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Third World Congress on Positive Psychology

By Dr. Roberta Mancuso

At the end of June, I had the privilege of visiting Los Angeles to attend the Third World Congress on Positive Psychology – a scholarly conference organized to disseminate cutting-edge findings in the field of positive psychology. For those of you who are unfamiliar, positive psychology is a relatively new subfield of psychology that focuses on how to improve the quality of our lives. Read More.

Although it overlaps with counseling and clinical psychology in its emphasis on self-improvement, rather than focusing on therapy, positive psychology utilizes empirical research to uncover the most effective strategies for increasing happiness, resilience, and personal growth.

I am currently a professor in the Criminology master’s program in CPS. My contribution to the program is to familiarize students with psychological processes that contribute to deviant behavior and psychological factors that can affect rates of crime and violence in society. However, resonant with the Regis value of cura personalis – the promotion of human dignity and care for the whole person - I am also interested in developing ways to facilitate the re-entry of incarcerated individuals into society.

For me, one of the highlights of the conference was a workshop presented by Dr. Mark Hurst, a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington. Dr. Hurst has implemented an 8 session intervention as part of the Positive Reentry Program (PRP) for prison inmates. While incarcerated, individuals complete exercises that focus on their strengths and hopes for the future, enhance resilience and effective self-regulation, and encourage gratitude and optimism. Although Dr. Hurst’s research is still in the beginning stages, preliminary findings indicate that participation in his intervention is related to significant increases in self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Over time, Dr. Hurst and his colleagues will be testing the degree to which participation in such a strengths-based intervention is linked to family wellbeing and reduced recidivism. Similar studies, conducted within the past few years, have suggested that strengths-based interventions, rather than those that focus on fixing deficits, may be the key to supporting former offenders as they strive to embrace positive roles in their communities.

How fortunate I was to witness such an inspiring example of the confluence of psychology and Jesuit values, one that I hope to further cultivate here at Regis.