Resilience counselling - A straight forward process

Resilience is often described as the ‘ability to bounce back’ from life’s challenges and setbacks.

Ideally the bounce should leave us better and stronger than before the traumatic events, which may come from many sources such as changes at work, upsets in family or other relationships, or perhaps even from an illness.

That ability to ‘bounce’ is often dependent upon the set of emotional and physical resources that we have available to us at the time of the event. Some of us though, may not have had the time and space to build suitable resources and develop resilience before the event hits us. Others may have previously been very resilient, but have been left feeling overwhelmed. If so, some of us may need help to recover. Some of us may even need to help to build (or rebuild) the necessary resources.

A simple and structured model, using the human givens organising principles of ‘emotional needs’ and ‘emotional resources’, (for a discussion see article below ‘What are the human givens?’) is described here. The model lends itself to a straightforward pragmatic approach to recovery which leads to ongoing resilience. It is set out in the table: 

From ‘not being good enough’:

By auditing emotional needs for:

And working through peer support:

To ‘being resourceful’:

3. External domain

 - Lacking direction

 - Being stuck

 - Blaming others

 3. External domain

- Achievement

- Meaning and purpose

- Status

3. External domain

- Take action

 - Step by step

3. External domain

- Goal focused

- Solution orientated

- Responsibility

2. Internal domain

 - Impulsive emotions

 - Little self-insight

 - Feeling harassed

2. Internal domain

- Autonomy and control

- Attention

- Privacy

2. Internal domain

- Assume command

- Self-regulation

2. Internal domain

- Emotional control

- Self-aware

- Being calm

1. Core domain

- Becoming isolated

- Reacting irrationally

- Feeling unsafe

1. Core domain

- Community belonging

- Emotional connection

- Security

1. Core domain

- Build a base

- Give and receive help

1. Core domain

- Healthy relationships

- Connected

- Confident

In this model or approach, the client, with the counsellor’s support, is able to identify the factors that may be causing a sense of ‘not being good enough’. The importance of this is that ‘not feeling good enough’ might indicate a lack of client resourcefulness. It also suggests areas where there may be a deficit in the clients bounce back factor (or resilience).

The model groups these potential deficits that the client might be experiencing into three key areas on which the counselling relationship can then focus. These are the ‘domains’ and are termed either ‘core’, ‘internal’ or ‘external’, as a means to clarify which kinds of resources may need building.

Additional clarity and focus on the issues starts with a straightforward and effective audit of the clients current emotional needs (see 'Emotional needs audit' below). Whilst these needs will, and do, fluctuate from time to time (and during the course of the counselling the client will be shown how to monitor their ‘emotional pulse’), for those experiencing some form of current upset, the value is in simply knowing where to start.

By completion of the audit the client and counsellor will have established rapport, on which their relationship will be founded, in order to support the development of the client’s resourcefulness. A strong relationship foundation makes a big difference to people feeling less alone.

This supportive foundation will address all three domains in turn.

Working up from the core foundation they are:

  • Core domain - Building a safe base through which the client is able to give and receive support in building new resources.

  • Internal domain - Enabling the client in assuming command of their responses by focusing on how healthy their attitude towards life is and how they think, feel and respond to events.

  • External domain - Which then leads the client into taking positive action in the outside world.

A critical element of resilience and an essential part of resourcefulness is the availability and opportunity for each of us to be part of a supportive community. The counsellor will be encouraging the client to seek out and make those kinds of external relationships as soon as is practically possible. Some counsellors may even be using this process in a group counselling setting. Beyond group counselling, what can be even more effective are self-directed peer support groups of people who enable each other to develop through adversity. Access to such a group or other form of community will provide a well pond of resourcefulness.

Properly resourced people can be more readily be resilient.

1. What are the Human Givens?

2. Emotional needs audit:

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stevenage SG1 & London W1G
Written by Keith Abrahams, MBA, MHGDip
Stevenage SG1 & London W1G

Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in psychology. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma.

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