Reflecting on Criticisms of Positive Psychology A Rebalancing Act

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Douglas Rhein
Ian McDonald


The field of positive psychology has grown and spread quickly. Unsurprisingly, such rapid growth has led to some confusion about what, exactly, positive psychology is. Positive psychology has also attracted a number of critics who have questioned its necessity, validity, and relevance to non-Western cultures. This article presents these criticisms and responds to each of them. Instead of being seen as a separate field, the authors argue that positive psychology is best viewed as a rebalancing of psychology’s focus as a whole. The article examines the immediate and powerful impact that ideas and practices from positive psychology have had on individuals, schools, organizations, and nations. The authors suggest that such quick and ready acceptance of positive psychology’s core ideas and practices reflects the presence of a pre-existing imbalance within the field of psychology and calls for a more correct understanding of what is meant by a positive psychology. The article concludes by arguing that the study of flourishing should not be viewed as a new field of psychology. Instead, it should be seen as a complement to existing psychological theory and practice, with the result being a more holistic understanding of what it means to be human.


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