By Roxanne Fouché, Research Committee

PracticingPositivePsychologyCoachingAs ADHD coaches, we are change agents, helping our clients develop strategies, tools and habits tailored to work with their strengths while circumventing their personal challenge areas. To a large extent, the scientific evidence that informs our coaching comes from positive psychology research. Although Robert Biswas-Diener’s Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities and Strategies for Success does not specifically address ADHD, it is in the vital translation of research to practice that this book can be useful to coaches. Armed with the evidence-based tools, assessments and strategies outlined in the book, we can move forward with confidence as we assist our clients in achieving their goals.

In the first pages of his book, Biswas-Diener writes, “The results of positive psychology studies should be welcome news to coaches as it provides a scientific rationale and new intervention ideas for creating change.”


As there are many ideas and tools discussed in the book, it was hard for me to narrow down the highlights, but I’d like to share a few things of particular interest to me (and, I hope, to my fellow ADHD coaches):

  • We can readily identify our clients’ strengths by noting boosts in energy as they speak. We can also ask questions that elicit enthusiasm about the past, present or future, thus providing an opportunity for a strengths conversation. Suggested questions include:
    • What are some of the things from your past about which you are most proud?
    • What energizes you in the present?
    • What are you looking forward to in the near future?
  • There is ample scientific research that supports a focus on strengths, including a study by Steen, Seligman, Petersen and Park which found that “identifying your strengths is associated with higher happiness and lower rates of depression.”
  • Positive psychology supports a focus on strengths, while not discounting weaknesses. The metaphor of a sailboat can be useful to explain the concept; a leak in the bottom of the boat represents weaknesses, while the sail symbolizes strengths. To ensure that the boat does not sink, we need to attend to our weaknesses. However, we need to raise the sail and use our strengths in order to move forward.
  • We can help our clients develop their strengths by identifying their “unrealized” (or underutilized) strengths. These strengths can be seen as untapped potential and are wonderful areas for growth.
  • Overused strengths, the strengths that clients may over-rely on, can also be identified, thus providing an opportunity for a discussion about “dialing back” a strength by recognizing the context in which that strength is best used.
  • Gratitude exercises need to be adapted to the individual. By appreciating the importance of fit between our clients and the exercises that we might suggest, we can help our clients cultivate the benefits of positivity. In addition to the standard “three good things” exercise, we might invite our clients, for example, to reflect on what went well during the day or talk (or write) about their ideal self.
  • Research by Oishi, Diener and Lucas found that individuals who score 8 out of 10 on “wheel of life” or life satisfaction surveys achieve more because they are “hungry” or striving toward growth, and thus not complacent. Perhaps we all should be aiming for 8/10 rather than a “perfect 10.”
  • To make the best use of the results of strengths assessments such as the VIA, Gallup StrengthsFinder or the Realise2, we might ask questions including:
    • Which situations block you from using this strength?
    • When might you want to tone down this strength?
    • What could you change that would give you an opportunity to use this strength more?
    • How could you use two or more of your strengths in conjunction with one another?
  • Among the many assessments included in the book, the Work-Life Questionnaire based on the research of Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin and Schwartz, is one that may help identify whether our clients see their employment as a job, a career or a calling. Wrzesniewski and colleagues suggested three ways that people can make small modifications so their jobs provide more motivation, meaning and satisfaction:
    • Changing the amount or quality of social interactions at work
    • Incorporating even small changes in the types of work activities
    • Reframing the view of a job from the concrete (e.g., picking up trash at a hospital) to the abstract (supporting a healthy hospital environment)
  • Biswas-Diener underscores the importance for coaches to keep up to date with research, focusing on primary sources such as academic journals where such research is published, attending trainings by recognized experts, and joining professional organizations.

Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching is an invaluable book to coaches at all levels of comfort with positive psychology research and practices. The book provides evidence-based tools, assessments and interventions that are wonderful additions to the ADHD coach’s knowledge base and repertoire.


Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities and Strategies for Success. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010. Print.

roxanneRoxanne Fouché is a professional member of the ACO, an ADHD coach, consultant, and co-founder of the ADHD coaching and consulting company, Focus for Effectiveness, LLC. You can reach her at