Resilience Informed Therapy

Naturally, I have always had a very strength-based approach to therapy. At the beginning of my career, I worked with highly traumatized individuals, and intuitively I learned that it is so important to build a safe and strong foundation – not only within the therapeutic alliance but also within my clients.

The word resilience or resiliency is said a lot in various fields, including the educational and psychology fields. It is known as the ability to “bounce back” or get through challenging times. However, most people have a very outdated understanding of what resiliency really is. Most of us think of it as just “doing what we needed to do to get by” or the opposite of “being weak” or the belief that it is just someone who does not complain so much and just “gets through the hard times, pushes through. Some may think in terms of inner resources or outside supports. However, resiliency in psychology is starting to be talked about and understood more deeply. What really is resiliency? How do we develop resiliency consciously and mindfully rather than in a state of crisis? I believe that it is important to develop a more real and authentic relationship with what resiliency is and start to move away from a “survival of the fittest” mentality, which is not resiliency, it is survival. Resiliency is something we build over time. It comes in handy in times of survival, yes, but it takes time.

In one of my past jobs working at a high-needs low-income school in Silicon Valley, Bay Area, CA, my title was the “Resiliency Counselor” where I counseled for both a Middle School and an Elementary School. I worked for a nonprofit at the time that talked of resiliency and my colleagues were even trying to put together a certification about this for therapists to become certified in. I started to learn and research more about resiliency and do justice to my new title!

I started to see the many facets of resiliency — like a kaleidoscope!

That is just it! Resiliency is a kaleidoscope. I also learned that we are not born with resiliency as babies. However, we are born with the capacity to build it. 

I realized that this was what I was always doing with my clients for day one, especially at the beginning of therapy. It’s like building a strong tree trunk for growth to blossom. And, truly, growth cannot happen in a safe way otherwise.

Here are some aspects of resiliency and how to build resiliency in a healthy way:

  • Play
  • Creating
  • Curiosity
  • Being a learner
  • Perspective
  • Cultivating compassion
  • Empowerment
  • Focusing on “bright spots” or highlights
  • Positive self-perception
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Humor
  • Telling empowering stories
  • Acceptance
  • Understanding emotions
  • Purposefulness
  • Knowing yourself
  • Trust
  • Celebrate and appreciate
  • Perseverance
  • Riding the waves of change
  • Courage

These are just a few stars in the sky of Resiliency and there are so many more. Instead of using the older language of “I did what I needed to do to get by” we say “I was very perseverant” for example. I noticed that wow, there are so many areas of resiliency and that it is actually very common for many individuals to feel strong in one area, but still be subject to repeating traumas, cycles, or other challenges because their challenge is presenting them with a whole new area of resiliency that they have not yet discovered and nurtured. We are moving away from these more limiting ideas that we have of resiliency and moving toward a more focused and clearer picture of what resiliency truly is and how we build it over time.

Resiliency can also be having a support network, friends, or care team, etc., while it can also be about being your own source of strength and support, too! There are common themes of resiliency I have learned, however, times when it feels unique to everyone.

Let’s face it. Therapy can sometimes seem invasive. Trusting a stranger with your intimate world. It is so personal and because of the nature of therapy and the delicate process of healing nurtured in therapy, I think less is more. I know that if I help my clients develop resiliency in life, this is something they will always have with them. Like working from the ground up. It’s like building a strong foundation to the house, so when a storm comes… the house is not destroyed.

I find as a therapist and person that human beings are thirsty for a relationship with themselves and resiliency. I think the only way to truly evolve, grow, and heal is through developing, strengthening, and nurturing our resiliency.