Psychologists’ new book focuses on mustering resiliency to cope after traumas

Norah Feeny
Norah Feeny, professor of psychology

People often assume that experiencing something horrific automatically leads to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In contrast, though, most people are actually resilient in the aftermath of trauma.  Understanding the principles that underlie such resilience is the focus of a new book.

Facilitating Resilience and Recovery Following Trauma (Guilford Publications, 2014), by psychologists Norah Feeny, of Case Western Reserve University, and Lori Zoellner, of the University of Washington, explains why some trauma survivors are resilient, yet others may suffer from mental health problems like PTSD that prevent an individual from moving from the trauma back to a normal life.

“Being resilient doesn’t have to mean a lack of a reaction to a traumatic event or stressor, instead being resilient is more an ability to bounce back or recover,” Feeny said. “The question becomes, then, why are some resilient and not others?”

“We hope the book offers an understanding of how to bolster natural resilience in the aftermath of traumatic experiences,” Feeny said.

Feeny and Zoellner, who have collaborated for more than a decade on National Institute of Mental Health-funded research on PTSD, share their scientifically backed practices with scholars, clinicians and others to help people cope with and recover from trauma.

The book explores a range of what Feeny and Zoellner call “modifiable risk factors” including, social support, beliefs and cognitions, avoidance and pain.  Additionally, several chapters offer a broad view of scientific evidence related to interventions following trauma, and several focus on special populations, including the military, children, and at risk populations.

How trauma is handled after it occurs has a very powerful impact on recovery, Feeny advised.  This volume is unique in its optimistic tone and specific focus on enhancing resilience, as opposed to pathology.