Resiliency is seen as one’s ability to adaptively cope with stressful events. Individuals who have survived childhood traumas learn how to cope in various ways. Some engage in dissociative behaviors to protect themselves from emotional distress during childhood. Other children rely on different strategies to survive. But when these children reach adulthood, the once adaptive coping methods can become maladaptive in the absence of ongoing abuse. The resilient behaviors of childhood can become pathological, and, conversely, pathological behaviors exhibited during traumatic times may evolve and develop into resilient techniques that allow survivors to function in a healthy way. It is this “braiding” of behaviors that was of interest to Nicola R. Brown of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada. She theorized that clinicians could better serve trauma survivors, specifically those struggling with posttraumatic stress (PTSD), if they could disentangle maladaptive coping strategies and those that promoted resiliency by listening to client narratives more closely.
Brown led a study examining the resiliency of 20 individuals with symptoms of PTSD. After hearing their narratives, Brown found that their stories indeed supported previous research that suggests resiliency is multi-dimensional. Specifically, Brown discovered that many of the participants had developed resiliency as a result of maladaptive coping strategies used in childhood, while others exhibited traces of childhood resiliency that were intertwined with maladaptive techniques employed in adulthood. Brown stated that therapists who treat clients with PTSD do not always see the resilience in the maladaptive behaviors or see the maladaptive behaviors within the resilience. Listening thoroughly to a client’s narrative will give the clinician the opportunity to identify client strengths that may be hidden within pathology. Once recognized, the clinician can help the client maximize these strengths to build better, more adaptive behaviors. Brown said, “Finally, as with the braiding phenomenon, client strengths can be wrapped with pathology.” She added, “We must respectfully balance our attention to both if we are to make the most significant therapeutic gains possible.”
Brown, N. R., Kallivayalil, D., Mendelsohn, M., Harvey, M. R. Working the Double Edge: Unbraiding Pathology and Resiliency in the Narratives of Early-Recovery Trauma Survivors. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy 4.1 (2012): 102-11. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.