Friday, February 19, 2010

Resilience therapy empowers family violence survivors

Resilience therapy empowers family violence survivors

"Thousands of men, women and children experience family violence each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Traditionally, therapy for violence survivors has predominantly focused on evaluating their trauma and pain. In contrast, a University of Missouri researcher broadens the therapeutic focus to empower survivors through highlighting their resilience, resourcefulness, and ability to overcome adversity".

Compared to current approaches that emphasize diagnosing symptoms and mental health issues, the strengths-based approach helps identify survivors' abilities, such as perseverance and overcoming, and how those skills can be used in their present-day lives.

"What are normally regarded as negative traits in survivors of family violence might actually be their survival strengths," Anderson said. "Traits that practitioners often try to change may be extremely important to maintain and can help survivors thrive in environments where there isn't violence."
Focusing on a strengths based approach to working with people is totally congruent with contemporary understanding about how the brain and nervous system works. Such an approach is capacity building and particularly useful for midwives working with childbearing women negotiating the changes that come with being pregnant, labour and learning how to be a mother with a new baby.

There are lessons to be heeded here:

"The strengths-based approach trains social workers, mental health practitioners, educators and students to uncover the positive in survivors' life stories—the skills gained by enduring and coping with immense adversity. This facilitates a more collaborative process, where the professional and the survivor each utilize their individual expertise to develop solutions.

"Victims of family violence find it difficult to see their own strengths and self-worth because it's often colored by shame and blame," Anderson said. "Similarly, practitioners find it difficult because they tend to focus only on victims' problems. Instead, they need to cast a light on survivors' abilities to cope and overcome the adversity brought on by family violence. This reveals hope that they won't always be victims of violence and they can achieve what they want in their lives, whatever their dreams are.

Most people find it difficult to see their own strengths and self worth, both necessary attributes for living a life of happiness and wellbeing. Midwives would do well to read this book and integrate the information into their practice so that the women they work with feel better about themselves when they leave their presence than when they came. That way women will also come to believe they can achieve what they want for themselves and their children.

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