Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
I'm pleased to be able to introduce you this week to Professor Patrick Akos.
Who is a faculty member in the school of education here at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
And he's also co-author of a book on strengths-based school counseling.
And this week you've been learning about how to put positive psychology to use to
try to help other people's lives become better and richer and more positive.
And Patrick does this all the time in the lives of young people,
So tell us a bit about strengths based school counseling.
What makes it different?
>> Sure there's there's a national model for school counselling already.
And there's a framework that's excellent that our national association,
the American School Counseling Association does.
One thing my colleague John Gollasi, and
I noticed is there wasn't a whole lot of developmental science in it.
And there's been this history in school counselling about pathology and,
deficit in focus.
And we thought that there'd be better.
And there's been some confusion about roles.
So the national model helped us figure out role.
But then it was still, what are we focused on?
And the recent research with positive psych really turned us on to these
school counselors should be developmental advocates for kids' strenghts.
So they should elicit, promote, and you know, enhance kids' strengths, and
then also those asset rich environments.
In that school context, you have classrooms and peer groups and family.
So you have all these contacts, contexts that you can get yourself involved with.
And try to use scientifically like empirically validated stuff to
boost their kind of asset rich environments.
So we just thought that was such an exciting way to go.
>> And I'll tell you later but I, when I did it as a coun,
school counselor, it really empowered kids and got them more excited about help.
So you know, this concept that I've been talking about, positivity resonance-
>> Yeah. >> Or positive emotions that
you share with others.
How does, how can that play a role within the school counseling relationship or
do, do you see that mattering?
>> Sure. Of course I mean you know,
our one to one counseling sessions that we do with kids is all about that.
So, they call it a working alliance in our field.
But if you don't have this connection with your client, or
student, then there's really no progress being made.
So, it is just fundamental to some of our individual counseling.
>> Uh-huh. >> But I think as a school counselor,
it's actually important to consider again, those systems.
And how do teachers interact with kids?
And how are kids interacting with each other?
And so, if you can stimulate some of that positive resonance there you're going to,
you're going to do really well systemically too.
>> So how did you first get interested in, and hooked on positive psychology, and
you know, kind of making it part of your life's work?
>> Yeah. I think probably
I've been a college counselor in some other places but
I think when I start working with early adolescents.
Here in the states, the sixth, seventh and
eighth grade, around that ten to 13 age range.
Those kids are tough, at times.
And when you get to talk to them a little bit,
they're a little bit hesitant to connect.
But I notice, when I ask them what their,
they usually get sent to school counselors because of a problem that occurred.
Or they're struggling with something.
But when I asked them about what they are good at
that totally changed the conversation.
They got, they embraced that kind of conversation.
They paused at first, because they hadn't thought about it,
but after they think about it some, boy it causes so much more energy.
And I think agency.
And that's what I've always been after a school counselor.
It's not what I'm going to do for you.
It's how, how can you help yourself?
And when you talk about strengths,
they have these tools to be able to help themselves.
So that got me really excited.
Later on, when I did my doctoral studies, I learned more.
And ever since, that's where I've been focused.
>> Oh neat, neat.
So what's next for you?
Where do you, how else do you think we can,
you can leverage what we know from positive psychology, the science of it?
To put it to use-
>> To make people's lives better.
>> Well, you know, we, our book I think is 2007, 2009, I forget.
But there's more science to be, to be integrated into the work we're doing.
>> So that's one, I think, or you know, our training program, preparation
programs and trying to influence other preparation programs to include-
>> Mm-hm. >> This scholarship in the work.
And then what I study most is transitions.
How people adapt and change.
So it's been mostly in the context of kids moving from elementary to middle or
middle to high school.
And how they adapt and thrive when they make that transition.
But I think that I'm going to try to work transitions broadly.
Everything we deal with is transitions.
Like a loss you know?
And, so some are predictable, some are unpredictable.
But our ability to kind of use our strengths to transition through and
adapt to that new context is something I'm pretty excited about.
So that's where I think I'm going to go with most of my work.
>> Yeah, that's neat.
Kind of bring strengths, resilience, connection, all together.
>> And the early adolescent period, where you develop all that stuff.
Racial identity development, body image.
If you can get kids straight,
focused on their strengths as they emerge with this emerging identity.
Boy they, they'll pass through early adolescents much more
positively than they do.
>> And what am important place to intervene.
Again, when all that stuff is, is kind of mixing up and churning you know,
in terms of who am I?
>> Sure, other than early early infancy.
It's the, you know, most heterogeneous kind of, intense period of development.
And they start to make autonomous choices.
So, if you're going to impact any time, that is a really critical time.
>> Yeah, super important.
Thank you, appreciate your perspective and insights on this.