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Department of Psychology
University of Mississippi

PSY 430 | Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is taught by Stefan Schulenberg, professor of clinical psychology, director of the minor in disaster sciences, and director of the Clinical Disaster Research Center, whose research interests include clinical-disaster psychology, positive psychology, and logotherapy, concepts such as perceived meaning, purpose, resilience, posttraumatic stress, and posttraumatic growth. He has conducted research on the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and other disaster-related events (e.g., tornadoes, flooding). He offers workshops and provides training on disaster preparedness, psychological first aid, disaster response, meaning and purpose in life, resilience, and posttraumatic growth.

One of the most rapidly developing branches of the field, positive psychology is the scientific study of the processes, conditions, or qualities that are related to optimal human functioning, thriving or flourishing, or aspects that make for a meaningful life. Positive psychology is interested in what makes for a good life, a good person, or the best in people.

It is a place for researchers interested in rigorously studying such concepts as meaning in life, values, spirituality, mindfulness, character strengths, positive emotions, self-efficacy, empathy, optimism, gratitude, creativity, humor, goal setting and accomplishment, hope, forgiveness, flow, resilience, and post-traumatic growth. There are research and practical applications in such areas as daily life, work (at the individual level and also the organizational level), education, community, government and public policy, health and rehabilitation, aging, and clinical practice; its growth has been exponential, so much so that it is considered to be a truly multidisciplinary, international approach to science and practice.

The purpose of this course is to provide students with key information about the role of psychologists, particularly clinical psychologists, in the field of positive psychology. The course is an introduction to positive psychology research and practice, and focuses on the kinds of topics described above.

“We do a semester-long character strengths building exercise, where students learn how to better use their signature strengths (e.g., courage, perseverance, humor, kindness, gratitude, etc.). When COVID hit we changed the assignment in the spring to be character strengths versus COVID-19. Using character strengths in terms of dealing with constraints, isolation, risk reducing behavior, etc.” —Professor Stefan Schulenberg