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Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy

When it started and what it is?
Positive Transcultural Psychotherapy Raluca Ursica
Positive Transcultural Psychotherapy - We are a family

Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy (PPT) is a Transcultural, Humanistic and Psychodynamic, resource-oriented, and conflict-centred psychotherapeutic method for individuals, couples, and families. Prof. Nossrat Peseschkian and collaborators developed the method in the ‘70s in Germany and today there are more than thirty training centres worldwide.

Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy is an integrative method, which includes humanistic, systemic, psychodynamic, and CBT elements. It should not be confused with Positive Psychology (M. Seligman 1998).

The term "positive" is derived from the original Latin expression "positum or positivus" which means the actual, the real, the concrete. Disorders and conflicts are not the only things real, factual, the client also holds the capacity to deal with the conflicts.

In Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy the client's resistance is not challenged directly. "The consultation takes place in a loving way through allusions to poetry, proverbs and oriental fairy tales and myths" (Prof. Gaetano Benedetti, MD, 1980). Through the use of stories, metaphors, role-play, and various other creative techniques the patient is encouraged to play an active role in his own healing process.

The Transcultural aspect is the base from which Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy grows.

The changes in our environment, urbanization, population growth, etc. have made possible that national, ethnic, and cultural groups have opened up to the world (i.e. to other groups). This has brought with it a new set of possibilities and a new set of transcultural challenges. (Prof. N Peseschkian, 1980). The Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy method equips Psychotherapists with the necessary tools to support their clients in this new, diverse world.

A person's context (environmental, social, cultural, political, religious, and linguistic) is an important part of the development of their identity, and to understand that identity one needs to understand the context. "Every person stands as a member of a group and as an individual. […] He also has his own personal sphere as a result of his upbringing. This can lead to transcultural problems in dealing with his fellowmen." (Prof N.Peseschkian, 1980).

The three Principles of Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy:

1. The Principle of Hope implies that the therapist wants to assist their patients to understand and see the meaning and purpose of their disorder or conflict. Accordingly, the disorder will be reinterpreted in a "positive" way (positive interpretations):

Some examples:

– Sleep disturbance is the ability to be watchful and get by with little sleep

– Depression is the ability to react with the deepest emotionality to conflicts

– Schizophrenia is the ability to live in two worlds at the same time or living in a fantasy world

By adopting this "positive" stance, change becomes possible. Illnesses have a symbolic function and this function needs to be recognized by both therapist and patient.

2. The Principle of Balance:

Even though we are unique and have different social and cultural backgrounds we tend to manage and cope with problems by relying on typical forms of coping. "Nossrat Peseschkian formulated with the Balance Model of Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy (an innovative contemporary approach to dynamic psychotherapy) a vivid model of coping with conflicts in different cultures." Thomas Kornbichler


According to the balance model, the four areas of life are:

  • body/senses – psychosomatic reaction to problems/conflicts

  • achievement/work – stress reaction to problems/conflicts

  • contact/relationships – depression/isolation as a way of coping with problems/conflicts

  • future/fantasy/meaning of life – fears and phobias as a way of coping with problems/conflicts

Even though these four areas are inherent in all human beings, in the Western world the emphasis is more often on the areas of body/senses and work/achievement so these are the areas where the conflict is expressed. In contrast in the Eastern part of the world, the disorder is expressed in the areas of contact and fantasy/ future. Everybody develops his or her own preferences on how to cope with conflicts that occur.

3. The Principle of Consultation:

Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy identifies five stages of therapy and self-help. The five stages of Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy represent a concept in which therapy and self-help are closely interrelated. Through therapy, the patient and/ or the family explore the problem, gather information about the illness, and find a personalized solution to it.

  • 1st step: Observation; distancing (perception: the capacity to express desires and problems)

  • 2nd step: Taking inventory (cognitive capacities: inventory of events in the last 5 to 10 years)

  • 3rd step: Situational encouragement (self-help and resource-activation: the ability to use past strategies in conflict solution)

  • 4th step: Verbalization (communication: the ability to express outstanding conflicts and problems in the four areas of life)

  • 5th step: Expansion of goals (in order to instill hope and help the client see himself problem-free, the patient is asked: "What would you like to do when there are no more problems to be solved? What are your goals for the next five years?")

The aim of Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy is to help the clients discover their abilities, strengths, resources, and potential and how to efficiently use them by relinquishing their role as client/patient and becoming their own therapist.

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