What is the Strength Based Approach?

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In this blog we will discuss what Strength Based Approach is. 

We will also touch upon the key elements of this approach, principals, and applications of this approach, including the benefits and criticisms of the Strengths Based approach. 

What is the Strength Based Approach?

The strength-based approach refers to an approach to bring in change by focusing on an indidvdiuals’ strength and honing on their self determination. (Strengths-Based Models in Social Work; McCashen (2005)).

This approach has its foundation in social work where the focus was to build individuals’ resilience in the face of challenges and adverse life conditions by focusing on their strengths and personal resources.

Strength based approach can also be understood as a philosophy based on which various interventions are built that focuses on bringing change by utilising personal and individuals strengths. 

Strength, according to Saleeby, can be defined by using the acrostic “CPR.”

C: Competence, capacities, and courage

P: positive expectations like optimistic thinking

R: Resilience, reserves, and resources

This approach is thus considered a process where an indidvdiuals is supported by highlighting their competencies, capabilities, encouraging positive thinking, and building resilience by tapping into their personal resources, 

In this approach, the process is collaborative between a person and the one who is supporting them allowing them to work together to determine an outcome or a solution by capitalising on their strengths and how these strengths play a role in their personal contexts. 

Strength Based approaches are often client centred and client led, the supporter is not directive rather they collaborate with the individuals as the individual makes strides for change. 

Strength based approaches, though it has its foundation in social work, it is also used in various fields such as psychotherapy, counselling, in the workplace, and in parenting as well. 

What makes a strength based approach remarkable is because it is the individual who is the agent of change and not someone else. It hones in on the idea that people are capable of change and remarkable progress within a healthy and nurturing environment.

This approach focuses on changing emotional and cognitive processes in an individual, changing perspectives and helping them to think more positively, be aware of their strengths, and open up avenues for solution oriented thinking rather than being problem focused (Positive Psychology).

The way strength based approach works is by first bringing in insight into the individual and the amount of impact they have in their own lives and that of others by simply existing.

Then once insight and awareness has been developed, effort is made to capitalise on their strengths and positive assets as a resource to solve problems. 

This approach also examines the world around the individual and stresses on the importance of a positive and healthy environment for growth and change; identifies any constraints that holds an individual back and seeks to remove or reduce its impact on the individual by making individual changes.

What are the key elements of a strengths-based approach?

Rapp, Saleebey and Sullivan (2008) have identified six key elements that characterise a strength based approach. 

These include:

  • Goal orientation is a crucial element in this approach where the individual and the supporter, therapist, mentor and counsellor work together to identify goals of change. 

Setting goals is an important aspect of making change and these  goals are often small, manageable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. 

  • Strengths assessment is another important aspect of this approach where time is taken to explore personal strength and internal resources that can help them achieve or attain their goals. 
  • Resources from the environment is another element that is identified in strengths based approach where awareness is created for an individual to identify what supports them- this can be other people in their lives, or resources and institutions that they have access to.
  • Context is important in strength based approaches where approaches to problem solving differ according to context and it holds on to this idea that for each individual and each challenge, approach in problem solving differs. 
  • The relationship between the individual, the counsellor or therapist, and other people is hope inducing and seeks to culture an attitude of optimism and resilience. 
  • Finally, a crucial aspect of this approach is the idea that the individual is an expert of their own lives and their own resources. So whatever decision they make is based on what they know and the counsellor works with them to build on their expertise so that the individual can make an informed choice. 

What are the principles of Strength-Based Approach?

According to  Erika Stoerkel for positive psychology, here are the main principles of strengths based approach:

  • Everyone possesses a uniqueness in terms of potential, straight, and capabilities that helps them progress. 
  • What we focus and pay attention to is what we strive towards and ultimately becomes a reality. 
  • Language creates reality so we must be mindful of our words. 
  • Accept change
  • Support others authentically to build deeper and more meaningful relationships.
  • The person or client is the story-teller or expert of their own lives and story.
  • Build upon what you know
  • Capacity building has multiple facets so it is important to be flexible. 
  • Collaboration is key.

What are the applications of the Strength Based approach?

When applied, strengths based approach is used in counselling and psychotherapy as a way to incorporate positive psychotherapy. (Erika Stoerkel, positive psychology)

In counselling and therapy, the therapist focuses on internal strengths and resources to help aid in positive capacity building to solve problems, to develop resilience and hope.

Some strength based therapy include:

  • Positive Psychotherapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Solution focused therapy
  • Person centred Therapy. 

Strength-based approach in talk therapy is involved in two processes of therapy, namely:

Conceptualization

Conceptualization process where the therapist works to discover, highlight, and develop insight into the client’s strengths and foster a positive therapeutic relationship.

It is also in this process that an understanding is made of the client;s perceptions of their own weaknesses and strengths, and meaning is made with respect to the clients personal and individual context. 

Therapeutic Process

Here, these strengths that are pointed out to the client to build insight and awareness are reframed positively, and the application of which are explored to help them take change of their own lives, become aware of their choices, and form as well as apply solutions.  

What are the criticisms of Strength Based Approach?

Despite this approach having many positive impacts on an individual’s growth and journey, there are some experts who have pointed out various criticisms. 

Researchers believe that there must be mindfulness and positive intent when individuals are developing their own strengths since there is a danger of the client being set up for disappointment. 

Experts also believe that neglecting or ignoring negative aspects and limitations might be more hard than good, so if this approach is to be used there must also be mindful awareness of one’s individual limitations. (Jones, 2017).

Because this approach is relatively new, the lack of research is a major criticism with experts stressing on the reality that the process of this approach is not well known. 

There is also a criticism that because of its non-directive nature, there might be risks when the clients experist of their own lives are not well informed; so it becomes the duty of the therapist to inform the clients which could lead to influencing the client based on therapist biases. 

Another criticism from researchers is that this approach is not novel, nor is it offering anything new that has been present in psychotherapy and the lack of research in the efficacy of this therapeutic intervention is another limiting aspect of this approach according to experts. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what Strength Based Approach is. 

We have also touched upon the key elements of this approach, principals, and applications of this approach, including the benefits and criticisms of the Strengths Based approach. 

FAQ related to Strength Based Approach

What are the six key principles of strengths-based practice?

According to  Erika Stoerkel for positive psychology, here are the main principles of strengths based approach:

  • Everyone possesses a uniqueness in terms of potential, straight, and capabilities that helps them progress. 
  • What we focus and pay attention to is what we strive towards and ultimately becomes a reality. 
  • Language creates reality so we must be mindful of our words. 
  • Accept change
  • Support others authentically to build deeper and more meaningful relationships.
  • The person or client is the story-teller or expert of their own lives and story.
  • Build upon what you know
  • Capacity building has multiple facets so it is important to be flexible. 
  • Collaboration is key.

How do you use strengths-based approaches?

The strength-based approach refers to an approach to bring in change by focusing on an indidvdiuals’ strength and honing on their self determination. (Strengths-Based Models in Social Work; McCashen (2005)).

Strength based approaches, though it has its foundation in social work, it is also used in various fields such as psychotherapy, counselling, in the workplace, and in parenting as well. 

What is the basic premise of the strength-based approach?

Strength based approach can also be understood as a philosophy based on which various interventions are built that focuses on bringing change by utilising personal and individuals strengths. 

The focus of the practice is on a person’s strengths and internal and external resources and its premise is to “…identify what is going well, how to do more of it, and build on it.”

What is a strength-based approach in counselling?

In counselling and therapy, the therapist focuses on internal strengths and resources to help aid in positive capacity building to solve problems, to develop resilience and hope.

Some strength based therapy include:

  • Positive Psychotherapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Solution focused therapy
  • Person centred Therapy. 

What is strength based learning?

Strengths-based learning is a learner-centred approach where the students are encouraged to identify, articulate and apply individual skills in the process of learning. For example, a student who has high musical intelligence can be encouraged to learn history using musical storytelling. 

References

What is Strength-Based Approach | Theory, Practice & Therapy. High5Test. Retrieved on 8th March 2022. https://high5test.com/strengths-based-approach/#fundamentals-and-definitions.

 Stoerkel. E. What is a Strength-Based Approach? (Incl. Activities and Examples). Positive Psychology. Retrieved on 8th March 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/strengths-based-interventions/

Strength-Based Approach. NICIC. Retrieved on 8th March 2022. https://info.nicic.gov/sites/default/files/Strength-Based%20Approach.pdf

American Academy of Paediatrics. (n.d.) Strength based approach. Retrieved from: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/communicating-with-families/pages/Strength-Based-Approach.aspx

Jones, J. (2017). The two problems with the strengths-based approach. Dr. Jason Jones. Retrieved from http://drjasonjones.com/characterstrengthsapproach/

Saleebey, D. (2006). The Strengths Perspective in social work practice (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Ally & Bacon.

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