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The PERMA (Well-being) Model

The PERMA Model, developed by Professor Martin Seligman, is a model of happiness and flourishing which identifies five key components to achieving overall psychological well-being and happiness. These five elements are considered essential for all people to promote well-being and achieve fulfilment. At Studio 3, this model is applied to the Atlass training programme as the basis for our positive psychology approach to supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities (IDs).


Understanding and applying the PERMA model is one of the central elements of the Atlass training course. The key below describes each of the five elements identified by Seligman in the PERMA model, as well as indicating how this model can be employed towards helping individuals who require psychological support. Working to strengthen overall psychological wellbeing has been proven to reduce stress, increase coping, and prevent behaviours of concern from becoming more challenging by pre-emptively stopping them in their tracks.

How does the Atlass  programme utilise this framework of positive psychology in their training?

The PERMA model is an important part of our philosophy at Studio 3 because we believe in the power of positive psychology when supporting individuals with additional needs. Physical interventions training can only go so far. When supporting vulnerable people, their overall well-being and happiness should be an important factor, as people are less likely to engage in behaviours of concern or 'meltdown' when they are in a happy and stress-free environtment. Whilst most support systems tend to focus on reacting to behaviours which are considered ‘challenging’, our philosophy regards these behaviours not as concerns, but as signs of distress which can be pro-actively prevented by anticipating their causes.


At Studio 3 we know the power overall well-being  has over a person’s mental and physical health. We believe that by cultivating well-being – psychological, physical, emotional, social and environmental – rather than focusing on negative incidents, we can support individuals in a positive way which seeks not only to prevent behaviours of concern, but also to increase overall happiness and quality of life.


Here is what some of our participants have said about the PERMA model: 

"It is simple, so easy for front line staff to apply in their work and it fits with a person-centred philosophy" 

"I think there are great strengths in applying the model to an organisational culture."

The PERMA Model diagram


Positive Emotion. Seligman’s model of happiness proposes that focusing on positive emotion by recognising achievements, recording happy moments, and generally being positive and optimistic about the future is a key factor in an individual’s overall happiness.


Engagement. Everyone needs to feel fulfillment by engaging in activities which are of interest to them. Nurturing our interests by engaging in activities such as music, sport and hobbies can help us to achieve a sense of ‘flow’ – contented immersion in an activity. For people in supported living, engaging in immersive activities is especially important as it can help to reduce stress and promote happiness.


Relationships. As human beings, we thrive off of our relationships with other people, and for people with ASD’s, this can be a particularly challenging area of life. Seligman’s model proposes that nurturing healthy and strong relationships with those around us is a significant contributing factor towards our overall happiness.


Meaning. Having meaning and purpose in our daily lives is crucial for cultivating happiness and well-being. Focusing on creating meaning can have positive implications both for service users and their supporters, helping individuals to become more motivated and fulfilled in their work and their lives.


Achievement/Accomplishment. Achievement has been shown to produce a positive response in our psychological well-being, and this is no less true for individuals who may have some difficulty in accomplishing their goals. By nurturing environments in which supported individuals are able to achieve small daily goals and broader life goals, we can push these individuals to thrive and flourish, bringing meaning to their lives and boosting self-esteem.

Book cover of Flourish by Martin Seligman

Read more about Martin Seligman's theory of happiness and well-being in his book Flourish, or here

Back of Andrew McDonnell's head, blurred faces in the background


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