Frequently Asked Questions about Resilience Training 

What is resilience?

Resilience is defined by the American Psychological Association as: “…the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.” Popular literature suggests resilience is made up of five pillars: self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships and purpose.

A number of factors contribute to how well people adapt to adversities, predominant among them:

  • the ways in which individuals view and engage with the world
  • the availability and quality of social resources
  • specific coping strategies

Psychological research demonstrates that the resources and skills associated with more positive adaptation (i.e., greater resilience) can be cultivated and practiced. 

What is emotional resilience?

In a recent Psychology Today article, the author shared the belief that:

 “Emotional resilience is an art of living that is entwined with self-belief, self-compassion, and enhanced cognition. It is the way through which we empower ourselves to perceive adversities as ‘temporary’ and keep evolving through the pain and sufferings.

In a broad way, emotional resilience means bouncing back from a stressful encounter and not letting it affect our internal motivation. It is not a “bend but don’t break” trait, rather resilience is accepting the fact that ‘I am broken’ and continuing to grow with the broken pieces together.

When we are resilient, we not only adapt ourselves to stress and disappointments, we also grow the insight to avoid actions that might lead us to face such situations.”

What is individual resilience ?

Per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): “Individual resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that promote personal wellbeing and mental health. It refers to a person’s ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity.”

The U.S. Army’s Resilience Training Initiative- FAQs:

Is resilience training used in the U.S. Army?

Yes, resilience training has been taught within the U.S. Army since 2009.

What is military resilience training?

The U.S. Army provides resiliency training “in order to give soldiers the best possible chance at survival and success before, after, and during their service.” This training is part of the Army’s strategy for strengthening individual and unit personal readiness and fostering a culture of trust.

Why is tactical resilience training important?

Tactical resilience training is important because it proactively provides the learner with the methods and skills necessary for coping with adversity, adapting to change, and overcoming challenges. Through training, the participant is provided an opportunity to integrate skills and behaviors related to improving physical, emotional, and behavioral toughness into their own coping framework. For individuals engaged in high stress, fluid and often life-threatening occupations, having a strong self-awareness of how to effectively react to, engage and recover from frequent, high stress events can support long-term mental health. 

Why is resilience training important?

Resilience training has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and perceptions of well-being. In a recent study prepared for the American Heart Association, the authors suggest “…resilience training programs seek to enhance resilience in individuals or groups. In the context of workplace health, they may improve their ability to cope with, and recover from negative workplace stressors.”  Another author suggests ”…resilience training in the workplace typically aims to prevent feelings of burnout and lapsed motivation…” For the military, resiliency training was developed specifically in the interest of fostering a proactive approach to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

What is master resilience training?

The U.S. Army sponsors a Master Resilience Training (MRT) training course. Master Resilience Training is a 10-day program of study that teaches resilience skills to noncommissioned officers, early career commissioned officers and warrant officers. This course has been offered in the United States Army since 2009. MRT is an aspect of the United States Army’s broader Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. 

What are the critical components of Master Resilience Training?

The U.S. Army’s MRT has seven modules, framed under three core components:

  • Preparation
    • Resilience (Two and a half days)
    • Building Mental Toughness (Two and a half days)
    • Identifying Character Strengths (One day)
    • Strengthening Relationships (One day)
    • Concluding Preparation Module (Half a day)
  • Sustainment Module (One day)
  • Enhancement Module (One day)

The training components were developed as a joint undertaking between the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania (which developed the preparation component), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (which developed the sustainment component) and the United States Military Academy at West Point (which developed the enhancement component).

What are character strengths in master resilience training?

The U.S. Army defines character as a “collection of your personal qualities”. Per the U.S. Army’s Army Ready and Resilient website, there are six competencies taught in the Master Resilience Training Course (MRTC): Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Optimism, Mental Agility, Strengths of Character and Connection – that are shown to be critical characteristics of a resilient individual.

What studies did the U.S. Army do of master resilience training?

The U.S. Army participated in/supported several studies related to resilience training. These include:

Resilience training for U.S. Law Enforcement FAQs:

How successful is law enforcement resilience training?

Evaluating the success (or effectiveness) of law enforcement resilience training is still in its infancy. Authors of a 2019 article in Frontiers in Psychology examined the efficacy of several types of resilience training and shared the belief that in the short term, training does provide significant improvement in participant’s self-perception of resilience, but fade in the long-term. In another article the authors evaluated law enforcement officer participation in a resiliency training program. Per the results of their evaluation, the authors believed: “The data suggest that training in resilience building and self-regulation skills could significantly benefit police organizations by improving judgment and decision making and decreasing the frequency of on-the-job driving accidents and the use of excessive force in high-stress situations.”

What police departments are doing resilience training programs?

There is currently no comprehensive database of U.S. police departments that are offering or have offered resilience training programs.

Resilience Training (non-military/law enforcement) FAQs:

What is resilience training?

Resilience training is defined as “a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity” despite experiences of significant adversity. Per the Mayo Clinic: “Resilience training focuses on four areas, including emotional, cognitive and mental, physical, and spiritual resilience. Training in these areas can improve your resiliency, enhance your quality of life, and decrease your stress and anxiety by teaching you to view life’s inevitable challenges as opportunities.”

What is personal resilience training?

Resilience develops as individuals learn better strategies to manage stress and life’s challenges. Building resilience involves tapping into personal strengths and the support of family, colleagues, and friends. Authors of a recent study evaluating the effectiveness of resiliency training share the belief that the most effective programs include learning that “… targets five protective factors identified from empirical evidence: Positive emotions, cognitive flexibility, social support, life meaning, and active coping.”

What is emotional resilience training?

Emotional resilience can be developed through a facilitated process of understanding:

  • Self – how you currently react to stress and how becoming more self-aware provides the necessary capacity for reflection and rational response to stress.
  • Those attributes that support a more resilient mindset. These include:
    • persistence, 
    • engaging your emotions in an open and honest manner and 
    • the capacity for being completely present, actively aware of your emotions, and how these emotions influence/impact your mindset when it comes to adapting to change. 
    • The value of proactively building strong relationships to provide the necessary external positive support during periods of stress.

What is resilience training intended for?

The purpose of resiliency training is to provide the learner with the skills and resources necessary to sustain a positive mindset or positive attitude. Per the Mayo Clinic you can develop resilience by learning to train your attention on more-positive aspects of your life. You use purposeful, trained attention to decrease negative thoughts in your mind and bring greater focus on the most meaningful aspect of an experience.

What is resilience training for kids?

Per the American Psychological Organization, resilience training for children supports a child’s ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress. Children with strong resilience are able to recognize, engage, adapt and respond to stressors in a manner that supports and sustains their mental and emotional health through the experience. As shared in a recent online article from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child “…learning to cope with manageable threats is critical for the development of resilience. Not all stress is harmful. There are numerous opportunities in every child’s life to experience manageable stress—and with the help of supportive adults, this “positive stress” can be growth-promoting.”

Why provide resilience training?

As shared in an article published in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology: “More resilient people are able to ‘roll with the punches’ and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor. In addition, research shows that those who deal with minor stresses more easily also can manage major crises with greater ease.” From a healthcare perspective, a recent article suggests “…some existing data point to the potential value of strategies to increase emotional resources for individuals’ functional health and capacity to manage stress.”

Who can give resilience training?

Depending on the target audience, there are a wide range of commercial learning providers that offer train-the-trainer certifications. Most commercial vendors offer training targeted to specific job families (e.g., healthcare, law enforcement, social workers, etc.). Currently there is no standard criteria for who can facilitate resiliency training. For the U.S. Army there are specific requirements for attending the Master Resilience Training Course (MRTC). 

How to develop resilience training?

Per a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, the authors suggest the following four attributes should be considered when developing a resilience training program:

  • Successful resilience training in the workplace requires the use of a comprehensive theoretically based model of both the skills needed for improved resilience and also the way the training is delivered.
  • Trainers who themselves use resilience skills, such as emotion regulation and pro-social behaviors, to create trust and safety for participants are more likely to engage and motivate participants to make lasting changes.
  • Linking participants’ motivation to change, values and goals to resilience outcomes enhances engagement and the lasting impact of resilience training.
  • Offering opportunities to reflect on successes and challenges during the development of new resilience skills strengthens the skills and builds confidence to continue to use them in the future.

How well does resilience training work for people with borderline personality disorder?

An online video hosted by Dr. Karen Jacob provides a summary of resilience-centered interventions on the treatment of patients with borderline personality disorders (BPD). She walks through how integrating resilience into BPD therapy helps people “get unstuck.” Resiliency- centered activities support the patient’s own capacity for change, help challenge the rigid assumptions around hopelessness , inability to change and loss of control. Resilience therapy guides the patient through a greater self-awareness of understanding “changing what can change, accepting what is.”   

How will resilience training benefit your organization?

Several recent studies have suggested there are benefits to offering resilience training to employees:

  • A 2018 meta-analysis of resilience training programs suggests: “Resilience interventions based on a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy-based interventions and mindfulness techniques appear to have a positive impact on individual resilience.”
  • In the healthcare community, a 2017 article suggested that resilience training for nurses showed “statistically significant, clinically meaningful decreases in anxiety, stress, and burnout and increases in resilience, happiness, and mindfulness.”
  • In a 2015 article, the authors share their insights that: “Findings indicated that resilience training can improve personal resilience and is a useful means of developing mental health and subjective well-being in employees. We also found that resilience training has a number of wider benefits that include enhanced psychosocial functioning and improved performance.”

The author

Mike Beckmann is an experienced workforce development strategist with human capital executive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. He has a Ph.D. in Human Development from Virginia Tech and is an active executive and career coach.

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ACT is an internationally recognized coaching, leadership development and consulting company known for its commitment to leadership and performance coaching, valuing its long term partnerships with Brown University, the intelligence communities and its loyal and devoted diverse community.