Review of the application of positive psychology to substance use, addiction, and recovery research

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Advances in positive psychology have grown exponentially over the past decade. The addictions field has experienced its own growth in a positive direction, embodied by the recovery movement. Despite parallel developments, and great momentum on both sides, there has been little crosspollination. This article introduces positive psychology and the recovery movement, describes the research on positive psychology in the addictions, and discusses future avenues of theory, research, and intervention based on a positive-psychology framework. A systematic review of positive psychology applied to substance use, addiction, and recovery found nine studies which are discussed according to the following themes: theoretical propositions, character strengths and drinking, positive psychology and recovery, positive interventions, and addiction: feeling good and feeling bad. The current scholarship is scant, but diverse, covering a wide range of populations (adults, adolescents, those in and out of treatment), topics (character strengths, recovery, positive affect), and addictive behaviors (work addiction, cigarette smoking, and alcohol use disorders). There is diversity, too, in country of origin, with work originating in the U.S., U.K., Poland, and Spain. The rigorous application of the lens, tools, and approaches of positive psychology to addiction research generally, and to the aims of the recovery movement specifically, has potential for the development of theory and innovation in prevention and intervention. Further, because the work in positive psychology has primarily focused on microsystems, it may be primed to make contributions to the predominantly macrosystems focus of the recovery movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-165
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • positive psychology
  • recovery
  • recovery movement
  • review
  • substance use disorders


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