Phoebe, a psychological coach, is an easy speaker to listen to who has a good understanding of her subject. She led us through an intriguing evening about the benefits of Positive Psychology. We had been asked to complete a questionnaire ( regarding our character strengths prior to the session. She explained that the VIA institute on Character’s aim was to bring the science of character strengths to everyone. The Institute is a non-profit making organisation based in Cincinnati, Ohio. This model would seem to fit well within a coaching environment with individuals or teams/groups. 

Our top five character strengths (from a grid of 24) were identified and explored. Each element, such as kindness, might be seen differently by different people. One person might see it as generosity and another as empathy. These five strengths are termed as the ‘weapons of success’ a way to improve the pattern of our lives and to make full use and success of its possibilities by helping us to truly focus on our goals both personal and professional. In a team setting it was briefly discussed how the make-up of the individuals’ strengths as a whole might influence the success of any project for the better or not. In the break-out rooms the discussions were about our five strengths and the ones most highlighted were honesty, fairness, kindness, curiosity and caring which was pleasantly reassuring for us as counsellors and psychotherapists. Each of the strengths did actually have slightly different meanings for each of us, but still resonated with us all. They seemed also to match an individual’s core values which Phoebe explained was important to the successful merging of both. This she felt is the part that may help clients in our counselling rooms to become more aware of the strengths they have and how they might support themselves in their current, perhaps very stressful, situations.

Phoebe discussed in some detail the Perma Model (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships,  Meaning and Accomplishments) and how important the savouring of strengths and experiences was to any process. The analogy mentioned was of a large box of chocolates sometimes eaten mindlessly to an extent where the chocolates become just one mass instead of pleasurable, individual sensations. A more helpful way is to perhaps eat one after a meal and really enjoy its look, smell and taste as a treat and for it to become a fully appreciated experience. She also shared that her own research is about ‘Strengths are the Golden Thread in Coaching’. This was a complex subject of which my review can only provide a snapshot and so the following reading material may help. Thank you Phoebe for an interesting talk well presented, and for sharing your website details with us: Good luck with your research studies.

 Reviewed by Jacqueline Holloway

Further reading:

Mayerson N. 2016  ‘Psychology Today’, New York. NY John Thomas.

Mayerson N.H.  2020   ‘The Character Strengths Response: An Urgent Call to Action’.

 Frontiers in Psychology (

Niemiec R.M.  2019  ‘Character Strengths & Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners’ 

1st Edition  VIA hphogrefe

Seligman M.E.P.  ‘Positive Psychology, positive prevention and positive therapy’ 

‘Handbook of Positive Psychology’  eds: C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez. (Oxford Uni. Press 3 – 9).