What helps people cope with disaster? What aids in their recovery? What factors support capacity for individuals and communities to build positive futures ‘out of the ashes’?(Pulla, 2013).
In an era of economic rationalism and individualist political ideology, resilience has become the catchcry for the contemporary social work. The advanced capitalist system has brought seemingly endless challenges, a faster pace of life, displacement from familial structure and a globalised world where cultural boundaries have been transformed. In this globalised world the onus is on the individual to survive and to succeed. Coping and resilience have become the seminal concepts for social work in the quest for continuing work with people, groups and communities within a system that promotes personal responsibility and a reduced welfare state. Perspectives on Coping and Resilience is an inspirational text for social work as we endeavour to adapt to the challenges that contemporary life provides.
Resilience, the capacity of humans to cope with and thrive after trauma and adverse life effects (Bonnano, 2004), is an often overlooked human response that may be utilised by social workers for the further benefit of clients, groups and communities rather that the traditional biomedical focus and trauma discourse. To provide ethical service, professional service that aims for holistic care of the bio-psycho-social human, knowledge of resilience is vital. Bonnano (2004) states that resilience is often overlooked and underestimated and that people do survive damaging circumstances and situations on a daily basis so that to not incorporate resilience is detrimental at the very least but also denial of a highly effective, self determination based coping mechanism.
This text, Perspectives on Coping and Resilience, begins with an introduction to terminology and concepts and draws upon the early work of renowned authors Lazarus and Folkman (1984) whose work on stress and coping is considered pivotal in contemporary social work literature. The inclusion of stories of coping and resilience in individuals and groups as well as countries adds vibrancy to this introductory chapter and engages the reader with the link it builds between theory and practice.
From here, this text continues on to take a philosophical approach to the resilience concept. Authored by Thomas Dukes, ( reference) this chapter is a comprehensive probe into the psychological and philosophical underpinnings and explanations of adversity and the way in which people build resilience from the depths of this adversity. Perspectives on Coping and Resilience contains also work from a diverse array of authors who cover such topics as building resilience in children and adolescents, HIV and AIDS sufferers, people with disabilities, victims of intimate partner violence and people with addictions. Resilience in the organisational context is investigated as is the potential for the resilience concept to be applied to the corporate world. As a text, Perspectives on Coping and Resilience offers a comprehensive assessment of resilience as a conceptual means to working with people in an array of differing contextual environments.
A number of chapters from a variety of authors offer information about resilience in children and adolescents as well as young people with disabilities. The use of art as the therapeutic milieu is discussed for people with disabilities and as a framework for clinical practice in and of itself. The incorporation of art therapy as a framework complements the overall tone of the text in that the text itself is contemporary in nature and a step away from the traditional bio-medical focus. Although contemporary in recognition, resilience is becoming the favoured concept for not only the social work profession but in many other organisational contexts as a means to limiting the need for intervention, building instead upon the internal resources and community resources already existing and readily available. Despite an ethical commitment that denounces a focus on the fiscal over human welfare, the social work profession is impacted by overarching policy that places the most significance on economics and expects individuals, groups and communities to take responsibility for their own welfare. As a result, this text offers sage information for resilience and means to building and utilising such measures. In fact the chapter entitled What World Bank Metrics Don’t Tell Us About Per Capita GDP: How a Nation’s Resilience Affects Its Prosperity ( reference) discusses the potential for human resilience to build economic prosperity. Substantiated by empirical research and validated as such, this text is cutting edge in its contextual field.
Perhaps as a means to encompassing the diversity of the globalised world, a chapter on the resilience and coping of refugees, displaced peoples and asylum seekers, increasing in number in steady streams pouring from countries in conflict and poverty could well have been included. These people are often the very best examples of resilience and coping that one could imagine. There are of course some anecdotal case studies and narratives incorporated throughout this text which give pivotal examples but an in depth chapter would offer insight into this most contemporary issue. In a time of economic downsizing and tightened spending on immigration as well as unprecedented numbers of people seeking asylum by boat or by land it is crucial to have an understanding regarding the ways that refugees, displaced person and humanitarian entrants can build resilience so as to best facilitate the continuance of contributing factors post resettlement. For social work this may be as simple as providing access and information about places to worship upon settlement as part of the larger array of services that resettlement workers provide in that religion has been positively linked to resilience for refugee groups (Benson, Sun, Hodge and Androff, 2011).
Adaptation to life experience is a natural aspect of being human (Hill, 2013). The chapter on trauma is most especially significant in a contemporary, globalised world which increasing in population, puts an increasing strain on resources and still faces conflict in differing shapes and forms in most of its vast corners. Trauma is almost inherent to the human condition. Very few people escape the impact of some form of traumatic event or life experience. People survive trauma, sometimes extreme and horrific but always subjective and as a result, serious for some, where for others perhaps not. People overcome traumatic experience and rebuild their lives. Some people, from this traumatic experience, go on to experience personal growth and make positive changes for their life. This chapter discusses post traumatic growth, a concept gaining in popularity and which again makes perfect sense in an economic rationalist environment. With a focus on post traumatic stress and a deficits model, the trauma discourse also effectively disables people rather that empowers. Rather this chapter, looks at the potential for people to respond positively to stress and trauma and reframe the experience in a way that fosters recovery and empowers the individual for future traumas and stresses.
Again, the chapter which discusses Emotional Regulation (Warren, 2013), is justified in a contemporary economic rationalist world. Discussing the concept of emotion control and regulation places the onus of responsibility squarely in the court of the individual with regard to the way in which they will deal with life’s inevitable stressors. Steeped in Bronfenbrenners Ecological Systems theory( reference) , this chapter does of course allow for recognition of the impact of the external, that being the exosystem,. macrosystem and chronosystems but focusses mostly on the individual’s ability to and need for emotional self-regulation (reference). Of course emotional regulation is important not only from a political ideological view point. It is also most beneficial for human to be able to regulate their emotional responses. The link for coping and resilience for the purpose of this textbook is that in the ability to control one’s emotion lies the means to developing resilience that promotes positive response to adverse experiences. With emotional control comes coping.
Thus it is evident that this text is at the forefront of contemporary social work literature which has an ethical consideration to work with people in an empowering way despite an overarching neo liberalist ideology. Providing the means to enhancing the human experience and fostering self-determination and human dignity and worth, resilience allows for the utilisation of inherent human resources. Resilience can facilitate cultural competence and anti-oppressive work with people with disabilities. It can be conceptually used to work with children with alternative mediums such as art and music therapy. Resilience and coping are the future direction for social work in an economic rationalist political ideology that has scarce resources and a never ending need.
Jennifer Woods, BSW (Hons)
Charles Sturt University
1. Benson, G.O., Sun, F., Hodge, D.R. and Androff, D.K. (2011). Religious coping and acculturation stress among Hindu Bhutanese: A study of newly settled refugees in the United States. International Social Work. 55 (4), 538-553.
2. Bonnano, G. (2004). Loss, trauma and human resilience. Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist. 59(1), 20-28.
3. Hill, R. (2013). Trauma creating beneficial change. In V.Pulla, A. Shatte and S. Warren (Eds.). Perspectives on coping and resilience. www.authorspressbooks
4. Pulla, V. (2013). Countours on coping and resilience. The front story. In V.Pulla, A. Shatte and S. Warren (Eds.). Perspectives on coping and resilience. www.authorspressbooks
5. Warren, S. (2013). Revisiting emotional regulation: evidence from practice. In V.Pulla, A. Shatte and S. Warren (Eds.). Perspectives on coping and resilience. www.authorspressbooks
Pulla, V., Shatte, A. and Warren, S. (eds.)(2013)
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