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Personal Resiliency

What is resiliency?

Fraser, Kirby, and Smokowski (2004) Describes three types of resiliency:

  1. Overcoming the odds: attainment of positive outcomes despite high risk status
  2. Sustained Competence under stress: ability to cope despite ongoing difficult circumstances
  3. Recovery from Trauma: those who function well after highly stressful event

Adapted from Social Work Practice with Families: A resiliency based Approach

Several related concepts help in understanding resiliency: Risk Factors, Vulnerability Factors, and Protective Factors.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include those aspects of life that increase the likelihood of negative outcome. Risk factors are dynamic in that they change overtime and can be influenced by many life events. A careful assessment of risk factors is necessary to select appropriate intervention strategies.

  • Previous Trauma
  • Nature and Intensity of the Event
  • Length of Exposure
  • History of Mental Health Issues: Suicidal Ideation/Behavior, Depression, Anxiety, Addictions, Previous
  • Trauma History
  • Lack of Social Support Network
  • Pronounced Introversion
  • Negativity and Pessimism
  • Low Income/unemployment
  • Retrospective experiencing of poor parenting as a child
  • Low academic Achievement
  • Young Age
  • Low self esteem
  • Reactivation of Past Events: evidence of unresolved conflicts

Vulnerability factors include those factors that some people with risk factors are more likely than others to develop a negative outcome. A vulnerability factor is a characteristic of an individual that makes that person more susceptible to a particular threat to development. They can take many forms involving the biological, psychological, developmental and social aspects of the person and no one is immune.

Protective Factors

Protective Factors include those aspects of life that buffer the negative impact of risk factors. Protective factors can be internal to the person (e.g,. self efficacy, intelligence) part of a supportive family context (e.g., loving parents, close personal relationships) or the larger social context that is supportive (e.g., a supportive supervisor, job opportunities).

  • Relationships – sociability / ability to be a friend / ability to form positive relationships
  • Service – Gives of self in service to others or a cause
  • Life Skills – Uses life skills, including good decision making, assertiveness, and impulse control
  • Humor – has a good sense of humor
  • Inner Direction – Bases Choices / decisions on internal evaluation (internal locus of control)
  • Perceptiveness – Insightful understanding of people and situations
  • Independence – “adaptive” distancing from unhealthy people and situations/autonomy
  • Positive View of Personal Future – Expects a positive future (optimism)
  • Flexibility – Can adjust to change; can bend a necessary to positively cope with situations
  • Love of Learning – Capacity for and connection to learning
  • Self—Motivation – Internal Initiative, inner motivation
  • Competence – Is “good at something” personal competence
  • Self Worth – Feelings of self—worth and self confidence
  • Spirituality – Personal Faith in something greater
  • Perseverance – Keeps on despite difficulty; doesn’t give up
  • Creativity – Expresses self through artistic behavior

Which of these risk and protective factors can you recognize in your own life history, current situation, and personality?

How did these factors interact with the traumatic event you experienced?

What are some of your typical self care and coping strategies (both negative and positive) when you are in distress mode?

What are some of your typical self care and coping strategies (both negative and positive) when you are in survival mode (they may not differ)?

What has sustained you over time?

What self care strategies do you wish you were using more regularly?