Strength Based Psychotherapy
There is a paradigm shift happening in the field of psychology; a change from a focus on deficits to an emphasis on resilience and strengths. In recent years researchers have looked at the traits associated with individuals who have not only overcome obstacles but have thrived when faced with them. We have come to understand that resilience is comprised of a set of behaviors that can be learned and developed in anyone.
“The truth is we can all feel weighed down by life’s challenges. Let us raise the roof with resilience and push beyond the limitations that can press down on us.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Working as a clinical psychologist, EMDR Therapist and trauma specialist, many hours are spent listening to stories of pain, abuse, and loss. Early in my career I felt the stress and burnout that accompanies this work. Experiencing compassion fatigue radically changed my approach to work from trauma-focused psychotherapy to resilience-informed treatment. Incorporating positive psychology increases my overall happiness and clients benefit as well. This approach focuses on strengths and capabilities rather than deficits and psychopathology. You can learn more by watching Dr. Martin Seligman’s Ted Talk discussing the factors associated with leading happy, meaningful, and fulfilling lives.
When it comes to treating trauma, applying the science of positive psychology allows us to broaden our perspective. We recognize that traumatic experiences can be horrifically, terrifyingly painful and we acknowledge the human capacity to be resilient in the face of traumatic events, to be strengthened by adversity, and to be transformed by the process. This process is referred to as post traumatic growth with accompanying life changes including :
- Committing to doing what makes you happy
- Prioritizing positive relationships and reducing isolation
- Focusing on activities that provide a sense of purpose
Raising the Roof
I believe resilience is an extraordinary topic. I have been presenting and writing on resilience for some time. Recently, I watched another great Ted Talk by Jane McGonicgal; a game designer who suffered from a concussion and consequently was bed ridden and suicidal for nearly a year. She decided to make a game out of her recovery and created a forum for others to play online. She shares scientifically validated strategies to enhance four types of resilience: physical, mental, emotional, and social.
I got pretty jazzed after watching her talk. So, I decided to raise the roof on resilience. I decided to make a list of all of the activities that I engage in throughout my week that strengthen my resilience. Rather than finding 3, or 5, or 10 activities I had more than 20 items after the first day. Here is what the Urban Dictionary has to say about raising the roof:
- A dance move pushing both hands into the air towards the ceiling (no doubt that increases resilience)
- The roof represents the limitations that loom over us all. “Raise the roof” represents working together to increase our mutual potential rather than focusing on competition or a “one up-one down” approach to life. (Yes!)
Here is my personal list of self-care resilience practices. I encourage you to share yours in the comments below. When we work together to increase our mutual potential we all win.
My Top 40 Resilience Practices
- Yoga, Yoga, Yoga
- Get outside
- Spend a day in my pajamas
- Snuggle with my family
- Call my family and friends who live far away
- Offer meaningful work in the world that provides me with a sense of purpose
- Music—all sorts for different moods. Listening, playing, singing, performing.
- Drink tea
- Slow down
- Surf Facebook
- Get creative (make jewelry has been one recent creative habit)
- Receive a massage
- Eat chocolate
- Watch a Ted Talk
- Dance (in my living room or out on the dancefloor)
- Take a bath
- Enjoy a meal with friends
- Take healthy risks
- Date night
- Go to the gym
- Attend and support live theater and music
- Play Words with Friends (especially with my mom) and other online games
- Watch a movie
- Read a book
- Teach and share my passions with others
- Host a party
- Girls night out
- Collaborate with others on exciting projects
- Take photographs
- Sleep in
- Get up early and be productive
- Surf the web for inspiration
- Game night
- Read with my kids under blankets
- Stare at snowflakes
- Meditate on how amazing life is
- Act silly
- Feel compassion for myself when I make mistakes
- Embrace contradictions
Read more some of my favorite resilience practices:
- Yoga as a therapeutic process
- Connecting to wilderness as resilience practice
- Resilience and Post traumatic Growth
Want a mind-body approach to healing PTSD?
The Complex PTSD Workbook, now available on Amazon! Click here to check it out and increase your toolbox for healing. Whether you are a client or a therapist this book will offer a guided approach to trauma recovery.
About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole. She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.