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The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology

The 12 Steps of Positive PsychologyThe positive psychology movement is surely gaining momentum. In a recent discussion with two of my colleagues we joked that positive psychology’s really about a type of recovery from negative thinking.

This got me wondering if a 12-step process might be worth identifying. So guess what…? I think it is.

Here is what I propose for the 12 steps of positive psychology.

The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology

1.  We admitted we have more power than we realized over negative thoughts and that our lives can become more manageable if we deal with them directly.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than our current self, positivity, could be accessed and nurtured.

3. Made a decision to help God as we understand him to bring forth a feeling of well-being.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of  our virtues and strengths.

Proof Positive

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our goodness, kindness and courage.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character so that we can replace them with our signature strengths. 

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings — but not until we have learned to understand how these shortcomings might be opportunities to grow.

8. Made a list of all persons who have helped us and became willing to express our gratitude to them all.

9. Made direct effort to thank such people wherever possible, except when we are prevented from doing so.  In this case we write a letter to them as if they were going to receive it and keep it as a reminder of the gratitude we have for them.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and look for opportunities to be kind and compassionate, and when finding them promptly take advantage of them.

11. Sought through prayer, meditation and a daily gratitude list, to improve our relationship with others and our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual and psychological awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to those not yet flourishing, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Of course there is always room for more.  Let me know if there are ones you would like to see added to this list.

The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology

Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

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APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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