Positive Psychology Interventions in Addiction Treatment

How Mindset Affects Recovery

Learn how the power of your brain and your thinking can improve recovery from addiction

Positive Psychology Interventions and Addiction Treatment
Positive Psychology Interventions and Addiction Treatment

Positive Psychology Interventions in Addiction Treatment

How Mindset Affects Recovery

Learn how the power of your brain and your thinking can improve recovery from addiction

The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a comprehensive resource. At Ampelis Recovery, our programs are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific details below that cover treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols used for our clients.

If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Recovery and our customized programs for professional men, please do not hesitate to reach out.


What is Positive Psychology?

At its core, positive psychology – also known as learned optimism – applies the scientific method to figure out which actions lead to a happy life and how to replicate those actions.1

Positive psychology’s three domains are:

Pleasant Life

By giving more emotional and mental energy to positive emotions, feelings, memories, and experiences, a person lives a happier life. Positive psychology fosters a state of continuous satisfaction and happiness.

Engaged Life

Positive psychology encourages the pursuit of one’s character strength and interest. It is more than just being active, but rather being conscious of oneself and the world.

Meaningful Life

A meaningful life has no strict definition. There is an inherent amount of self-reflection required before a client realizes what a meaningful life means for them. This can be marriages, business, or hobbies.2

Learn More About Healing the Brain

History and Growth of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is the culmination of decades of separate studies, varied psychologists, and medically relevant literature. Martin E.P. Seligman introduced the concept of positive psychology in 1998, and it has its strongest roots in humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology focuses on the quality of human life and the pursuit of happiness. From these roots, psychologists brought positive psychology into a broader view. Now positive psychology is widely practiced.3

Positive Interventions

A positive psychology intervention defines itself by focusing on positive experiences, activities, and memories. The goal of positive psychology interventions is to increase positive emotions like happiness or satisfaction.4 This can be as simple as writing down what makes you happy, spending time with friends, or partaking in leisure activity.

Practical Applications of Positive Psychology in Addiction Treatment


Meditation soothes the mind and helps clients better process trauma, emotions, and self-reflection.4 In terms of positive psychology, meditation increases mental performance, positive emotions, and social resources. Mediation also reduces stress, improves perceptions, and strengthens coping mechanisms. Overall, meditation helps the client lead a more meaningful life.4

Building Connections

Building connections is essential to recovery and positive psychology. Building connections entails learning to create meaningful interpersonal relationships and to repair unhealthy ones. Substance abuse robs a client of their social life, so restoring that balance is crucial to having emotional and mental stability.4

Gratitude Exercises

Gratitude exercises often mean doing small things that make clients feel grateful for their strengths and the world around them. A popular method for gratitude exercises is a gratitude journal. This means taking note of all the things a client is thankful for or otherwise appreciates. Gratitude journals encourage a long-lasting mental shift towards a positive perspective.

Engaging Activities

In terms of positive psychology, engaging activities help the brain not only focus on the present but also find more happiness in everyday life. These activities include going to the gym, going hiking, or even something less physical like cooking. Studies show that engaging in activities reduce symptoms of depression and contribute to a longer, healthier life.5

The Addiction Recovery Movement

Fighting Stigma

The biggest wall between many substance users and recovery is the stigma associated with drug use. Historically, society has cast a downward eye on substance use, alcohol abuse, and mental illness. Many clients risk their families and livelihood when they seek addiction treatment. Even after the first stages of recovery are complete, it can be challenging to find work or start new relationships due to public perceptions.

Promoting Treatment-Friendly Legislation

The change starts at the top. By working towards treatment-friendly laws, people can seek help for their addiction without risk of losing their jobs or ruining their careers. Laws could also provide treatment to overcome addiction as opposed to strictly punishing it. The recent decriminalization of certain drugs is a step towards treatment-friendly legislation.

Changing Public Opinion

Individuals that contribute to the addiction recovery movement work daily to change public opinions. Negative public opinion does more than prevent a client from getting help when they need it – it also contributes to risks of relapse or worsening depression.6

The Virtuous Drinker – How Character Traits Affect Substance Use

Character traits impact not only the amount drank per setting but also the frequency of alcohol consumption. For example, prudent people had less of an issue with moderation or abstinence than their less prudent counterparts. While everyone is at risk for addiction given the right environment, certain people are more prone to it.7

Applying Positive Psychology’s Three Domains to Recovery

Substance Use and Shortcuts to Somatic and Complex Pleasure

Positive psychology is often confused with hedonism. On paper, they sound similar as both encourage the pursuit of a happy life. Unlike hedonism, though, positive psychology posits that a happy life is more than pleasure – it is a balance of emotions. Substance use provides the brain with a rush of happiness and euphoria, but the feeling is not earned.

Drug use also produces fleeting effects. True, long-term happiness is obtained through the achievement of one’s dreams or goals. Striving towards this goal achievement also contributes to bettering self-esteem and positive skills.5

Reacquisition of Character Strengths in Recovery

Substance use diminishes a client’s personality and increases negative emotions. Positive psychology works to reverse these changes. By focusing on positive values and character strengths, a client can rediscover their passions or find new ones. This leads to a happier, healthier life overall. Positive psychology interventions may focus on this aspect of recovery.

Positive Organizations Help Build a Meaningful Life

Positive organizations are any group that provides a nurturing environment. This includes a healthy job, relationship, social club, etc. Positive organizations or environments increase satisfaction and happiness in their members.3

Spirituality’s Effect on Recovery

Spirituality has a profound effect on addiction and positive psychology. Spirituality encourages clients to ask for help and recognize that they can’t overcome addiction alone. Spirituality also increases commitment to recovery.7 Learned optimism, another name for positive psychology, goes hand in hand with spirituality.

Altruism’s Effect on Recovery

Altruism, defined as a selfless act, helps soothe the brain, reduce depression, and increase world image. Altruism in recovery, especially helping others with a positive psychology intervention, boosts self-esteem and commitment to the program.8

Focusing on Quality of Life in Recovery

Addiction lessens the quality of life on several levels. Focusing on a higher quality of life in recovery improves long-term sobriety, provides hope during recovery, and builds healthy coping mechanisms.

Recovery Capital

Recovery capital is a term comprised of various recovery factors. This includes meaningful life goals, resources, and other factors as they apply to a pleasant life. Essentially, the goal is to reobtain all the things that substance abuse ruined over time.

Positive Emotions That Support Recovery

A client’s mental state decides their chance of successful recovery.9 Four of the most important emotions for recovery are as follows:


Optimism improves outlook and gives hope for the future. Hope increases productivity, mood, and commitment. Learned optimism, such as the kind taught in meditation and recovery, can make an easier journey to recovery.9


Gratitude reduces negative thoughts, contributes to long-term positive mood changes, and helps build coping mechanisms.


Purpose lowers the risk of relapse, increases productivity, and betters a client’s worldview.10


Happiness occurs not just through spontaneous experience but also through remembering positive thoughts and focusing on positive emotions. Happiness causes long-lasting positive physical and mental changes.

Substance Use Decreases Positive Aspects

Former Smokers are Happier

A majority of former smokers report being happier after they quit cigarettes. Ex-smokers report a significant reduction in negative thoughts. Another factor is former smokers do not go through daily nicotine withdrawal. Lastly, ex-smokers have lower levels of anxiety and improved cardiovascular performance.11

Drinking to Cope Reduces Positive Aspects

Drinking is a short-term fix for negative emotions. Because alcohol is a depressant, it reduces the chance for positive emotions over time. Overcoming self-medication, such as alcohol abuse, is one of the first steps to recovery.

Positive Psychology at Ampelis Recovery

Our positive psychology approach focuses on 10 Principles of Recovery:12

  • Accountability
  • Purpose
  • Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Spirituality
  • Self-Worth
  • Courage
  • Forgiveness
  • Service
  • Integrity

At Ampelis Recovery, we do not label our clients as “addicts.”  We focus on the strengths of an individual and who they want to become.