One of 2010’s psychology and therapy buzzwords was “resilience.” Resilience is the ability to naturally get through difficult situations with a lesser degree of psychological baggage than others. In 2011, counselors and researchers alike will continue to explore traits and experiences that foster resilience. From there, we’ll likely see these elements incorporated in training courses for veterans and first responders, counseling sessions for trauma survivors and those facing grief, and general individual therapy for those who can benefit from it. But for now, we’re still in the building block stage: gathering information on how people respond differently to difficult situations, and trying to learn from those responses. Here are overviews of two such studies published this week.
Though plenty of studies have assessed combat veterans returning home, this Michigan State University study is the first to look at soldiers who are actively fighting in combat zones. They found that soldiers who held a positive outlook and thought in “less catastrophic terms” about what they experienced fared better, psychologically, combat. These soldiers experienced less anxiety and depression both on the ground and back home. In the future, training sessions for military combat troops and civilian first responders may incorporate an emphasis on less catastrophic thinking to help their personnel deal with the trauma they experience.
It’s not just external experiences such as war that can be traumatic: an internal experience, such as battling a serious disease, can also be very difficult. A new study of breast cancer survivors who’ve undergone reconstructive surgery finds that differing personality traits mean differing quality of life after reconstruction. The surprise here? It’s not “positivity” that yields the most improvement. Those who were “apprehensive and doubtful” saw great improvement after reconstruction, presumably because it resorted their body image and reduced insecurity. Those who were “vindictive and self-centered” also had higher-than-normal quality of life after reconstruction, presumably because the surgery symbolizes completing “revenge on cancer.” In the future, these insights can be used to help determine which breast cancer patients are most (and least) at need for psychotherapy as they go through the process of treatment and/or reconstruction.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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