Monthly Article Archives: October 2016

Being Optimistic while Considering the Possibility of Failure: Are They Mutually Exclusive Beliefs?Robert Brooks, Ph.D.

During the first several years of my career I became increasingly disillusioned by what I considered to be an almost exclusive focus on listing symptoms and providing psychiatric diagnoses as the ways in which to describe my patients.  A so-called “deficit model” dominated the mental health landscape with far-too-little energy directed towards identifying the positive attributes and strengths of an individual.  It wasn’t that I believed that clinicians should ignore or minimize the problems faced by their child or adult patients.  Rather, I saw the need to pay equal attention to identifying and reinforcing each patient’s strengths or “islands of competence.” In the late 1970s I incorporated the concept of “self-esteem” as a key principle in the strength-based approach I was developing.  Many of my writings and lectures, especially those that pertained to working with or raising children, highlighted this concept.  For example, one of my most requested presentations was titled “Reinforcing Self-Esteem in Children: The Search for Islands of Competence.”  One of my first books, which examined the school environment, was The Self-Esteem Teacher.  I advanced the belief that the self-esteem of children was rooted in great part in the quality of their relationships with significant adults in their

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