chapter  2
Strengths-Based Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Historical Account
ByBrian L. Kelly, Trevor G. Gates
Pages 14

Strengths-based approaches have a long, rich, and varied history in social work, psychology, couple/ marriage and family therapy, and professional counseling. As early as the 1880s, American settlement house movement pioneers Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr were conceptualizing and developing strengths-based services at Chicago’s Hull House. This holistic approach was often critiqued throughout the 20th century. Despite these critiques, proponents of strengths-based approaches continued their work throughout the 20th century and developed a rich theoretical, empirical, and practice base. This base has included the works of social work theorist Bertha Capen Reynolds; social group work advocate Grace Coyle; psychologist and developer of the humanistic approach Carl Rogers; and the seminal work of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Today, the work of these practitioners and scholars manifests in Dennis Saleebey’s strengths perspective, Charles Rapp and Richard Goscha’s strengths model for recovery, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg’s solutionfocused therapy, and others. This chapter explores the development of strengths-based approaches in social work, psychology, couple/marriage and family therapy, and professional counseling, with a particular attention to the historical contexts, tensions, and triumphs in its ultimately successful establishment as a premier approach to working with and engaging others.