Psychotherapeutic method

Positive Psychotherapy (PPT, after Peseschkian since 1977) is a psychotherapeutic method developed by Nossrat Peseschkian and co-workers in Germany since 1968. It can be described as a humanistic Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, which is based on a positive conception of human nature. PPT is an integrative method which includes humanistic, systemic, psychodynamic and CBT-elements. Today there are centers and trainings in some twenty countries world-wide. It should not be mixed up with Positive Psychology.

The term “positive”

Until 1977 the method was called Differentiational Analysis. Then in 1977, Nossrat Peseschkian published his work “Positive Psychotherapie”, which was published in English as “Positive Psychotherapy” in 1987. The term “positive” is derived from the original Latin expression “positum or positivus” which means the actual, the real, the concrete. The aim of Positive Psychotherapy and Positive Psychotherapists is to help the patient and client to see also their abilities, strengths, resources and potentials.

Main Characteristics/Summary

  • Integrative psychotherapy method
  • Humanistic Psychodynamic Method
  • Cohesive, integrated therapeutic system
  • Conflict-centered short-term method
  • Cultural-sensitive method
  • Use of stories, anecdotes and wisdoms
  • Innovative interventions and techniques
  • Application in psychotherapy, other medical disciplines, counselling, education, prevention, management and trainings

Main principles

The three main principles or pillars of Positive Psychotherapy are:

  • The Principle of Hope
  • The Principle of Balance
  • The Principle of Consultation

1. The Principle of Hope implies that the therapist wants to assist their patients to understand and see the meaning und purpose of their disorder or conflict. Accordingly, the disorder will be reinterpreted in a “positive” way (positive interpretations):

Some examples:

– Sleep disturbance is the ability to be watchful and get by with little sleep
– Depression is the ability to react with deepest emotionality to conflicts
– Schizophrenia is the ability to live in two worlds at the same time or living in a fantasy world
– Anorexia nervosa is the ability to get along with few meals and identify with the hunger of the world

Through this positive view a change of standpoint becomes possible, not only for the patient, but also for his environment. Hence, illnesses have a symbolic function which has to be recognized by both therapist and patient. The patient learns that the symptoms and complaints of the illness are signals to bring his or her four qualities of life into new balance.

2. Principle of Balance: Despite social and cultural differences and the uniqueness of every human being, it can be observed that during the management of their problems that all humans refer to typical forms of coping. Thomas Kornbichler explains: “Nossrat Peseschkian formulated with the Balance Model of Positive Psychotherapy (an innovative contemporary approach to dynamic psychotherapy) a vivid model of coping with conflicts in different cultures.”


According to the balance model, the four areas of life are:

1. body/health – psychosomatic

2. achievement/work – stress factors

3. contact/relationships – depression

4. future/purpose/meaning of life – fears and phobia

Though these four ranges are inherent in all humans, in the western hemisphere the emphasis is more often on the areas of body/senses and profession/achievement in contrast to the eastern hemisphere where the areas are contact, fantasy and future (cross-cultural aspect of positive psychotherapy). Lack of contact and imagination are some of the causes of many psychosomatic diseases. Everybody develops his or her own preferences on how to cope with conflicts that occur. Through a one-sided mode to the conflict solution, the other modes are getting eclipsed. The conflict contents (e.g. punctuality, orderliness, politeness, trust, time, patience) are described in terms of primary and secondary capacities, based on the basic capacities of loving and knowing. This can be seen as a content-wise differentiation of Freud's classical model of the instances.

3. Principle of Consultation: Five-stages of therapy and self-help. The five stages of positive psychotherapy represent a concept in which therapy and self-help are closely interrelated. The patient and the family are getting informed together about the illness and the individual solution to it.

  • 1st step: Observation; distancing (perception: the capacity to express desire and problems)
  • 2nd step: Taking inventory (cognitive capacities: events in the last 5 to 10 years)
  • 3rd step: Situational encouragement (self-help and resource-activation of the patient: the ability to use past successes in conflict solution)
  • 4th step: Verbalization (communicative capacities: the ability to express outstanding conflicts and problems in the four qualities of life)
  • 5th step: Expansion of goals (in order to evoke forward–looking orientation in life after the problems are solved, the patient is asked: “What would you like to do, when no more problems are left to be solved? Which goals do you have for the next five years?”)