Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace: Book review by Professor Jerome Carson
Title: Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace
Editors: Wendy Ann Smith, Ilona Boniwell and Suzy Green
Publisher: Springer (2021)
Unusually, this book begins with ringing tributes to two academics who influenced the editors of this book. The first was Professor Ed Diener, who died in 2021, and was one of the giants of 'positive psychology' and the new science of happiness. The second was Professor Tony Grant, who died in 2020 and was the director of the world’s first coaching psychology unit at the University of Sydney.
Interestingly, Professor Diener’s son was one of the first people to co-author a book on this topic. In my opinion, that book – Positive Psychology and Coaching (Biswas-Diener), which was published in 2010 – may actually be an easier read for physiotherapists looking to integrate this approach into their practice.
What can you do with a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology? Graduates of these programmes, referred to as ‘Mappsters’, have often progressed into coaching, and for them, this book will have obvious appeal. At the University of Bolton, my colleague Dr Chathurika Kannangara has chosen a different path, combining counselling and positive psychology.
[This] is a great book, with some of the best contributors in the field. It may be the right book at the wrong time for physiotherapists. I sense we need a book on positive psychology for physiotherapists first [Jerome Carson]
What is 'positive psychology'?
Inevitably, most readers of PhysioUpdate will be asking 'how will reading this book benefit my practice?' Over 30 chapters, the editors of Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace and their contributors try to convince us of the benefits of their case. While all physios will be familiar with the concept of coaching, fewer will practise it in any formal way and even fewer, I imagine, will be aware of the growing field of positive psychology.
This new area of psychology was championed by professors Martin Seligman and Mihalyi Csiksszentmihalyi in 2000. This movement brought together a number of existing branches of psychology under one umbrella. The main goal of positive psychology is said to be to increase flourishing. Professor Seligman captures this concept under the acronym PERMA [Positive Emotions, Engagement (or flow), Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments].
There may be little of direct relevance for physiotherapists in positive psychology coaching in the workplace, unless they have an established interest in coaching. Physiotherapists might be better directed to the book titled Positive Psychology and the Body by Kate Hefferon, or to Positive Psychology, Theory, Research and Applications by Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell.
Overall, Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace is a great book, with some of the best contributors in the field. It may be the right book at the wrong time for physiotherapists. I sense we need a book on positive psychology for physiotherapists first.
Reviewer: Jerome Carson, professor of psychology, University of Bolton
Biswas-Diener, Robert (2010) Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities and Strategies for Success. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
Hefferon, Kate (2013) Positive Psychology and the Body: The Somatopsychic Side to Flourishing. Maidenhead: Open University Press
Hefferon, K & Boniwell, Ilona (2011) Positive Psychology, Theory, Research and Applications. Maidenhead: Open University Press