Psychosocial Adaptation to Disability Within the Context of Positive Psychology: Philosophical Aspects and Historical Roots

J Occup Rehabil. 2016 Mar;26(1):13-9. doi: 10.1007/s10926-015-9601-6.


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to review the conceptual and clinical similarities that exist between the principles of positive psychology and those underlying rehabilitation counseling and psychology, occupational rehabilitation, and those espoused by the field of psychosocial adaptation to chronic illness and disability (CID).

Methods: Three themes were selected for review. These included the historical contributions of early scholars in the area of psychosocial adaptation to CID that later were indirectly infused into mainstream positive psychology; state and trait constructs that constitute much of the infrastructure of positive psychology and psychosocial adaptation to CID; and, finally, the philosophical congruencies between positive psychology and psychosocial adaptation to CID.

Conclusion: The existing literature indicates that there is a substantial philosophical and conceptual overlap between the fields of positive psychology and psychosocial adaptation to CID. Since theoreticians and researchers, from both fields, often use differing terminology and definitions to describe similar concepts, as well as seek similar research goals, it would behoove both fields to seek a closer partnership in order to establish a meaningful dialogue that focuses on human strengths and virtues in the lives of people with CID.

Keywords: Disability; Positive psychology; Psychosocial adaptation to chronic illness.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Counseling
  • Disabled Persons / history
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Psychological Techniques* / history
  • Rehabilitation / history
  • Rehabilitation Research*
  • Treatment Outcome