An anthropological examination of virtues and character strengths and wellbeing: Imagining a good life in professional training




Virtues, character strengths, wellbeing, practical wisdom, Aristotle, anthropological structures of imaginary


Since its inception, there has been a rapid growth in the number of studies on Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) classification of Positive Psychology’s (PP) strengths and virtues, linking them to wellbeing (Brdar & Kashdan, 2010). However, some authors have criticized this approach (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2006), arguing that this classification does not integrate a complete understanding of the Aristotelian virtue of practical wisdom. Building on this critique, the article aims to apply the theoretical framework of Gilbert Durand’s Anthropological Structures of the Imaginary (ASI) in order to provide a nuanced approach to understanding Positive Psychology’s concepts of strengths and virtues. We suggest that this approach will contribute to enhancing the implications of these concepts for the practice of supervision and psychotherapy. In the first section, we explore the notion of virtue from the Positive Psychology perspective and contrast it with the Aristotelian perspective. The comparison of these two perspectives lead to a rationale for proposing Durand’s ASI theory for greater understanding of the complexities inherent to the notion of virtues and their associated character strengths and their role in fostering a good life. In the second section, we briefly present an overview of Durand’s ASI theory. In the third section, we further demonstrate the links between the two theoretical frameworks (i.e., Durand’s ASI and PP’s strengths and virtues), by providing applications of the relevance of ASI to both Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) six virtues and 24 character strengths. Lastly, a case conceptualization is presented to articulate the clinical implications of this proposed approach.


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Author Biographies

Christian R. Bellehumeur, Saint Paul University

Christian R. Bellehumeur, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Faculties of Humanities and Philosophy at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Member of the College of Psychologists of Quebec and of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, and at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (University of Ottawa), he holds a doctorate in (social) psychology from the University of Ottawa. His research interests focus on imaginary and human development; the relationship between (positive) psychology, religion and spirituality. Previous Associate editor of the Journal Counseling and spirituality, he has published more than 35 scientific articles and book chapters including a co-directed book with R. Laprée (2013). L’imaginaire durandien : Enracinements et envols en terre d’Amérique. Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval. 

Cynthia Bilodeau, Saint- Paul University

Adjunct Professor in Faculties of Human sciences and Philosophy, School of counselling, psychotherapy and spirituality

Winnie Yeung, Saint Paul Univerisity

M.Div, Ph.D. (Candidate), School of counselling, psychotherapy and spirituality

Saint Paul University