Therapists Spill: How To Strengthen Your Resilience
Resilience is “one of the most important elements of our lives,” said clinical psychologist John Duffy, Ph.D. Some people are naturally more resilient than others. But anyone can learn to strengthen their ability to bounce back from rough times.
We asked clinicians to share their suggestions for cultivating this skill, along with what resilience is really all about.
What Is Resilience, Really?
Resilience is the “knowledge that we can handle challenges, difficulties and hardships in our lives,” according to Duffy, also author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.
Clinical psychologist Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D, defined resilience as the ability to bounce back after something knocks you down. “Resilient people are those that can duck and dodge the curveballs and get back up and going when life knocks them down.”
Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist, cited the Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” “Being resilient is about weathering the stressful storm and finding your ground again,” she said.
Joyce Marter, LCPC, a therapist and owner of the counseling practice Urban Balance, described resilience as the “strength to continue on the path which you know to be true, despite obstacles and challenges.”
Clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, cited resilience researcher Galen Buckwalter’s definition: “resilience determines how quickly we get back to our ‘steady state’ after the air has been knocked out of us, when we must push through life circumstances that challenge our very being.”
Howes also likened resilience to playing the guitar. Many potential guitarists stop playing after their first lesson because their fingertips hurt. But others persevere. “[P]eople who are really interested in guitar push through this initial discomfort and realize after a week or two that the strings don’t hurt anymore because their fingertips have grown tougher.”