We tend to use the words “hopeful” and “optimistic” interchangeably. But they’re actually quite different. Hope is a sense that things can be made better through action, while optimism is a more ephemeral belief that everything will be OK. 

desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment
  1. to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true
  2. to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment
an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome

Another way to think of it: Optimism is a positive thought pattern. Hope involves setting goals and following through on them. A 2004 study2 concluded that, “hope focuses more directly on expectations about the personal attainment of specific goals, whereas optimism focuses more broadly on the expected quality of future outcomes in general.”


Why are we parsing words? Because while both hope and optimism can benefit our lives, research has shown that hope is a more potent force and better for our health and well-being. Hopeful individuals are also more likely to find success at work3 and have higher academic achievement4. As Arthur C. Brooks wrote in the Atlantic5, optimists tend to imagine a better future but can then be disappointed when it doesn’t pan out, while hope “involves personal agency” and allows for one to envision that progress “without distorting reality.”

Hope makes people act.

Parents of children with complex mental health issues and emotional and behavioral problems experience turmoil within their family units. They—you—deal with pain, sadness, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. In all of this, you need to be able to find hope—a conviction that a new reality is possible and that you can take concrete steps to bring that reality to fruition. 

That’s what we believe at Equinox: There is hope, and families do heal. But you have to do the work to make it happen.

Randall, Sr. and Kimberly (their last names have been withheld to protect privacy) had given up. After years of trying to find an effective treatment option for their son, Randall, Jr. (RJ), they were referred to Equinox. The 17-year-old was dealing with severe emotional dysregulation and peer conflict, among other concerns, and had already gone through multiple out-of-home placements, including two residential treatment programs. “We were at a place where we thought for sure he was going to end up homeless and on the streets, and we wouldn't be able to do anything else,” Kimberly says. They’d reached a point of hopelessness. 

Through Equinox’s daily programming and comprehensive interventions for RJ and parent coaching for Randall, Sr. and Kimberly, RJ was eventually able to finish high school with a welding certification and start looking for a part-time job.

“We've discovered how to really love [our kids] again, as well as help them, and it's exciting,” Kimberly says. “Equinox is a place that that gives you hope, that empowers you to help your kids.”

helping hands-1

Another client, the mother of a 14-year-old daughter, told us, “The hope that Equinox offers is real, effective, and life-changing. It is worth the commitment and sacrifice it requires.”

  1. “Imagine a better future, and detail what makes it so.”
    Try this: Think about what you want for your child and your family. What specific improvements would you like to see? What would you like family dinner to look like each night? How would an interaction between your kid and a friend go in your imagined future?
  2. “Envision yourself taking action.”
    Try this: This is the step where optimism transitions into hope. What steps can you take to make #1 a reality? Write them down. Requesting a consultation at Equinox could be one of them. Engaging more in parent coaching is another idea.
  3. “Act.”

Taking action is the only way to facilitate change—which is possible. Really, it is.  We’re here if you need help.


1 Definitions are from Merriam-Webster online

2 Fred B. Bryant and Jamie A. Cvengros (2004) “Distinguishing Hope and Optimism: Two Sides of a Coin, or Two Separate Coins?” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/27da/6337a4f234d58ad63c7cf92e969bcb29fac0.pdf

3 Rebecca J. Reichard, James B. Avey, Shane Lopez & Maren Dollwet (2013) “Having the will and finding the way: A review and meta-analysis of hope at work,” The Journal of Positive Psychology, tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2013.800903

4 Liz Day, Katie Hanson, John Maltby, Carmel Proctor, Alex Wood (2010) “Hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement,” Journal of Research in Personality, sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S009265661000067X

5 “The Difference Between Hope and Optimism, Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, September 23, 2021, theatlantic.com/family/archive/2021/09/hope-optimism-happiness/620164