As mavens of wellness, midwives are in a powerful position to help guide our clients (and ourselves) in making positive, proven choices that support not just physical wellness, but also holistic well-being.
by Cathy Hartt, CNM, RN, MS, Midwife of Changes Wellbeing Coaching Services
Perhaps you noticed the big smiley emoticon on the cover
of Time magazine in 2005, in a
full issue dedicated primarily to the science of positive psychology. Or maybe
you heard about a film called Happy that
premiered just last month?
If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if this was some Norman Vincent Peale
approach that had little to do with midwifery. Wait—hit that pause
button! A good deal of the work in the
field of psychology during the past 10-15 years relates to how people can
improve their health and well-being.
In 2004, I attended an innovative course in positive
psychology coaching taught by pioneer psychologist Martin Seligman.
I knew instantly that it was a great match for nurse-midwifery practice. At that time, I recall Dr. Seligman
explaining the focus of psychology during the past 50 years was to help those with
mental illness get from a minus 10 to a 0 (stable in their communities). As he
related, this is worthy work, but did little to help people really flourish.
As a midwife, I always considered myself somewhat of a maven
of wellness. We are a profession built on empowering client strengths to
improve health and wellness. I believe the next step is to empower ourselves
and our profession with knowledge about how humans can flourish in life.
Psychology has come a long way from many of the theorists we study in our
nursing psychology courses. Freud, Erickson, Piaget, etc. all contributed to
our knowledge. We are now called upon to integrate the work of Seligman and
positive psychologists into our daily work.
According to Christopher Peterson, PhD, positive psychology
“is the study of what goes right in life,” and is as genuine as what goes bad
and deserves equal time. It is not a form of pop psychology, “The Secret,” or untested self-help (Peterson,
2012). As a nation, we spend more than $11 billion dollars per year on
self-help, most of which is not science-based (Hensch, 2011).
Positive psychology is based on strengths, or focusing on
what is right with people. So, let’s take the first step. One of the first “application exercises” done
in most positive psychology courses is to discover your own strengths. I invite
my colleagues to apply the science to their own lives. My challenge to each of
you is to spend 20 minutes or so taking the VIA survey of
character strengths located on Dr. Seligman’s research Web site. (Readers
will need to get a log-in and will find the test link about half-way down on
Try using those strengths in a new way each day—and see what
happens to your mood as you do. Enjoy!
Cathy Hartt, CNM, RN, MS, practiced
full-scope midwifery from 1990-2005.In 2004, she had the opportunity to
train as a positive psychology coach with Martin Seligman, PhD, and other
internationally recognized psychologists. She began a coaching practice in 2004
and has since specialized in wellbeing (wellness and happiness coaching,
combined) for both individuals and groups (online, local and
distance).She continues her coaching education through MentorCoach. In
addition, she teaches online health and nursing courses for several colleges in
Colorado.You can subscribe to her wellbeing blog at
1.Peterson, C. (Jan. 30, 2012). Foundations of positive psychology [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from www.mentorcoach.com
2.Hensch, D. (2011). Happiness and the potential of positive psychology. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from http://drh-group.com/blog/