors that the person gets to know him/herself better, this benefits his/her self-esteem, improves his/her self-concept (what the person believes he/she is) and all this combined leads to a higher level of personal fulfillment.
And what are the main uses of Positive Psychology in the field of personal relationships? For example, in couple therapy.
When we go from expecting the other person to improve what he/she is not good at to recognizing his/her strengths and using them to his/her advantage, all interpersonal relationships take a 180º turn. We stop expecting the other person to change and we start valuing what he/she has and what he/she excels in.
We move from demand to appreciation and acceptance. Receiving approval and appreciation from our spouse, co-worker or colleague immediately disarms any defensive posture and favors dialogue. It is precisely in this dialogue where we can gradually adjust those details that sometimes are really key and condition the relationship.
Couples therapy is one of my favorite areas of attention within the framework of Positive Psychology, because many of its concepts (use of the resource, testing what worked, valuing positive exchanges, etc.) were already being used there long before the official presentation of Positive Psychology.
What do you think are the main profiles of people who can benefit from Positive Psychology?
In fact, I believe that we can all benefit from what Positive Psychology proposes: a broader vision of the person. A person with problems, sufferings and fears, but also with strengths, resources and expectations.
Adults, adolescents and couples are the ones with whom I work on a daily basis and where I see and verify the change and not only the improvement, but also the personal development, the realization that makes well-being sustainable.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)