Strengths-based counseling focuses on the inherent strengths and skills that people already have, and uses it as building blocks for future success and problem-solving. Instead of just focusing attention on the problem or using language that stigmatizes or makes people feel like a victim, a strengths-focused approach empowers people by drawing attention to the positives that already exist within and around them. This approach dictates that people aren’t defined by their problem, diagnosis, or illness. Instead they are defined by their capacity for growth and change.
Utilizing a strengths-based approach can be particularly useful for individuals who feel overwhelmed by the enormity of their problems. By re-framing one’s perception of the situation from focusing on everything that is wrong to one that recognizes what is right, you can begin to develop positive, realisitic, and achievable goals.
As an example, let’s say parents are concerned that their teenage daughter seems to be taking her grades less seriously and is becoming irresponsible. However, upon closer inspection you may find that she is very responsible at her part-time job, always comes home before her curfew, and isn’t influenced negatively by her peers. By focusing on her strengths and all the areas of her life where she does demonstrate responsibility, she can build upon those skills to refocus her attention on maintaining her grades.
This approach doesn’t mean that you ignore the problem or fail to discuss it directly. What can make this approach so powerful is that you discuss problems within the context of drawing upon the strengths and successes that people demonstrate in other areas of their life. When people feel empowered, they can be full participants in bringing about more positive changes.