This course will be taught at Saybrook University, Spring 2015, as part of their Clinical PhD Program.

 Course Syllabus

 Course Title: Applied Positive Psychology

Catalog Course Description:

Positive psychology (PP) is the scientific study of optimal human functioning to help people flourish. This Applied PP course is a foundation course to help students not only understand the research on the core themes of positive psychology, but also equip students with the helpful positive interventions in various area areas of professional psychology, such as clinical, health, education, organization and community.

Both PP and applied PP courses are in great demand all over the world, because of their broad appeal to students and helping professionals (i.e., counsellors, psychologists, coaches, doctors, social workers, educations, and human resources managers.). PP is the 21st century in much the say way humanistic-existential psychology (HE) was in the 70s. Both appeal to individuals who aspire to promote the well-being in themselves, their clients, and society; both seek to develop a strength-based practice in helping professionals.

What makes this course unique is that it has moved from the initial positive psychology narrow focus on positive emotions, positive traits and positive institutions (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) to positive psychology 2.0 (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener, 2014; Wong, 2011) which focuses the totality of the person and the positive potentials in both positive and negative conditions.

Another distinctive of this course is that it integrates the best from PP and HP to help people become authentic and fully functioning individuals (Wong, 2010b, in press-b). Advocating a holistic approach towards research, it recommends the triangulation of scientific research findings, time-tested wisdom, and personal experiences as the basis for truths. In sum, this course has the flexibility to meet the career needs and aspirations of individual students through the choice of special projects.


Relationship of the Course to the Saybrook Mission and Tradition:

This course will extend Saybrook’s mission and tradition by integrating the humanistic-existential and transpersonal perspectives of positive psychology with the contemporary positive psychology research and interventions.


Textbooks and Readings

Required Texts:

Wong, P. T. P. (Ed.). (2012). The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.


Required Articles:

Asplund, J., Lopez, S. J., Hodges, T., & Harter, J. (2007). The Clifton StrengthsFinder® 2.0 technical report: Development and validation. The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ. Available online at

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Rathunde, K. (1993). The measurement of flow in everyday life: toward a theory of emergent motivation. In J. E. Jacobs, Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 1992: Developmental perspectives on motivation. Current theory and research in motivation (Vol. 40.; pp. 57-97). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology92(6), 1087-1101.

Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. C. L. M. Keyes, & J. Haidt (eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105-128). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology84(2), 377-389.

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Be careful what you wish for: Optimal functioning and the relative attainment of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. In P. Schmuck, & K. M. Sheldon, Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving (pp. 116-131). Ashland, OH: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.

Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297-314.

McDonald, M. J., Wong, P. T. P., & Gingras, D. T. (2012). Meaning-in-life measures and development of a brief version of the Personal Meaning Profile. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 357-382). New York, NY: Routledge. Available online at

Schneider, K. J. (2003). The fluid center: An awe-based challenge to humanity. Journal of Humanistic Psychology43(3), 133-145. Available online at

Seligman, M.E.P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry13(4), 249-275.

VIA Character Survey (2014), Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2004). The healing power of forgiveness. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2006a). Meanings and blessings of Thanksgiving: Helpful exercises of gratitude. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2006b). The positive psychology of persistence and flexibility. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2009). Viktor Frankl: Prophet of hope for the 21st century. In A. Batthyany & J. Levinson (Eds.), Existential psychotherapy of meaning: Handbook of logotherapy and existential analysis. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2010a). The PURE strategy to create lean and excellent organizations. International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 3(2), 1-21.  Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2013). The positive psychology of meaning in life and well-being. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life research. New York, NY: Springer. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (in press-a). Meaning-seeking, self-transcendence, and well-being. Annual Review of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. Available online at

Worthington, E. L., & Scherer, M. (2004). Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that can reduce health risks and promote health resilience: Theory, review, and hypotheses. Psychology & Health19(3), 385-405.


Optional Readings:

Week 1           From PP to PP 2.0

Kashdan, T., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2014). The upside of your dark side: Why being your whole self—not just your “good” self—drives success and fulfillment. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). Applied positive psychology: Integrated positive practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Resnick, S., Warmoth, A., & Serlin, I. A. (2001). The humanistic psychology and positive psychology connection: Implications for psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology41(1), 73-101.

Robbins, B. D., & Friedman, H. (Eds.). (2008). Special Issue on Positive Psychology. Humanistic Psychologist, 36(2).

Schneider, K. (2011). Toward a humanistic positive psychology: Why can’t we just get along. Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis22(1), 32-38. Available online at

Taylor, E. (2001). Positive psychology and humanistic psychology: A reply to Seligman. Journal of Humanistic Psychology41(1), 13-29.

Wong, P. T. P., & Fry, P. S. (Eds.). (1998). The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wong, P. T. P. (2010b). What is existential positive psychology? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 3, 1-10. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Reclaiming positive psychology: A meaning-centered approach to sustainable growth and radical empiricism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 51(4), 408-412. Available online at

Wong, P. T. P. (in press-b). Existential positive psychology. In S. Lopez (Ed.), Encyclopedia of positive psychology (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.


Week 2           Happiness & Well-being

Badhwar, N. K. (2014). Well-being: Happiness in a worthwhile life. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). The myths of happiness: What should make you happy, but doesn’t, what shouldn’t make you happy, but does. New York, NY: Penguin.

Seligman, M. E., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist61(8), 774-788.

van Deurzen, E. (2013). Contintental contributions to our understanding of happiness and suffering. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers, Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 279-290). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Zevnik, L. (2014). Critical perspectives in happiness research: The birth of modern happiness. New York, NY: Springer.


Week 3           Gratitude

Schueller, S., & Parks, A. C. (2014). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of positive psychological interventions. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Young, M. E., & Hutchinson, T. S. (2012). The rediscovery of gratitude: implications for counseling practice. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 51(1), 99-113.


Week 4           Forgiveness   

Armour, M. P., & Umbreit, M. S. (2005). The paradox of forgiveness in restorative justice. In E. L. Worthington Jr (ed.), Handbook of forgiveness. New York, NY: Routledge. Available online at

Worthington Jr, E. L. (Ed.). (2005). Handbook of forgiveness. New York, NY: Routledge.


Week 5           Meaning & purpose

Batthyany, A., & Russo-Netzer, P. (Eds.). (2014). Meaning in existential and positive psychology. New York, NY: Springer.

Cooper, M. (2013). The Intrinsic Foundations of Extrinsic Motivations and Goals Toward a Unified Humanistic Theory of Well-Being and Change. Journal of Humanistic Psychology53(2), 153-171.

Metz, T. (2013). Meaning in life. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (2001). Goals, congruence, and positive well-being: New empirical support for humanistic theories. Journal of Humanistic Psychology41(1), 30-50.


Week 6           Love and relationships

Harvey, J. H., Pauwels, B. G., & Zicklund, S. (2001). Relationship connection: The role of mnding in the enhancement of closeness. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The handbook of positive psychology (pp. 423-233). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology52(3), 511-524.

Keltner, D. (2009). Born to be good: The science of a meaningful life. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.


Week 7           Character Strengths

Linley, A., Willars, J., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The strengths book: Be confident, be successful and enjoy better relationships by realising the best of you. Coventry, UK: Capp Press.

Magyar-Moe, J. L. (2009). Therapist’s guide to positive psychological interventions. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2014). Positive psychology at the movies 2: Using films to build character strengths and well-being (2nd edition). Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Week 8           Resilience & Grit

Damon, W. (2009). The path to purpose: How young people find their calling in life. New York, NY: Free Press.

Tedeschi, R. G.. & Calhoun. L. G. (1996). The postraumatic growth inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 9, 455-471.

Ungar, M. (2008). Resilience across cultures. British journal of social work,38(2), 218-235. Available online at


Week 9           Effective Coping

Arnold, D., Calhoun, L. G., Tedeschi, R., & Cann, A. (2005). Vicarious posttraumatic growth in psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 45(2), 239-263.

Park, C. L. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: an integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological bulletin136(2), 257-301. Available online at


Week 10         Optimism & Hope

Peterson, C., & Steen, T. A. (2002). Optimistic explanatory style. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The handbook of positive psychology (pp. 244-256). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1985). Optimism, coping, and health: Assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies. Health Psychology4(3), 219-247. Available online at

Seligman, M. E. (2006). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. New York, NY: Random House LLC.


Week 11         Positive Aging

Bühler, C. (1971). Basic theoretical concepts of humanistic psychology. American Psychologist26(4), 378-386.

Greenstein, M., & Holland, J. (2014). Lighter as we go: Virtues, character strengths, and aging. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Vaillant, G. E. (2002). Aging well: Surprising guideposts to a happier life from the Landmark Study of Adult Development. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company

Wong, P. T. P., & Watt, L. (1991). What types of reminiscence are associated with successful aging? Psychology and Aging, 6, 272-279. Available online at


Week 12         Self-Transcendence & Spirituality 

Kaminker, I., & Lukoff, D. (2013). Transpersonal perspectives on mental health and mental illness. In H. L. Friedman & G. Hartelius, The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of transpersonal psychology (pp. 417-432). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 302-317. Available online at

Maslow, A. H. (1996). Critique of self-actualization theory. In E. Hoffman (Ed.), Future visions: The unpublished papers of Abraham Maslow (pp. 26-32). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pargament, K. I., & Mahoney, A. (2002). Spirituality: discovering and conserving the sacred. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The handbook of positive psychology (pp. 646-659). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Week 13         Personal Narratives

Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Wong, P. T. P. (1995). The processes of adaptive reminiscence. In B. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), Reminiscence: Theory, research methods, and applications (pp. 23-35). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.


Week 14         Positive Organizations

Donaldson, S. I., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Nakamura, J. (Eds.). (2011). Applied positive psychology: improving everyday life, health, schools, work, and society. New York, NY: Routledge.

Schultz, K. (2005). When work means meaning: Existential dimensions – organizations and leadership. (G. Schaar, Trans.). Copenhagen, Denmark: Forlaget

Wong, P. T. P. (2002). Creating a positive, meaningful work place: New challenges in management and leadership. In B. Pattanayak & V. Gupta (Eds.), Creating performing organizations (pp. 74-129). New Delhi, India: Sage Publications.

Wong, P. T. P., & Gupta, V. (2004). The positive psychology of transformative organizations: A fresh perspective of evidence from the Anglo context. In V. Gupta (Ed.), Transformative Organizations (pp. 341-360). New Delhi, India: Sage Publications.


Week 15         Optimal Functioning

Hoffman, L., Yang, M., Kaklauskas,F., & Chan, A. (2009). Existential psychology east-west. Colorado Springs, CO: University of the Rockies Press.

Mahrer, A. R. (2008). The manual of optimal behaviors. Laval, QC: Howard Gontovnick Publication

Mahrer, A. R. (2009). The optimal person. Laval, QC: Howard Gontovnick Publications.

Maslow, A. H. (2012). Toward a psychology of being [Ebook]. Start Publishing LLC. (Original work published 1968)

Pattakos, A., & Dundon, E. (2015).  The OPA! way: Finding joy & meaning in everyday life & work. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, Inc.

Rogers, Carl R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


Learning Objectives: Students will be able to…

1.   Identify the main themes of positive psychology and critique its limitations

2.   Integrate applied positive psychology with a humanistic and existential perspective

3.   Apply positive interventions to enhance happiness, resilience, meaning, etc.

4.   Utilize these positive interventions in a professional setting of their choosing (clinical, coaching, education, health care, etc.)

5.   Critically review positive psychology publications


Course Activities to Meet Learning Objectives:

1.   Taking part in online discussions each week on assigned readings and prescribed questions

2.   Monthly practicing positive interventions with a classmate through mutual agreement

3.   Writing one book review (can be based on any of the required or optional books)

4.   Developing a proposal for the major project, which can be an essay, a research project, or a case study

5.   Writing a final project


Course Assignments:

1.   Course Participation (35%)

Students need to post at least one thoughtful question and answer based on required readings. They also need to answer any one of the questions posted by the instructor. Everyone will receive a minimum B participation grade for completing course participation. Grades of B+ or higher for participation will be given for students whose writing reflects a good understanding of the material.

2.   Partnered Practice (20%)

Students need to submit a 2-3 page report describing the nature of the intervention, the procedure of intervention, and evaluating the outcome. Everyone will receive a minimum B grade for completing the 4 partnered practices. B+ or higher will be given for the quality of writing and for the appropriateness of intervention in each context.

3.   Book or Movie Review (15%)

Students need to write one 2000 word (including references) book or two 1000 word movie reviews. This review will consist of three major components: (1) A summary of what the book is about, based on their own understanding, (2) A critical evaluation of both the strengths and weaknesses of the book, (3) The implications for positive intervention. Book review grades will cover the whole spectrum, from D to A+, depending on the content as well as the writing. A review will be graded as D if the student hands in something sloppy and reflects a total misunderstanding of the book being reviewed. An A grade will be given if your review is well-written, shows good understanding as well as a well-reasoned critique. You can find two sample reviews here: and

4.   Proposal for Major Project

Students need to submit a 1000 word proposal stating the purpose and rationale about the significance of this project, and the anticipated outcome. If the project involves a case study, then the proposal needs to describe the procedure for the case study. If the project is basically a major essay, then the students need to provide an abstract. If the project involves data collection, the student needs to describe the methods and materials used, and get approval from the Research Ethics Board for the use of human subjects.

5.   Final Project (30%, includes proposal)

The final project should be no longer than 3000 words. Apart from clear and concise writing, the project needs to demonstrate (a) a good understanding of applied positive psychology from a humanistic-existential perspective, (b) a good understanding of effective use of at least one positive intervention, (c) ability to integrate positive psychology and existential positive psychology on your particular topic.


  Topic Assigned Reading Date Assigned Work Due
Week 1 From PP to PP 2.0 Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Wong, 2011 Course Participation
Week 2 Happiness and well-being Ch. 6 (King & Hicks);Ch.11 (Ryff); Wong, 2013 Course Participation
Week 3 Gratitude Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Wong, 2006a Course ParticipationPartners Practice
Week 4 Forgiveness Worthington & Scherer, 2004; Wong, 2004 Course Participation 
Week 5 Meaning & Purpose Ch. 1 (Wong); Ch. 2 (Klinger); McDonald, Wong, & Gingras, 2012 Course Participation
Week 6 Love and Relationships Ch. 9 (Aron & Aron) Course ParticipationPartners Practice
Week 7 Character Strengths Ch. 13 (Peterson & Park); Asplund, et al., 2007; VIA Character Survey Course Participation
Week 8 Resilience & Grit Ch. 3 (Maddi); Ch. 27 (Wong & Wong); Duckworth et al., 2007; Wong, 2006b Course ParticipationBook Review Due
Week 9 Effective Coping Ch. 23 (Park), Ch. 24 (Wrosch et al.) Course ParticipationPartners Practice
Week 10 Optimism & Hope Wong, 2009;Snyder, 2002

Course Participation 
Week 11 Positive Aging Ch. 19 (Krause) & Ch. 20 (Reker & Wong) Course ParticipationProposal Due
Week 12 Self-Transcendence & Spirituality Wong, in press-a; Keltner & Haidt, 2003; Schneider, 2003 Course ParticipationPartners Practice
Week 13 Personal Narratives Ch. 5 (McAdams); Ch. 14 (Sommer, Baumeister, & Stillman); Ch. 15 (Beike & Crone); Ch. 18 (Reker, Birren, & Svensson) Course Participation
Week 14 Positive Organizations Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1993; Wong, 2010 Course Participation
Week 15 Optimal functioning Ch. 7 (Shmotkin & Shrira); Ch. 8 (Steger); Kasser & Ryan, 2001; Emmons, 2003 Course ParticipationFinal Report Due