Psychology for Lawyers

positive psychology


"Positive psychology was launched in Dr. Martin Seligman's 1998 presidential address to the American Psychological Association, when he urged psychologists to 'turn toward understanding and building the human strengths to complement our emphasis on healing damage.'"

--Craig Lambert, The Science of Happiness: Psychology Explores Humans at Their Best [Lambert traces the roots of positive psychology to the publication of Abraham Maslow's Toward a Psychology of Being, published in 1962.]

"Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play."

--Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania [Martin E.P. Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the Director of the Positive Psychology Center]

"What I have called Positive Psychology concerns the scientific study of the three different happy lives that correspond to . . . three desires: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life."

--Martin E.P. Seligman, Can Happiness Be Taught?, Daedalus, 2004

"Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions."

--Shelly L. Gable & Jonathan Haidt, What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology?, 8 (2) Rev. Gen. Psychol. 103, 104 (2005)

"The unhappiness and discontent of lawyers is well documented and much lamented.

* * * *

We believe that psychology has the explanatory power to assist lawyers at this critical juncture.

* * * *

Our belief is that the new field of 'positive psychology' (which seeks to cultivate human strengths, rather than focus on human weaknesses), offers coping strategies to reduce unhappiness, and can be adapted successfully to the legal setting, in particular the large law firm."

--Martin E.P. Seligman, Paul R. Verkuil & Terry H. Kang, Why Lawyers Are Unhappy, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 33, 34, 35 (2001)


Craig Lambert, The Science of Happiness: Psychology Explores Humans at Their Best, Harvard Magazine (2007) [online text]

Martin Seligman & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Positive Psychology: An Introduction, 55 (1) Amer. Psychologist 5 (2000) [online text]

Shelly L. Gable & Jonathan Haidt, What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology, 9 (2) Rev. General Psychology 103 (2005) [online text]

Martin E.P. Seligman, Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy? Lawyers with Depression Blog [online text]

Barry Schwartz, Pitfalls on the Road to a Positive Psychology of Hope [online text]

Class Videos

Introduction: Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Diagram

Martin Seligman

Class Viewing 1: Martin Seligman on Positive Psychology [3:51 mins.] [reference to optimism, flourishing, positive emotion, meaning]

Class Viewing 2: Martin Seligman: The New Era of Positive Psychology [23:42 mins.] [TED Talk, 2004] [reviewing the contributions of psychology and psychiatry, and what got left out of modern day psychology; psychology's "disease model" and the "science of mental illness" that resulted in a catalogue of mental illnesses; the development of drug treatments for mental illness; in psychiatry "we can claim that we make miserable people less miserable"] [Martin Seligman is the author of Authentic Happiness] [brief comments on "flow"] [end class presentation at 6:15 mins.] [for a longer in-class presentation end at 15:52 mins.]

Ronald D. Siegel

Class Viewing 3: What It Takes to be Happy [9:17 mins.] [Ronald D. Siegel, clinical professor of psychology, Harvard Medical School; discusses "positive psychology"; brief reference to "flow"; brief introduction to "mindfulness"] [end class presentation at 4:23 mins.]

Class Viewing 4: The Failure of Success and the Pain of "I Me, Me, Mine" [4:51 mins.] [Ronald D. Siegel] ["concern about rank in the baboon troop"; the mind recalibrates to create a self-identity; "a lot of time is spent defending our illusions"]

Rethinking Happiness as a Pursuit in Life

Class Viewing 5: The Pursuit of Happiness [4:07 mins.] [Andrew Weil] ["I'm suspicious of pursurig happiness as a goal."] [reference to evolutionary psychologists] [Weil first came to my attention with the publication of his book, The Natural Mind: An Investigation of Drugs and the Higther Consciousness (1972)]

Class Viewing 6: Happy Daze [3:25 mins.] [Jordan Peterson] [a 2011 video short] [begin presentation at 1:10 mins.] ["Happiness is not the proper target for an individual life." Peterson contends that we would do better to pursue contentment.]

Class Viewing 7: Happiness: Susie Orbach Speak at St Paul's [1:30:45 mins.] [St Paul's Cathedral, 2010] [Susan Orbach begins her presentation at 1:46 mins, ends at 13:16 mins.] [a response to positive psychology and the idea that we should be in pursuit of happiness] [Susie Orbach is a British psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer and social critic. She founded Women's Therapy Centre of London.]


Adam Phillips on Happiness as a Misguided Pursuit [5:23 mins.]

The Good Life: Happiness [47:35 mins.] [Paul Bloom] [Yale University] [relevant commentary at 11:28 mins., end presentation at 33:24 mins.] ["most people think they are happy"; what is happiness? (a signal that our needs have been satisfied); some surprising facts about happiness]

Positive Psychology and Why Lawyers are the Way We Are [9:49 mins.] [Dave Shearon, Executive Director of Continuing Legal Education in Tennessee, talks about positive psychology and how it applies to the practice of law; commenting on how lawyers dampen their emotions and disconnect from their values; Shearon studied positive psychology with Marty Seligman] [begin video at 0:40 mins.]

A Conversation with Ken Robinson [26:50 mins.] [relevant part of the video begins at 5:00 mins.; end presentation at 10:42 mins.] [Robinson discusses his book, The Element]

Critique of the Seligman|Csikszentmihalyi 2000 Introduction
to Positive Psychology

The Negative Shadow Cast by Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology: History in the Remaking?
Dana Becker & Jeanne Marecek, 18 (5) Theory & Psychology 591 (2008)

A Cautionary Stance: Do We Really Want to be Happy?

Happiness Is an Empty Promise
[12:27 mins.] [Steven Hayes] [a broad cultural perspective] Full Interview [37:53 mins.]

Say No to Happiness
[54:00 mins.] [audio] [Jordan Peterson's comments begin at 26:48 mins.; reference to "tentative order" and "impending chaos," a chaos that is infinite]

Adam Phillips: On Pleasure & Frustration
[5:23 mins.]

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?
[2:00 mins.]

Positive Psychology: Relation to Humanistic Psychology

Contributions of Humanistic Psychology to Positive Psychology
Arthur Warmoth, Stella Resnick & Ilene Serlin, Division 32, American Psychological Association

The History of Positive Psychology: Truth Be Told
Jeffrey J. Froh, NYS Psychologist, 2004

Are Qualitative Methods Always Best for Humanistic Psychology Research? A Conversation on the Epistemological Divide Between Humanistic and Positive Psychology
Zeno Franco, Harris Friedman & Mike Arons, 36 The Humanistic Psychologist 159 (2008)

Humanistic Psychology: Course Resources

Reference (Martin Seligman)

Martin Seligman on Positive Psychology and Well Being
[24:58 mins.] [2010] [What is positive psychology? What is well-being? Positive interventions. Reference to his work on "learned helplessness."] [if this video is screened, end at 16:08 mins.]

Going into Flow
[2:45 mins.]

A New Understanding of Well Being
[30:08 mins.]

Martin Seligman on Optimism
[2:00 mins.]

[24:49 mins.]

Flourishing: A New Understanding of Well-Being
[30:07 mins.]

Positive Psychology Video
[3:23 mins.]

What Is the Measure of a Flourishing Life?
[38:54 mins.] [panel discussion: Martin Seligman, Ellen Langer, Ross Gittins]

Seligman Lecture on the Science of Well Being
[1:07:24 mins.]

Seligman 2nd Lecture on the Science of Well Being
[1:19:15 mins.] [Adelaide, Australia]

Martin Seligman Explaining Positive Psychology
[7:07 mins.] [Seligman with a TV interviewer]

Martin Seligman with the Dalai Lama
[32:17 mins.]

Martin Seligman with James Fallows
[11:04 mins.]

Interview about Authentic Happiness
[13:52 mins.]

About Martin Seligman

Learned Optimism by Martinn Seligman: Animated Book Review
[4:44 mins.]

Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman: Animated Book Review
[5:01 mins.]

By and About | Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman, Flourish: Positive Psychology and Positive Interventions [Tanner Lectures on Human Values, University of Michigan, 2010] [online text]

Seven F. Maier, Christopher Peterson & Barry Schwartz, "From Helplessness to Hope: The Seminal Career of Martin Seligman," in Jane Gillham (ed.), The Science of Optimism and Hope 11-37 (Radnor, Pennsylvania: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000) [online text]

Reference (Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Positive Psychology
[7:10 mins.]

The Creative Person and the Creative Context
[1:08:24 mins.] [poor quality video]

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[19:00 mins.]

On Flow, Intrinsic Motivation, & Happiness
[33:42 mins.]

Appearance at Socially, Environmentally, and Ethically Responsible (SEER) Symposium
[44:37 mins.] [Csikszentmihaly interview begins at 4:41 mins.]

2011 University of Wisconsin-Madison Big Learning Event
[18:59 mins.]

On the Benefits of Consumption
[55:26 mins.] [Csikszentmihaly presentation begins at 1:26 mins.]

What People Say They Love
[18:48 mins.] [TED Talk, Milan, 2013]


Flow: Secret to Happiness
[18:56 mins.] [Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi teaches psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University] [TED Talk] [2004] [class presentation can end at 12:20 mins.] [alt. site]

Animated Book Review: Flow by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
[5:20 mins.]

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi on Rules of Engagement
[19:13 mins.] [TED Talk] [class presentation begins at 4:47 mins. and ends at 7:42 mins.] [reference to positive psychology at 3:30 mins.]

On Flow
[6:47 mins.]

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow
[2:41 mins.]

[4:55 mins.]

Flow, Creativity & the Evolving Self
[6:59 mins.] [Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove]

Living in Flow: The Secret of Happiness
[24:24 mins.]

Flow and the Quality of Life
[1:05:58 mins.]

On Creativity, Innovation & Managing "Flow"
[19:07 mins.]

Reference (Ronald D. Siegal)

Mindfulness Practices
[7:44 mins.]

The Science of Mindfulness
[1:05:49 mins.]

Reference (Tal Ben-Shahar)

Big Think Interview with Tal Ben-Shahar
[29:23 mins.] [defining positive psychology & setting forth a a brief history] [when used for a class presentation, the presentation can end at 8:12 mins.]

Appreciating Happiness
[22:37 mins.]

Positive Psychology: Happier
[8:24 mins.]

Positive Leadership: Why Happiness is Good for Business
[8:32 mins.]

Happiness 101 with Tal Ben-Shahar
[1:08:21 mins.]

Choose the Life You Want
[42:50 mins.] [audio :: interview]

Reference (Positive Psychology & Lawyers | Dave Shearon)

Dave Shearon, CLE Executive Director, Tennesse Bar, on Positive Psychology
[9:54 mins.] Pt2 [shown in class] Pt3 [9:20 mins.] Pt4 [7:58 mins.] Pt5 [9:50 mins.]

Reference (Larry Krieger)

Effective Lawyers
[6:24 mins.] [Larry Krieger is a law professor] [begin video at 0:48 mins.]

The Humanizing Legal Education Movement
[10:00 mins.] [bio; commenting on "balance" in legal education; Maslow's hierarchy of needs] Pt2 [9:37 mins.] Pt3 [9:43 mins.] Pt4 [9:02 mins.] Pt5 [10:00] Pt6 [8:53 mins.] Pt7 [9:43 mins.] Pt8 [9:12 mins.] Pt9 [9:40 mins.] Pt10 [8:48 mins.]

Larry Krieger | Articles

Lawrence S. Krieger, The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction, Clinical L. Rev. [online text]

Lawrence S. Krieger (with Kennon M. Sheldon), What Makes Lawyers Happy?: A Data-
Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success, 83 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 554 (2015) [online text]

Reference (Positive Psychology & Lawyers)

A Day in the Life of a Lawyer
[6:15 mins.]

Attorney Wellbeing: John 'Sean' Doyle
[2:39 mins.] Sean Doyle's TED Talk [12:09 mins.]

Reference (Positive Psychology)

Happiness and the Work of Psychologists
[47:35 mins.] [Paul Bloom, Yale University professor; semester long introductory lectures on psychology] [The lecture on positive psychology begins at 11:16 mins.] [survey of research on happiness]

Sustainable Happiness Positive Psychology, Happiness and Well-Being
[4:10 mins.]

What Is Positive Psychology
[4:59 mins.] [animation]

Positive Psychotherapy and Positive Psychology
[17:28 mins.]

Midlife Crisis Coaching: The Role of Positive Psychology in Midlife Transition
[6:08 mins.] [discussion of the relation of positive psychology to Jungian thinking]

Practicing Positive Psychotherapy
[8:17 mins.] [Carol Kauffman] [presentation, if used, can begin at 3:15 mins.] Pt2 [7:30 mins.]

Happiness & Well-Being

Pursuing Happiness: What Works and Why
[1:07:47 mins.] [Ken Sheldon] [lecture begins at 1:00 min.]

The Human Mind and the Cultivation of Well-Being
[1:39:00 mins.] [Dan Siegel] [Siegel's presentation begins at 8:30 mins.]

The Science of Happiness
[48:57 mins.] [Fred Luskin] [Luskin received his doctorate in counseling and health psychology from Stanford University]

Forgiveness, Stress Management, and Happiness
[29:18 mins.] [Fred Luskin, Director, Stanford Forgiveness Project]

Happiness and the Brain
[39:20 mins.]

Applied Happiness
[18:16 mins.] [Jenn Lim, TED Talk]

Delivering Happiness
[21:09 mins.] [TED Talk]

What Is Happiness?
[30:38 mins.] [Professor June Gruber, Yale University] The Dark Side of Happiness [11:20 mins.] [TED Talk]

Don't Worry, Be Happy Now: The Science and Philosophy of the Happiness Movement
[49:01 mins.] [James Fallows & Gretchen Rubin (trained as a lawyer); Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project] [University of California Television]

A Guide to Happiness: The Problem of Anger
[24:14 mins.] [Alain de Botton, a philosophical approach to happiness]

[59:10 mins.] [Daniel Kahneman is psychologist whose work spans cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and the science of well-being.]

Combining Mindfulness & Positive Psychology
[1:10:36 mins.]

Educating for Happiness and Resilience
[17: 58 mins.] [Ilona Boniwell]

Positive Psychology for a Happier World
[1:15:39 mins.] [Ilona Boniwell]

Happiness: Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness
[21:20 mins.] [Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenging the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want]

The Science of Happiness: What Your Mother Didn't Tell You
[30:06 mins.] [Dan Gilbert] [Dr. Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness (2007)]

Why We Make Bad Decisions
[34:10 mins.] [Dan Gilbert]

Daniel Gilbert on Happiness
[27:50 mins.]

Dan Gilbert: The Psychology of Your Future Self
[6:49 mins.] [TED Talk]

Happiness (a Negative Path): Oliver Burkeman

The Negative Path to Happiness and Success
[22:11 mins.]

Open to Failure, Open to Success
[2:16 mins.]

Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
[59:10 mins.] [Oliver Burkeman is author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking] [Burkeman's presentation begins at 2:44 mins.]

How to Become Slightly Happier
[29:23 mins.]

The Antidote
[15:26 mins.]

Awe, "Opensure" and Happiness: Five Questions
[9:33 mins.]

An Alternative Path to Happiness
[1:18:29 mins.] [Burkeman's presentation begins at 5:20 mins.]

The Power of Negative Thinking
[55:33 mins.]

Oliver Burkeman Interview
[53:40 mins.] [podcast]

[20:10 mins.] [podcast]


A Brené Brown Lecture
[20:45 mins.][How do we engage our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections? Brené is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (2007), The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), and Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy (2011)]

Robert Biswas-Diener: Positive Psychologist

Your Happiest Days are Behind You
[13:18 mins.] [TED Talk]

The Upside of Your Dark Side
[23:07 mins.] [Happiness & Its Causes, 2015]

Comfort Addiction
[14:09 mins.]

Positive Emotions (Barbara Fredrickson)

Positive Emotions
[6:36 mins.] [Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of a book titled, Positivity]

2-Minute Tips: How to Be More Positive
[2:05 mins.]

On Positive Emotions
[2:43 mins.]

The Positivity Ratio
[8:43 mins.]

Positive Emotions Transform Us
[7:36 mins.]

Positive Emotions Open Our Mind
[8:37 mins.]

Remaking Love
[11:38 mins.]

Using Positivity to Bounce Back from Inevitable Setbacks
[1:25:49 mins.]

Escape Self-Absorption through Positive Emotions
[1:30:06 mins.]

The Dynamics of Positive Opposites
[1:15:52 mins.]

Foundations of Well-Being Interview
[11:20 mins.] [with Rick Hanson]

UNC People Interview
[9:26 mins.] Pt2 [9:36 mins.] Pt3 [7:48 mins.]

Interview with Hans Henrik Knoop
[1:21:50 mins.]

Writing & Psychological Well-Being (James Pennebaker)

On Writing and Psychology
[3:16 mins.] [TED Talk]

The Secret Life of Pronouns
[17:59 mins.]

Reference (Life Balance with Andy Clark)

Life Balance Blueprint
[6:20 mins.]

Wellness Lawyer: The 3 Types of Stress
[21:38 mins.]

The Sacrifice Myth
[6:59 mins.] Pt2 [8:14 mins.]

How to Find Time for Everything
[7:41 mins.]

Wellness and Leadership for Lawyers
[6:04 mins.]

The 4 "L"s Framework
[8:05 mins.]

Reference (Positive Psychology & Law Students)

Corie Lynn Rosen, The Accidental Optimist, Vir. J. Social Pol'y & L. (2013) [online text]

______________, The Method and the Message, 12 Nev. L. J. 160 (2010) [online text]

Todd David Peterson & Elizabeth Waters Peterson, Stemming the Tide of Law Student Depression: What Law Schools Need to Learn from the Science of Positive Psychology, 9 Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics 357 (2009) [online text]

Nancy L. Schultz, Lessons from Positive Psychology for Developing Advocacy Skills, 6 John Marshall L. J. 103 (2012) [online text]

Dara E. Purvis, Female Law Students, Gendered Self-Evaluation, and the Promise of Positive Psychology, 2012 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1693 [online text]

Tatiana I. Pavlova-Coleman, Law Students in Balance: A Proposal for a Well-Being Course for Law School Students Founded on the Constructs and Findings of Positive Psychology, Master of Applied Positive Psychol (MAPP) Capstone Project (2012 [online text]

Reference (Law Review Articles & a Thesis)

Martin E.P. Seligman, Paul R. Verkuil & Terry H. Kang, Why Lawyers Are Unhappy, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 33 (2001)

David T. Zaring & William D. Henderson, Young Associates in Trouble (Review Essay), 105 Mich. L. Rev. 1087 (2007) [online text]

Mirko Bagaric & James McConvill, Goodbye Justice, Hello Happiness: Welcoming Positive Psychology to the Law, 10 Deakin L. Rev. 27 (2005) [online text]

Patricia Snyder, Super Women Lawyers: A Study of Character Strengths, Master of Applied Positive Psychology Thesis, 2012 [online text]

Peter H. Huang & Corie Rosen Felder, The Zombie Lawyer Apocalypse 42 Pepperdine L. Rev. 727 (2015) [online text]

Peter H. Huang & Rick Swedloff, Authentic Happiness and Meaning at Law Firms, 58 Syracuse L. Rev. 335 (2008) [online text]

Daniel S. Bowling, III, Lawyers and Their Elusive Pursuit of Happiness: Does It Matter?, 7 Duke F. L. & Soc. Change 37 (2015) [online text]

Paula Davis-Laack, The Science of Well-Being and the Legal Profession, 83 (4) Wis. Lawyer (April, 2010) [online text]

Christine Parker, The 'Moral Panic' Over Psychological Well Being in the Legal Profession: A Personal or Political Ethical Response? 37 (3) UNSW L. J. 1103 2014) [online text]

M. Mark Heekin, Implementing Psychological Resilience Training in Law Incubators, 1 J. Experiential Learning 86 (2015) [online text]

Christine Parker, The 'Moral Panic' Over Psychological Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A Personal or Political Ethical Response, 37 U. New South Wales L. J. 1103 (2014) [online text]

Martha Knudson, Building Attorney Resources: Helping New Lawyers Succeed Through Psychological Capital, Master of Applied Positive Psychology Capstone Project (2015) [online text]

Reference (Postive Psychology & Therapy|Counseling)

Positive Psychological Interventions in Counseling: What Every Counseling Psychologist Should Know Jeana L. Magyar-Moe, Rhea L. Owens & Collie W. Conoley, 43 (4) The Counseling Psychologists 508 (2015)

Review of the Application of Positive Psychology to Substance Use, Addiction, and Recovery Research Amy Krentzman, 27 (1) Psychol. Addict. Behav. 151 (2013)

Delivering Happiness: Translating Positive Psychology Intervention Research for Treating Major and Minor Depressive Disorders Kristin Layous, 17 (8) J Alternative & Complementary Medicine 675 (2011)

Professionalising Positive Psychology: Developing Guidelines for Training and Regulation
Tim Lomas & Itai Ivtzan, 6 (3) Int. J. Wellbeing 96 (2016)

Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice
Angela Lee Duckworth, Tracy A. Steen & Martin E.P. Seligman, 1 Annual Rev. Clin. Psychol 629 (2005)

Reference (Articles & Thesis)

Building Attorney Resources: Helping New Lawyers Succeed Through Psychological Capital
Martha Knudson, Master of Applied Positive Psychology Capstone Project, University of Pennsylvania

A Critical Review of the History and Current Status of Positive Psychology
Annual of Clinical & Health Psychology, 2009

Positive Psychotherapy
Martin E.P. Seligman, Tayyab Rashid & Acacia Parks, American Psychologist (November, 2006)

Positive Psychology Interventions: A Review for Counselling Practitioners
48 (4) Canadian J. Counselling & Psychotherapy 383 (2014)

Positive Psychologists on Positive Psychology: Acacia Parks
Interview by Aaron Jarden, 2 (2) Int. J. Wellbeing 98 (2012)

What Is Existential Positive Psychology?
Paul T.P. Wong, 3 (1) Int. J. Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy (2010)

Positive Psychology as a Scientific Movement
Jonathan Simmons, 4 Int. J. Science in Society 43 (2013)

Web Resources

Positive Psychology

Positive Psychotherapy
Tayyab Rashid

Pitfalls on the Road to a Psychology of Hope
Barry Schwartz, book chapter in Jane Gillham (ed.), The Science of Optimism and Hope (RadnorTempleton Press, 2000)

Contact Professor Elkins