Tag Archives: positive psychology

Positive Emotions and Hope Management as Therapy

Positive Emotions and Emotional Intelligence

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has dominated the therapeutic landscape for many years. Cognitive-behavioral therapists rely on cognitive and behavioral strategies to help their clients. They help people solve their problems because destructive thoughts precede and fuel negative emotions and behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapists help people “fix” their problems by managing negative thoughts. Stress management, anger management, trauma management, and many other types of negative emotion management have been very popular.

The therapeutic landscape is changing. After many decades of therapists using cognitive-behavioral therapy tools and techniques, increasing numbers of therapists are turning to the world of emotions as the starting place for helping their clients. For example, Hope Management Theory (HMT) purports that emotions drive peoples’ thoughts, attitudes, and behavioral patterns. Unlike CBT, HMT does not focus on “fixing” negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Instead, HMT promotes positive emotions to reduce negative emotions and feelings.

Hope Management Theory stresses promoting positive emotions instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a person’s life. The fact is that positive emotions have not been researched as much as negative emotions or have not been researched at all. The one psychologist who researched positive emotions was Barbara Frederickson. Her research (2009) suggests that positive emotions lead to expansive and creative thoughts and behaviors. Similarly, my research (Liptak, 2024; Liptak & Scallon, 2023; Liptak & Scallon, In Press) with people in China and Romania suggests that positive feelings of joy, peace, and contentment are generated by triggering the emotion of hope.

Hope Management Theory

The Hope Management Theory helps people manage their positive emotions and utilize them to promote self-motivation. HMT posits that…

  1. The positive feelings of joy, peace, and elevated mood are generated from triggering the emotion of hope.
  2. Healthy hope habits can reduce stress, anxiety, trauma, anger, and depression by providing a protective shield of resilience. Scallon & Liptak (2023) isolated five critical hope Habits that can build resilience:
    • Master the art of motivation: Focus on intrinsic motivation, components of motivation, internal vs. external motivation; overcoming fear of failing; get support for your goals.
    • Set hope goals: Big and small; law of attraction; action planning; “get started” manga; brainstorming goal setting process.
    • Create resilient relationships: Types of resilient relationships; haiku your relationships; use your relationships to pivot; gratitude to strengthen relationships; practice empathy.
    • Take control of your life: Be proactive; widen your thinking; use the power of visualization; alphabetize your options; give your brain oxygen.
    • Harness your strengths: Stay resilient with radical acceptance; my strengths box; in asking for help, we become strong; forward-thinking; the power of persistence.
  3. Because of its future orientation, people experiencing hope feel the motivating feelings of love, joy, pride, excitement, happiness, and inspiration. These feelings counteract the effects of negative emotions and their accompanying feelings.
  4. My research also shows that the positive stress associated with hope greatly enhances significant amounts of positive stress that can reduce the effects of negative stress.        

In conclusion, therapists have suffered from negativity bias in their work with clients. Negativity bias is the tendency to pay more attention and give more significant weight to negative rather than positive emotions. Much of the current literature on emotional intelligence deals with managing negative emotions. This article aimed to help therapists acknowledge the significant impact of positive emotions on people and provide a framework through which they can use positive emotions to counteract the effects of negative emotions.

By John J. Liptak, Ed.D.


Frederickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the 3-to-1 ratio that will change your life. New York, NY: Harmony.

Liptak, J.J. (2024). Transitioning to work. Dubuque, IA: Paradigm Education Solutions.

Liptak, J.J., & Scallon, M. (2023). Trauma and stress: A reproducible activity workbook for promoting resilience. Northampton, UK: Loggerhead Publishing Ltd.

Liptak, J., & Scallon, M. (In Press). Regaining control of your life: Empowering young people and teens after the pandemic and other life-changing situations.

What is Hope, and How Is it Related to Well-Being?

When you think of people who have lost hope, you probably think about clients who struggle to get out of bed, stop caring for themselves, and may even give up the will to live. Actually, this can be a misrepresentation of hope. Most often in therapy, a lack of hope occurs when clients collide with the future and feel stuck and cannot become who and what they want to be. In essence, the stress, anxiety, trauma, and sadness about their collision with the future leave them hopeless, believing there is no or limited hope. Therapists must remember that hopelessness is not a permanent situation with no solution. For most people, losing hope is a temporary state of mind or being that occurs when things do not go as expected, and they feel stuck.

Cultivate Hope and Engagement in Your Life, from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series

Feeling Hopeless?

Many clients find themselves feeling hopeless. They could not envision themselves reaching their idealized vision of the future. Let’s take a look at the stories of several people participating in my research studies:

  • Sally is a single mother who works multiple jobs to make ends meet. She felt overwhelmed, wondered how her actions could make a difference, and eventually lost hope. The therapist helped Sally envision a future in which she combined the skills she gained in her jobs to develop a great resume and get a high-paying job that she loves.
  • Jason was having difficulties achieving his educational goals. He encountered many challenges and obstacles and started feeling like giving up. Because Jason felt like he could never get to where he wanted, he began to lose hope. The therapist helped Jason positively envision a successful future by setting goals to find a more meaningful major, taking control of his study habits, and finding a tutor.     
  • After spending years caring for her elderly parents, Lakesha found that she was profoundly tense, snapped at people around her, suffered from physical symptoms of chronic stress, and lacked sufficient methods of self-care. She felt helpless and hopeless to move forward. The therapist helped Lakesha explore possibilities leading to her ideal future and assisted her in developing a sense of optimism.
  • LeBron lost his life partner and felt depressed. A massive part of his self-identity was tied up in this relationship. He felt stuck, and he began to feel hopeless. The therapist helped LeBron activate hope by understanding the positive, motivating aspects of change and transitions. The therapist helped LeBron generate optimism, visualize the future LeBron, and remain flexible and open to the many possibilities and opportunities.

As you can see, people lose hope for all sorts of reasons. Feeling hopeless is a natural, universal response to personal and social events that impact life. While all people experience many ups and downs, some can recover more quickly than others. These people have hope.

What is Hope?

We have talked about hope, but what exactly is hope? Putting your finger on what constitutes hope is difficult because it is such an abstract concept. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of positive expectation and the belief that something great will happen in the future. This definition, however, conjures up crossing your fingers and engaging in wishful thinking. Hope is much more. Being hopeful is about remaining positive, focused, and goal-oriented until achieving a desired future.

Why is hope so important? How does hope manifest itself in your life? Hope is powerful in many ways:

  • Hope is that feeling that keeps clients going and gives them something to live for.
  • Hope is critical when clients are dealing with chronic stress, life problems, and challenges.
  • Hope helps clients maintain resilience in the face of obstacles.
  • Hope helps propel clients toward goals, even when things seem stressful or uncertain.
  • Hope provides a positive vision of all of life’s possibilities, a plan to make this vision a reality, and the practical tools to look forward to a better future.
  • Hope helps clients remain committed to their goals and motivated to take action toward achieving them.
  • Hope gives clients a reason to continue fighting and believe that their current circumstances will improve despite the unpredictable nature of human existence.
  • Most importantly, hope reduces stress and builds resilience to cope.

When your clients feel hopeless, they need help learning to cultivate significant levels of hope to build resilience, move forward, and find a life filled with possibilities. While hope is undoubtedly a personal experience that can be challenging to define, hope’s value and optimistic impact on human life are widely recognized and difficult to ignore.

Written by John J. Liptak, Ed.D.


Frederickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the 3-to-1 ratio that will change your life. New York, NY: Harmony.

Leutenberg, E.R.A., & Liptak, J.J. (2016). The journey to transcendence teen workbook. Bohemia, NY: Bureau for At-Risk Youth.

Rorty, R. (2022).  What can we hope for?: Essays on politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Snyder, C.R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. Los Angeles, CA: Free Press.

Worthington, E. (2005). Hope-focused marriage counseling: A guide to brief therapy. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

Managing Hope to Build Resilience and Overcome Stress

Hope-based resilience helps people overcome stress. Stress is the biggest obstacle that people experience. In a recent American Psychological Association* survey, the researchers found the following statistics about stress:

  • 80% of all people surveyed have experienced physical symptoms of stress.
  • 48% of people have suffered from sleep disorders due to prolonged exposure to stress.
  • 33% of the population considers their stress level to be extremely high.
  • 70% of employees experience stress at work so much that they are unhappy doing their jobs.

What is Hope Management Theory?

While most therapists work to help people manage stress and its ancillary emotions (i.e., anger, anxiety, sadness), Hope Management Theory suggests that hope is a natural way to build hope-based resilience and overcome the effects of stress. The following are some of the central beliefs of a Hope Management Theory approach: 

  • Hope is the most potent, positive, universal human emotion, characterized by intense feelings of motivation, optimism, and elevated mood about the future. Therefore, people need to manage the positive components of hope like they similarly manage the negative aspects of stress.
  • Feelings are more robust than thoughts and behaviors, thus they create thought patterns and direct behavioral routines.
  • Hope functions as a self-motivator, influencer, and inner driver to help people experience positive stress and flourish.
  • Hope is the best way to build natural hope-based resilience coping skills.
  • Hope not only builds resilience, but it also operates as a natural antidote to stress (and its subsequent problems, including trauma, anxiety, and sadness). 
  • As hope increases, resilience and positive stress increase, and negative stress decreases.

All people have stressful collisions with the future. The intensity of these collisions determines how much stress people experience. This negative stress harms emotional, psychological, and physical health and wellness. Rather than manage stress and its ancillary issues (anger, anxiety, sadness, etc.), people can take a positive approach by managing and enhancing their levels of hope to generate enough positive stress (eustress) to overcome the effects of negative stress (distress). Positive stress, or eustress, is beneficial stress that motivates people by providing a meaningful, positive challenge.

Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life workbook cover
Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series

Application of The Hope Management Theory:

People can cultivate “hope on steroids” to generate positive stress, build a shield of resilience, and eventually eliminate negative stress:

  1. Activate Hope (Trigger the emotion of hope by understanding change and transitions, remaining optimistic, visualizing the future you, and being flexible and opening your mind to possibilities.)
  2. Make Hope a Habit (Engage in hopeful actions and build “Hope Habits” by creating a map of your vision, developing meaning and purpose for goals, and utilizing flow to maintain hope.)
  3. Maintain Hope (Make hope a lifestyle by maintaining positive stress over a lifetime, generating resilience in the face of obstacles, finding ways to integrate hope into your lifestyle, and sustaining self-care.)

Therapists can use the workbooks from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series written by Dr. Michelle Scallon and Dr. John Liptak, currently being published by Whole Person Associates, to ensure hope becomes a habit. The five workbooks are:

Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life

Generate a Sense of Accomplishment in Your Life

Maintain Positive, Healthy Relationships in Your Life

Regain Control in Your Life

Cultivate Hope and Engagement in your Life

In conclusion, hope is the most intense emotion people generate, and the feelings associated with hope must be triggered, managed, enhanced, and maintained. When people are able to develop it in all aspects of their lives, hope becomes an antidote to stress and a way to build a protective shield of resilience. 

Written by John J. Liptak, Ed.D.

*APA (2023). Stress in America 2023: A nation grappling with psychological impacts of collective trauma. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2023/11/psychological-impacts-collective-trauma