What Is Strength-Based Therapy? Why Is It Important?

Strength-based therapy is a form of counseling that offers a unique approach to mental health treatment. Learn the definition, techniques at HealthyPlace.

Strength-based therapy is a method of counseling that focuses on the positive attributes of a person, situation or group, rather than dwelling on the negative. This approach is applied in various ways, and in a number of therapeutic settings. As well as being an essential part of modern counseling, strength-based therapy is also used in leadership training, social work, pediatric care, and community work. A strength-based approach to mental health also invites people to see past their diagnoses and not to view their mental illness or disorder as ‘who they are.' Instead, the focus is on personal abilities, character attributes, and – of course – individual strengths.

How Does Strength-Based Therapy Work?

Strength-based therapy endorses the belief that people discover hidden strengths through adversity and hardship. The approach draws on a variety of techniques to help people overcome their emotional and mental challenges. Rather than focusing on ‘problems’ however, this form of therapy emphasizes a person's ability to heal using resources they already have within.

If you were to attend strength-based therapy, your therapist would help you explore, develop and utilize your problem-solving abilities. This doesn't mean he or she would ignore problems or their root causes, but the focus would be on helping you heal rather than analyzing the problem or where it stems from.

Using strength-based techniques, your therapist will identify positive traits you already have and help you apply them to difficult situations in the future.

What Is Strength-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

A strength-based approach to cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help people build and strengthen their resilience. It is useful for situations in which adjustments are required to traditional CBT approaches, such as when clients are particularly vulnerable. Strength-based CBT offers a structured exploration of a person's strengths, focusing on the development of positive qualities and shifts in perspective.

In 2012, doctors Padesky and Mooney developed a four-step strength-based cognitive behavioral therapy approach designed to help clients build “a personal mode of resilience” (PMR).

In strength-based cognitive behavioral therapy, your therapist will:

  1. Identify strengths, even those you don't know or believe are there
  2. Help you build a ‘personal model of resilience.'
  3. Incorporate strengths-based methods into classic CBT techniques
  4. Use the approaches you have learned to address chronic or ongoing issues

In the words of Padesky and Mooney:

‘In the face of adversity, even the strongest among us sometimes find it hard to stay resilient. Some people have never felt resilient.'

If you have suffered trauma or abuse, strength-based therapy can help guide you toward a retelling of your story with an emphasis on yourself as the survivor rather than the victim. This approach is beneficial to many who are dealing with severe trauma or emotional difficulties (either as a standalone therapy or when it is integrated into other approaches) as it doesn't necessarily require you to revisit the traumatic event. It will help you focus on your strengths and survival skills and will help you apply them to other difficult situations in your life.

Strength-Based Therapy Goals and Techniques

The goal of all strength-based therapies is to help the client find strength and resilience by drawing on the qualities they already possess. This is achieved using a variety of strength-based therapy techniques, such as:

Strength-based therapy can be incorporated into a variety of different counseling styles and approaches. It can help you emphasize positive thinking patterns and helps you see yourself for who you are, rather than feeling like you are defined by your diagnosis.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, September 26). What Is Strength-Based Therapy? Why Is It Important?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Last Updated: October 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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