Resilience Coaching and Counseling: 29 Helpful Tools and Techniques

Resilience coaching and counseling

It’s a demanding world out there.

Adversity in health, family, work–or any area of your life–could be right around the corner.

Resilience is known as the mental processes and behaviors that people use to protect themselves from the harmful effects of stressors.

It’s the ability to adapt and flex to the obstacles that life continuously presents.

Adversity and stress are a part of real life, but how we respond is our responsibility. We can succumb to the stress and wallow in it (apathy), or we can rise to the occasion to explore ways to bounce back (growth).

We can see resilience like planning for an oncoming storm that helps to diffuse the power of the storm itself. Some people are naturally resilient. Others may need to build resilience skills to better weather the storm. 

Read along to learn more about resilience and how you can serve others in prepping for the storm.

What is Resilience Coaching and Counseling?

Resilience coaching and counseling have the same focus – building someone’s personal assets. To build skills in resilience, praise in the process of growth (Kamins & Dweck, 1999) must be abundant. By helping a client or patient focus on what has worked well for them in the past, a baseline for their resilience skills can be established.

In a therapeutic setting, the benefits of counseling include building resilience that will likely draw from discussing past experiences in terms of perseverance. By helping a patient focus on the process that they previously used to overcome adversity, you can help them better understand the skills that already exist within them. This type of focus builds confidence and readiness for the inevitable adversities that they will likely face in their lifetime.

Some patients in a therapeutic setting may have higher risk factors like anxiety, depression, negative affect, perceived stress, and PTSD (Lee, J.H., et al., 2013). A deeper understanding of individual, family, and social factors and their integration with protective factors in resilience is vital to healing. Counselors have to be very aware of their process for keeping their patients safe from re-experiencing a trauma.

In a coaching setting, the same approach to a growth mindset is crucial. Clients will be encouraged to notice what has worked for them in the past. Then if the coaching conversation allows, a client can plan for ways to utilize their personal assets in a plan for building their resilience.

A coach’s responsibility is to hold the container for which the client will explore their existing resilience skills. By asking open-ended questions, the coach can allow their client to personally explore areas they may not have viewed in the past as beneficial skills. A coach can also illuminate options for which the client will then decide to build resilience.

Coaches who are certified in resilience training have a broad perspective on skill-building—knowing the “how” of resilience is a much needed and in-demand skill set. Whether in corporate, individual, or group settings, knowledge of resilience skill-building is abundantly needed.

 

12 Tools for Fostering Resilience in Your Clients

fostering resilienceThere are protective factors necessary for building resilience (Masten et al. 1990).

For each one of the following factors, two tools are listed that can be used to foster resilience in your clients. Finding subjective growth in connection to these protective factors is highly recommended.

  • life satisfaction
  • optimism
  • positive affect
  • self-efficacy
  • self-esteem
  • social support

All of the factors that are necessary for building resilience should have a foundation in cognitive practices that allow for self-awareness and self-acceptance to flourish. Self-awareness takes intentional work and practice. Through mindful and deliberate practices, this development allows for more growth to continue.

 

Life Satisfaction

Gratitude invading every area of your life with heartfelt authenticity will help you move toward a more satisfying view of your life. Studies have shown that including a gratitude practice in your life can improve wellbeing (Nelson, 2009). With any positive emotion, it must be with the lightest touch that one embraces gratitude. Make your practice less routine, but be more aware of its presence in your life. Cultivate that attitude of gratitude.

The next time you grab a piece of fruit, bring to mind all of the people involved in bringing that fruit to your home. As you become aware of the number of people that it takes for that fruit to be savored in your space, send out grateful wishes to those people. The farmers, the pickers, the boxers, the drivers… the chain is enormous. When you become more aware of the intertwined work of others, gratitude arises.

Another way to increase life satisfaction is by finding meaning and purpose. By continually offering a compassionate view of growth and learning where we can be of service to the greater good in the community around us, our life satisfaction increases. Volunteerism is a great place to explore purpose. Find an opportunity in your area.

 

Optimism

Developing a realistic, optimistic explanatory style is a skill that anyone can grow to foster increased resilience. Having flexibility in how we explain outcomes is a skill that can be built with intention. Attributing failure less to personal ability and more to personal effort tends to move people in the direction of action rather than self-defeating and depressive explanations.

A tool to help improve the presence of a realistic, optimistic explanatory style is reframing. Most people can quickly identify what they don’t want. To use a common struggle, let’s use weight loss. A pessimistic explanatory style would be phrases like, “I’m fat,” or “I need to lose weight.” Reframing into a realistic optimistic explanatory would be into phrases like, “I am cultivating healthy habits,” or “I am taking action toward building a healthy lifestyle.”

Practice self-compassion regularly. Compassion fatigue has an impact on levels of stress among service providers, reducing their overall wellbeing. Self-kindness, an understanding of shared humanity, and improvement in mindfulness can counter the effects of compassion fatigue.

An exercise that can serve you in real-time is the ‘say it to a friend’ test (Neff, 2020). Once you are in tune with your inner monologue, you will notice what you say to yourself. If what you’re saying to yourself would never be uttered to a friend, it does not pass the friend test and then should be tossed aside. The first person to hear your voice is you; make sure it speaks kindness.

 

Positive Affect

Many people are struggling with improving their positive affect or their propensity to feel positive emotions. Our negativity bias is strong (Vaish, 2008), but human beings can shift perspective to focus on cultivating opportunities for positive emotions mindfully. Though human experience is exceptionally subjective, improving opportunities for increased positivity is universal. Anyone can do it.

A simple tool to activate positive emotion is the Duchenne smile pencil test. It is hypothesized that the induction of a Duchenne smile (Soussignan, R., 2002) can trigger a positive afferent response. Take a pencil and place it in the back teeth. This facilitates a Duchenne (authentic smile), triggering the experience of the positive emotion felt when smiling. Give it a try with a friend, and you’ll probably end up laughing.

Finding a positivity mentor is an impactful tool. Find someone who consistently exhibits positivity. Ask them how they continually focus on what’s good. Learn from their example and start to mindfully shift your perspective toward subjective experiences of the following: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love (Fredrickson, 2010).

 

Self-efficacy

How one attributes success is an important area to explore when attempting to illuminate self-efficacy. When we attribute growth to personal effort instead of globally attributing it to character, efficacy is allowed to flourish. Research shows that positive and negative affect influences a person’s expectations, estimates of successes, self-evaluation, and goal setting (Wright, & Mischel, 1982).

A tool to help re-establish attributional focus is a mastery memory exercise. Think back to a skill that you have mastered. List every step that had to be developed to achieve that mastery. None of us waved a magic wand and could suddenly read the words on a page. There were incremental steps to that mastery. Every skill that is mastered has a series of steps that build upon each other.

Allow yourself to attribute success to the consistent effort required for mastery, and celebrate how effective you were in building those successes.

Stacking successful habits is another tool that one can use to build self-efficacy. Start with a goal. Then think backward from that goal to the most simple habit you could adopt that would move you toward that goal. Make that simple habit consistent over a period of time. Then, once that simple change is well established, stack a new habit on top of the first. Consciously track the consistent change over time.

 

Self-esteem

When one can subjectively and cognitively emphasize what is personally valued about themselves, esteem grows. To appraise one’s value (Leary, M.R. & Baumeister R.F., 2000) requires a clear personal lens. Though we will have to interact and intertwine our value with other human beings, our value need not be disrupted by those interactions.

Getting crystal clear on a personal set of values is a first step in building self-esteem. Knowing one’s core values and stepping into living those values daily gives a foundation for their “sociometer” (Leary, M.R., & Baumeister, R.F., 2000). To know what you value about yourself, then makes interacting with others easier. It allows you to lead yourself in any interaction already holding in high esteem your value.

Another great way to build self-esteem is to find a new area of growth and master a new skill. Practicing mindful speaking, for instance, is a great skill to develop to build self-esteem.

Anxiety tends to interfere with social interaction, disrupting our ability to hear the other person in any conversation. By increasing our ability to listen to others actively, we can then improve our mindful speech. Practicing with every person we meet gives us ample opportunities to grow the skill, making conversations more fun.

 

Social Support

Boosting your friendships is one way to increase your resilience. Don’t be concerned about being the most popular person on the block. Enrich and nurture close friendships to improve social support. Find more science on positive relationships here.

Get involved. There are many people in need of help in your community. Whether it is through volunteerism, schools, or places of worship, getting involved in supporting others helps everyone. People who are involved in altruistic endeavors live longer and have better health (Schwartz et al., 2008).

 

5 Techniques for Your Sessions

The following are the areas where techniques for resilience can be grown in a wide variety of ways:

  • Mental/ Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Spiritual

When these areas of a person’s life area nurtured and thriving, resilience can be built for whatever oncoming storm they may be facing. Holding space for a person to develop in each of these areas is a colorful tapestry of possibilities.

Included here is a mere sampling of available techniques.

 

1. Mental/ Intellectual

It is recommended that everyone working with others should know the ABCs of CBT. You don’t have to be a practitioner in CBT to utilize the helpful concepts offered by this technique. A helpful article filled with techniques and worksheets in CBT can be found here.

 

2. Emotional

Helping clients become more self-aware of their emotional triggers, and subsequent reactions is an important technique to use in building resilience. Exploring these triggers with an investigative lens instead of a judgmental lens helps learn how to foster change. You can find more information on why self-awareness matters on our blog.

 

3. Physical

Respecting our physical bodies is a struggle for many. Much of the self-abuse of our physical body develops out of the pain of our emotional self. However, overall wellbeing requires that we take care of the vessel we live in.

With so many options for improving physical wellbeing, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. People don’t have to adopt a “go big or go home” type of approach to changes in physical wellbeing. Small shifts in habits can grow into lifestyles, with consistency, over time. Autonomy in the decision to begin the process of changes in physical wellbeing is vital in realistically creating that change.

Helping a client brainstorm a small change that they want to make in their daily life, can help foster a course correction toward improved physical health.

 

4. Social

An impactful technique for helping a client improve their social wellbeing is by teaching ways to practice compassion. Our wellbeing is interdependent with others. It’s easy to get out of touch with the compassion circuits in our brains. To activate it, have a patient focus on a relationship where they feel compassion easily, like with a pet or a child. Have them then try to shift into having that same outlook for others that may challenge them.

 

5. Spiritual

Finding meaning and purpose can be elusive. There are plentiful avenues to explore in bringing this type of wellbeing to the surface. Connecting with a power greater than ourselves is an impactful integration of our environment and the self. Helping a client find a place to explore the connection is a technique to try. Art, nature, dance, literature, and many other areas offer healthy spaces to explore this connectedness.

 

A Look at 4 Courses and Certification Opportunities

The Flourishing Center’s Bounce Back Better Program is the world’s first comprehensive resilience skills training program. It is a specialized self-study program that stacks evidence-based skills to build resilience.

Modules in mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual skills are stacked to build participants up to self-mastery and real-time resilient capabilities. The training allows participants to become more effective and adaptable in this ever-changing and stressful world.

Each of the modules may be taken as standalone, or they can work consecutively. This allows each individual to build personal resilience in their unique way. The skills build on top of one another through the aptly named levels: Scholar, Ninja, Maven, and Jedi.

‘CAPPsters,’ or graduates of The Flourishing Center’s Certification in Applied Positive Psychology, are offered the opportunity to become certified resilience trainers. These innovators are taking resilience skills into their communities to help others become more adaptable. It is a one-of-a-kind program that provides The Flourishing Center’s change agents with the tools they need to serve others.

Another course to certify trainers is offered at the National Wellness Institute. The course provided is to certify trainers in resilience and thriving. Their model focuses on six areas of wellness: occupational, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical. The program focuses on building the awareness of participants to their choices in change. Evidence-based tools are used in helping participants to thrive.

Military families are some of the most resilient families that exist on the planet. Some struggle with being an active duty military family due to traumatic events that sometimes develop out of the circumstances attached to the military. The FOCUS project offers training in resilience and goal setting to struggling families of active duty military members.

The Global Resilience and Inner Transformation (GRIT) Institute offers trainers a certification in stress resilience. The course was developed by Dr. Amit Snood of the Mayo Clinic and gives individuals training in the SMART model for stress management. The training is highly scalable and adaptable for corporate settings.

Additional great resources on mental toughness and resilience training are available on our blog, as well as resilience training for groups.

 

PositivePsychology.com Resources

The Realizing Resilience Coaching Masterclass is a complete, 6-module resilience training template for practitioners containing all the materials you need to help your clients become more resilient and mentally tough.

In addition, our positive psychology toolkit is filled with helpful resources that build resilience. Through growth in mental/intellectual, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual areas, a foundation in resilience is forged.

The application of resilience is fluid and crosses all facets of life. The attached tools are particularly linked with resilience, but all of the tools in this toolkit can assist in cultivating resilience.

The resilience plan tool helps people to recognize the resilience skills that already exist within by giving them a framework (The 4 S’s) to bring out what specifically works for them.

 

Mental/ Intellectual

Coping can be seen as a balance of control. The adaptive and non-adaptive coping thoughts tool helps develop awareness around adaptive and non-adaptive coping thoughts.

 

Emotional

The feeling wheel is a helpful tool in building the skill of emotion identification in self and others.

 

Physical

Initiating physical activity can be a hard sell for someone wanting change. The initiating physical activity tool helps people get movement started from a place of intellectual freedom.

 

Social

A tool to get in touch with values and use it to build resilience can be found here.

 

Spiritual

Having trouble finding meaning? The moments of meaning tool helps you draw from resources in your life to find meaning.

 

A Take-Home Message

Positive psychology isn’t all rainbows and happy faces. Real-life comes with real-life struggles. Storms will come to disrupt our wellbeing because it is an inevitable part of life, though we all dream of a life that runs without complication. How we bounce back from the storm is the measure of true resilience.

Whether it is stress, grief, trauma, or any other storm that arrives to knock us down, each of us can build a foundation strong enough to weather it. Building emotional, psychological, physical, social, and spiritual capital is just as necessary as growing our bank accounts.

How we adapt will ultimately be how we survive.

Thanks for reading!

 

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About the Author

Kelly Miller is a graduate of the Flourishing Center’s CAPP program and published author of Jane's Worry Elephant. She is currently the owner of A Brighter Purpose, LLC, a provider in positive psychology coaching services. When she isn’t gleefully helping humans move toward flourishing, she enjoys National Park hikes and spending quality time with her adventurous family.

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