Effects of Positive Psychology Interventions in Depressive Patients—A Randomized Control Study


Effects of Positive Psychology (PP) have been shown in several studies to alleviate depressive symptoms in patients suffering from major depression or dysthymia when administered within psychotherapy. The present study served to test for the effects of two interventions from PP (best possible self, three good things) when practised by depressive patients for three weeks without any other concomitant psychotherapy. Seventeen depressive patients were randomly assigned to either the PP group or the control group. Patients in the PP group wrote down the best possible self for one week and then three good things for another two weeks. Patients in the control group wrote down images of the future of mankind for one week and early memories for two weeks. Prior to the intervention and again after it had finished, depressive symptoms, satisfaction with life, positive and negative affect, optimism, and resilience were assessed. While in both groups of patients well-being and resilience increased and depressive symptoms declined, the decline of depressive symptoms and the increase of positive affect and resilience were more pronounced in the PP group. The results support the notion that even a short intervention using PP alone alleviates depressive symptoms and increases well-being. Although the effects were of marginal significance, this may be attributed to the relatively small sample size. Likewise, the use of an Intent-to-Treat analysis may have affected the PP group more than the control group, indicating an underestimation of the potency of PP in the present study.

Share and Cite:

Pietrowsky, R. & Mikutta, J. (2012). Effects of Positive Psychology Interventions in Depressive Patients—A Randomized Control Study. Psychology, 3, 1067-1073. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.312158.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Andrews, F. M., & Whitey, S. B. (1984). Social indicators of well being: America’s perception of life quality. New York: Plenum Press.
[2] Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Beck depression inventory (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
[3] Bryant, F. B. (1989). A four-factor model of perceived control: Avoiding, coping, obtaining, and savouring. Journal of Personality, 57, 773-797. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1989.tb00494.x
[4] Buchanan, G., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1995). Explanatory style. Hills dale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
[5] Chan, D. W. (2010). Gratitude, gratitude intervention and subjective well-being among Chinese school teachers in Hong Kong. Educational Psychology, 30, 139-153. doi:10.1080/01443410903493934
[6] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.
[7] Diener, E., & Emmons, R. A. (1984). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1105-1117. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.47.5.1105
[8] Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Assessment, 49, 71-75.
[9] Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276-302. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276
[10] Duckworth, L. A., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 629-651. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144154
[11] Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377
[12] Glaesmer, J., Hoyer, J., Klotsche, J., & Herzberg, P. Y. (2008). Die deutsche version des Life-Orientation-Tests (LOT-R) zum dispo sitionellen Optimismus und Pessimismus. Zeitschrift für Gesund heitspsychologie, 16, 26-31. doi:10.1026/0943-8149.16.1.26
[13] Green, D. P., Goldman, S. L., & Salovey, P. (1993). Measurement error masks bipolarity in affect ratings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 1029-1041. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.64.6.1029
[14] Hautzinger, M., Keller, F., & Kühner, C. (2006). BDI-II. Beck depressions inventar revision—Manual. Frankfurt, Germany: Harcourt Test Services.
[15] King, L. A. (2001). The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 798-807. doi:10.1177/0146167201277003
[16] Krohne, H. W., Egloff, B., Kohlmann, C. W., & Tausch, A. (1996). Untersuchungen mit einer deutschen Version der Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). Diagnostica, 42, 139-156.
[17] Lucas, R. E., Diener, E., & Suh, E. M. (1996). Disciminant validity of well-being measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 616-628. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.3.616
[18] Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K., & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: Two experimental longitudinal interventions to boost well-being. Emotion, 11, 391-402. doi:10.1037/a0022575
[19] Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. A., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803
[20] McCullough, M. E. (2002). Savoring life, past and present: Explaining what hope and gratitude share in common. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 202-204.
[21] McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.112
[22] Peterson, M. L., Flink, I. K., Boersma, K., & Linton, S. J. (2010). Manipulating optimism: Can imagining a best possible self be used to increase positive future expectancies? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 204-211. doi:10.1080/17439761003790963
[23] Russel, J. A., & Carrol, J. M. (1999). On the bipolarity of positive and negative affect. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 3-30. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.1.3
[24] Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1985). Optimism, coping, and health: Assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies. Health Psychology, 4, 219-247. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.4.3.219
[25] Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1992). Effects of optimism on psycho logical and physical well-being: Theoretical overview and empirical update. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 16, 201-228. doi:10.1007/BF01173489
[26] Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A re-evaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1063-1078. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.67.6.1063
[27] Schueller, S. M., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2008). Optimism and pessimism. In K. S., Dobson, & D. J. A., Dozois (Eds.), Risk factors in depression (pp. 171-194). Oxford: Elsevier/Academic Press. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-045078-0.00008-3
[28] Schumacher, J., Klaiberg, A., & Br?hler, E. (2003). Diagnostische Verfahren zur Lebensqualit?t und Wohlbefinden. G?ttingen: Hogrefe.
[29] Schumacher, J., Leppert, K., Gunzelmann, T., Strau?, B., & Br?hler, E. (2005). Die Resilienzskala—Ein Fragebogen zur Erfassung der psy chischen Widerstandsf?higkeit als Personenmerkmal. Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie, Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, 53, 16-39.
[30] Seligman, M. E. P., & Csiksentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5
[31] Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psy chotherapy. American Psychologist, 61, 774-788. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.8.774
[32] Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology in progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410
[33] Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: Change your actions, nor your circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 55-86. doi:10.1007/s10902-005-0868-8
[34] Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 467-487. doi:10.1002/jclp.20593
[35] Wagnild, G. M., & Young, H. M. (1993). Development and psycho metric evaluation of the resilience scale. Journal of Nursing Management, 1, 165-178.
[36] Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1997). Measurement and mismeasurement of mood: Recurrent and emergent issues. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063
[37] Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.