The Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience
Updated: Jul 7
Our Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience was published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology in 2021.
We developed the Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience to inform our workplace training. The model draws on the academic literature about what it takes to be resilient. It provides a way of organising and understanding the skills needed to build resilience, and provides guidance on how training can be facilitated to support participants to make lasting change.
Importantly our model differs from others in the field through its basis in psychological theory and practical application to training. Here we describe some of the main features of the model.
How we think about resilience
We see resilience as a set of behaviours or characteristics that can be learned. It is also a dynamic process that develops through our exposure to adversity. For instance, the more we encounter and successfully manage trauma and adversity, the more our resilience grows.
As we develop new skills to manage the challenges we face, we feel more confident to manage future challenges. In this way resilience is more than simply coping with, or recovering from adversity. It is also about growing and developing in ways that allow us to thrive when faced with new difficulties.
What is the Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience?
As clinical psychologists, we apply a scientific approach to all that we do. Importantly, this means our model includes all the skills and strategies that have been proven to be effective in building resilience and wellbeing.
Furthermore, the Skills-based Model of Personal resilience is more than just a collection of proven skills. It offers a complete approach to training based on psychological theory, combining the key resilience skills with a process that supports participants to make lasting behaviour change.
1. The skills
A central theme running through the whole model is about building self-awareness and emotional intelligence. If we can recognise our early warning signs of stress, we can put in place a strategy to manage it.
Managing challenges in the moment
Heightened stress levels can make it difficult to focus and problem-solve as our attention is caught by the threat we feel. The Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience focuses on the skills needed to manage these feelings of threat in the moment. Learning to regulate emotions using slow rhythmic breathing, time out and mindfulness, helps us to do this. Similarly recognising and letting go of the unhelpful coping patterns that can keep stress going also help us cope more effectively.
As we calm our threat response, flexible thinking skills allow us to make more accurate appraisals of the situation. And finding more optimistic ways of perceiving difficult events can further help us manage in the moment, to bounce back and grow through the experience.
Building resilience capacity over the longer term
In addition to managing in the moment we can build a reserve of resilience over the longer term. Shifting our attention onto positive emotions and connecting with other people stimulates parasympathetic nervous system arousal. This calms the stress response and allows us to be curious, to create and innovate. In this way we can find new ways of responding to the challenges we face that can help us over the longer term.
Balancing demands, taking time to recover, prioritising self-care and engaging in the activities we love doing all help to soothe the stress response. They provide a background of resilience, building our capacity to manage future challenges. However, these activities are easy to forget when we are juggling multiple pressures and demands. At these times they don’t seem important. But research tells us they are essential for recovery and thriving over the longer term.
2. The process
Changing our behaviour is difficult. It requires us to learn and maintain new skills and strategies. It takes self-awareness, motivation and perseverance. And we may need courage to do things differently, as this can take us out of our comfort zone.
The Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience focuses on the process of supporting participants to make change. As such, it draws on established psychological models of behaviour change to inform the way training is facilitated.
Firstly, this involves helping participants to identify clear goals and link them to their personal and professional values. This helps to build motivation to make change.
Secondly, approaching learning with a growth mindset allows them to reflect and grow through set-backs and maintain perseverance.
Thirdly, helping participants to understand the internal barriers to change and triggers for set-backs helps them make lasting change.
Finally, the model provides strategies for facilitators to help participants strengthen their personal stories of resilience to maintain change over the longer term.
Resilience in the workplace
Whilst the Skills-based Model of Personal Resilience focuses on what individuals can do to improve their own resilience and wellbeing, we know that in the work context individuals can’t do this alone. They need the support and backing of their employer. As such, the context of resilience training must always be taken into account. Wellbeing is a collaboration between employer and employee. Emotional safety at work, team cohesion and the sense that your employer really does have your back are key to building robust resilience skills in the workplace.
If you would like to find out more about how we can support you to build resilience in your organisation, please get in touch.