Research studies have shown that if a therapist focuses on their client’s strengths prior to a therapy session (called “resource priming”) that a number of positive outcomes unfold. These include:

  • Improved therapy outcomes
  • Higher use of strengths in the session
  • A stronger practitioner-client relationship
  • More experiences of accomplishment (sense of mastery)

The task is fairly simple for the practitioner: Take about 5 minutes to reflect on your upcoming client’s strengths. What are their signature strengths? What strength-based discussions have you had with them already? What strengths do they overuse? What strengths are they using in their daily life? In meetings with you?

The simplicity of this exercise and the benefits that emerge are palpable. So this has got me wondering….

Perhaps this could be applied much more widely than just the therapist-client encounter? Might this be a useful approach for anyone to take before they approach their family members, friends, students, colleagues, or employees?

Envision the following:

  • Teachers reflecting on the strengths of their students and the strengths of their classroom-as-a-whole before walking in to teach a lesson. Further, they consider how they can help the students explore and use their strengths during classroom lessons and projects.
  • Managers reflecting on the strengths of their employees before entering a weekly meeting with them. Further, these employers take a moment to remember the best qualities of each employee before sending them an e-mail or phone message.
  • Parents reflecting on the strengths of their children before their next interaction with them. While driving home, working parents could spend time considering ways in which they can validate and encourage their child’s strengths later that day.
  • Couples considering the strengths of their spouse or partner before engaging in a conflict or confrontation. Couples can consider the qualities of their loved one that they most cherish and appreciate.

My final question for you is this: Why not? Why not prime yourself to see and reinforce the best qualities in those you care about most?


Fluckiger, C., & Grosse Holtforth, M. (2008). Focusing the therapist’s attention on the patient’s strengths: A preliminary study to foster a mechanism of change in outpatient psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 876-890.

Flukiger, C., Caspar, F., Grosse Holtforth, M., & Willutzki, U. (2009). Working with patients’ strengths: A microprocess approach. Psychotherapy Research, 19(2), 213-223.

Fluckiger, C., & Wusten, G., Zinbarg, R. E., & Wampold, B. E. (2010). Resource  activation: Using client’s own strengths in psychotherapy and counseling. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Learn More About Strengths:

  • Take the VIA Survey for free here.
  • Taken an in-depth course on character strengths application. The VIA Team Course starts next week!