Courses in the MAPP program explore positive experiences and well-being at individual, social, and institutional
levels. Key areas of focus include positive emotions, enjoyable and meaningful activities,
supportive relationships, meaning in life, accomplishments, and physical wellness.
Students learn about research and applied practices within each of these areas.
Students will learn from a didactic and experiential perspective, applying their course
knowledge to help participants in the Health Support and A Happier You programs incorporate positive psychology approaches into their daily lives.
The Master of Applied Positive Psychology online program curriculum includes a strong
emphasis on motivational interviewing—a person-centered, evidence-based style of communication
that guides people toward making positive changes consistent with their personal values.
At its core, motivational interviewing encompasses a positive view of human nature
directly aligned with the tenets of positive psychology: namely, that everyone comes
to the table of change with everything they already need within them to grow in positive,
The motivational interviewing spirit includes viewing people as experts in themselves
and partners in the change process, rather than as passive recipients. Motivational
interviewing is also a skill set in which the interviewer emphasizes affirmation,
empathy, character strengths, past successes, empowerment and hope.
A Happier You
A Happier You® is a 7-week virtual interactive group program in happiness that teaches participants
evidence-based skills to increase positive thoughts, feelings, and actions in their
lives. Rooted in positive psychology, it introduces ways to integrate personal strengths,
accomplishments, gratitude, kindness, love, positivity catching, and meaning into
As part of their practicum experience, MAPP students become participant-observers
in a full Happier You session during the first term, receive intensive facilitator
training in the second term, and co-facilitate a full session in the third term. Recently,
MAPP has partnered with Community Behavioral Health to offer Happier You to their staff. At the conclusion of the practicum, students
will take the Happier You certification exam. Upon passing the exam, they can offer
the program independently after graduation.
Mindfulness is the practice of connecting more fully to the present moment, and doing so with
a spirit of curiosity and compassion. MAPP students take a "Mindfulness, Positive
Emotions, and Well-Being" course that offers an experiential introduction to mindfulness,
along with exposure to research supporting its effects on well-being. Students learn
how to guide others in key mindfulness exercises, such as body scans and mindfulness
of breathing. They build on this foundational skill by leading mindfulness practices
in the Happier You program. The course is currently taught by Dr. Steven Hickman, one of the founding members of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and a global leader
in mindful self-compassion training.
MAPP Program Capstone Project
During the Spring term of the program, each student will complete a capstone project
consisting of the development, implementation, and evaluation of a positive psychology
intervention at a systems, group, or individual level.
What Our Students Say
“I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about positive psychology interventions (PPIs)
and the research supporting their effectiveness. Self-compassion is one of my favorite
concepts; as I continue my education, I am excited to use what I have learned from
the MAPP program as I get creative, create, and develop PPIs of my own!”
“The program enabled me to have a family, work and life balance—and pursue a master's
degree that helped me change careers. It also provided the opportunity to gain a solid
knowledge base and the skills to pursue a doctoral-level degree.”
“The well-rounded and well-crafted curriculum is applicable to many academic and career
paths. This program has led to significant growth within myself and how I both see
and interact with the world around me.”
This introductory course introduces the basic themes central to the study and application
of positive psychology, including the nature of well-being, happiness, peak performance,
personality characteristics, positive health, creativity, and spirituality. Students
will be introduced to key research in the field, models of flourishing, and specific
applications at individual, family, community, and organizational levels.
Motivational Interviewing and Health Behavior Change
With its person-centered style and humanistic roots, Motivational Interviewing is
a natural complement to positive psychology applications. In this introductory course,
students will learn the spirit, method, and research around MI that makes it a powerful
conversational approach to enhance readiness for positive change. The course will
focus in particular on applications to healthy lifestyle motivation, including the
areas of diet and exercise. Taught by a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network
of Trainers, this is a skill-centered course that will give students experiential
exercises to learn core MI skills and the necessary attitudinal stance.
Biopsychosocial Basis of Health and Wellness
What are the mind-body connections which contribute to physical, social, and emotional
health and happiness? This course answers that question by examining key correlates
of holistic well-being. This includes understanding preventive health, the body’s
stress response, psychoneuroimmunology, neurotransmission, pain and pleasure experiences,
wellness during the pandemic, longevity, disease management, cardiac health, physical
activity, nutrition, biofeedback processes, and meditation.
Practicum I in the Health Support Program and A Happier You
Students will have two structured programmatic opportunities to experience applied
positive psychology virtual interventions in community settings: 1) by observing and
participating in A Happier You session, which is a 7-week multi-component positive
psychology group program, and 2) observing and participating in the Health Support
Program, a community-based motivational interviewing intervention focused on healthy
lifestyles and stress management.
Research Methods and Evaluation in Positive Psychology
This course will introduce students to a wide range of qualitative and quantitative
approaches to the study of well-being at the intraindividual and interindividual levels.
Students will gain familiarity with basic statistical and assessment concepts. These
include reliability, validity, factor analysis, ANOVA, and regression. Concepts will
be presented through the lens of specific studies conducted in positive psychology,
which serve as models of sound psychometric and methodological design.
Mindfulness, Positive Emotions, and Well-Being
Mindfulness practice has a growing empirical connection to well-being and has often
been incorporated into positive psychology interventions. This course will introduce
students to the foundation and practice of mindfulness, as well as its connection
to positive physical, social, and emotional states and overall life satisfaction.
Students will learn how to guide a variety of core mindfulness practices, including
mindfulness of breath, body scans, and compassion practices. Additionally, the neurobiological
basis of positive emotional experience, central to positive psychology and well-being
models (e.g., Broaden-and-Build), will be explored.
Positive Psychology Approaches Across the Lifespan
This course explores how people grow and develop over time in healthy ways. It covers
stage models of development, positive youth development, thriving in early and middle
adulthood, and successful aging. Particular attention is paid to cultural differences
in healthy development as well as practices that nurture resilience across the lifespan.
Emphasis is placed on existential and values-based applications in positive psychology.
Practicum II in the Health Support Program and A Happier You
During this term, students continue to develop their group psychoeducation and facilitation
skills in A Happier You, transitioning from the role of participant to facilitator—while
also demonstrating mastery over the content. They also become more active in applying
motivational interviewing skills in the Health Support Program, co-facilitating these
Building Positive Institutions and Systems
This course focuses on the culturally informed application of positive psychological
approaches within organizations and systems, including schools, businesses, and healthcare.
Positive leadership models will be examined, along with practical ways of creating
optimal workplace cultures, fostering positive engagement and performance, enhancing
decision-making and communication, and designing transformative collaborations. The
interconnection of advocacy, altruism, and positive psychology will be discussed as
The Intersection of CBT and Positive Psychology
Cognitive-behavioral models of change, although traditionally focused on correcting
maladaptive thinking-feeling-doing patterns, can also serve as an effective framework
for understanding how positive psychology applications lead to sustainable well-being.
The relationship between positive and negative life experiences will be explored,
along with the role of acceptance-based approaches. While students are not expected
to become CBT clinicians after this course, they will be able to more accurately identify
core mechanisms of adaptive, maladaptive, and optimal functioning that can help in
designing effective positive psychology interventions.
Capstone Project: Positive Psychology and Healthcare
Students will use their knowledge and skills gained in the program to design a culturally
informed positive psychology intervention with an outcomes assessment, present its
research base, and a plan to implement it in some form in the community. Some aspect
of the project must address the biopsychosocial basis of well-being.
Practicum III in the Health Support Program and A Happier You
In this final practicum term, students are expected to demonstrate greater autonomy
and mastery in group psychoeducation and facilitation, proficient use of motivational
interviewing as indicated through an MI rating scale, and the application of basic
stress management approaches that include guided mindfulness exercises. They will
also have an opportunity to take the certification exam for A Happier You, which has
knowledge-based and skills-based observation components.