There is power in revisiting the underlying foundational principles of our past and looking at how they can inform our present and future functioning. This chapter looks back at the historic foundational principles of rehabilitation psychology (RP) and shows the links to current research on the psychology of well-being and explores implications for providing meaningful interventions that could improve the lives of persons with disability and chronic illness. It reviews how positive psychology (PP) approaches have been used for people with disabilities (PWD), presents an overview of the development and structure of well-being therapy (WBT), including a literature review, and then demonstrates how it could be applied to people with spinal cord injury (SCI). The chapter concludes with a discussion of the broader implications for utilizing these approaches more widely in RP as well as a cautionary note.
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The chapter explores the history from the middle ages to the present day, noting the trials and tribulations of a population that continues to remain poorly understood and misperceived by the general public. Conditions for people with psychiatric disabilities did not fare much better in the American colonies. Similar to the circumstances during the Middle Ages, care for this population was the family’s responsibility if they had a family to care for them. Moral treatments began to decline in the second half of the 19th century in favor of somatic therapies and behavioral control techniques. Although psychiatrists initially scoffed at the notion that the quality of the care they provided in mental hospitals was subpar, research was conducted in the treatment of mental illness that brought about improvements. Physicians continued to develop and work toward improvement of somatic treatments for psychiatric disabilities in the early part of the 20th century.