How to help young people recognise their strengths
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
What kind of mental strengths do you think might help someone when looking for a job, getting their own place, making new friends…?
Strengths profiling is an excellent way to get people to think about what they’re good at. It also helps people to think about how they could develop their skills over time. In this post, we talk a bit about a paper recently published by The SPRINT project’s Dr Sam Cooley on this topic.
So what are mental strengths?
There are many kinds of mental strength. You'll have a mixture of them that is special to you:
Strengths profiling is a positive way of thinking about the qualities we have. Completing a strengths profile involves several steps, starting with a group discussion about strengths, skills and values in different areas of life.
Young people choose which personal qualities to add to their profile. They then score each quality out of ten for how important it is, where they are at currently and where they aspire to be.
Comparing the scores helps young people to identify their greatest strengths and highlight areas they wish to further develop.
Why use strengths profiling?
You might wonder why it’s a good idea to complete a strengths profile. Well, the answer is that strengths profiling can be used as an intervention for those who would benefit from identifying and improving upon their mental strengths, because it:
· raises self-awareness
· increases your confidence
· is great for setting goals
· promotes self-reflection
As part of the evaluation of My Strengths Training for Life, we analysed young people’s strengths profiles and how these changed throughout the MST programme.
The young people identified having many strengths and made decisions about how important each one was to them.
Not only did young people improve on their strengths, but these changes were associated with greater resilience, more feelings of self-worth and improved well-being. These psychological outcomes are important indicators of a young person’s positive mental health.
Our top tips for helping young people to recognise their strengths:
1. Regularly review the strengths profile to reflect on changes and set new goals
2. Build trust and rapport with young people Doing a strengths profile is a good way to help develop a relationship with young people, by engaging them in positive conversations that focus on strengths rather than problems
3. Encourage group conversations When members of the group work together, they use their interpersonal skills to help and support each other
4. Ask young people what matters to them Help young people to reflect on the strengths most important and meaningful to them. This is a good way to help young people engage more, learn more about themselves and gain a sense of ownership for their personal development.
Interested in learning more about strengths-based tools for working with young people? You can download our new mental skills toolkit and delivery guide, explore our free resources and read the academic paper.
Cooley, S.J., Quinton, M.L., Holland, M.J.G., Parry, B.J. & Cumming, J. (2019). The Experiences of Homeless Youth When Using Strengths Profiling to Identify Their Character Strengths. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(2036), 1-16.
Megan Thompson & Bryan on Reshot