Why you should use a strengths based approach to build resilience
In community and individual care, two methodologies of identification and treatment of issues prevail over all others: the strengths based approach and deficit or problem based approach. Most community and health care programs focus on the problem based approach. By looking at ‘what is wrong’, traditional change focused programs tend to expend their energy exploring past issues, labelling problems (and therefore limiting solutions) and ignoring the potential that can arise from adversity. Treating children and adolescents with deficit-based thinking can not only stifle positive progression, it has actually been shown to increase negative outcomes. By focusing on a strengths-based model we can create more sustainable change by helping client’s identify their own strengths and build resilience from the inside out.Our community projects have real outcomes.
What is a problem-based approach?
Zero-tolerance bullying programs and youth crime intervention programs such as ‘scared straight’ where at risk adolescents are taken to prisons are classic examples of problem based approaches to dealing with issues.These programs typically identify that the individual has a ‘problem’, and it is the responsibility of the system and other individuals to ensure that the child is ‘fixed’.
In traditional problem-based practice the patient or client’s role is often seen as no more than a vehicle for a disease or disorder.Their own personal characteristics or individual decisions and desires are rarely considered, except where these support the diagnosis of the healthcare professional (Badenoch, 2006). Research by Hook and Andrews (2005) suggests that those seeking support contribute as much to their own successful outcome as either the practitioner or their technique. By focusing solely on problems and treating individuals as passive subjects, healthcare professionals discount the major impact that individuals can have on their own positive outcomes if they are guided in the right direction.
Core principles of the strengths-based model
1. Our resilience program fosters the belief that every person has the potential to use their uniquely gained strengths and capabilities in a positive way and that they will not be defined or limited by their past actions or circumstances.
2. The focus of our energy and thoughts becomes our reality. By focusing on strengths, possibilities, uniqueness and resilience we will ensure our paths are not derailed by the inevitable challenges life throws at us. We learn not to avoid challenges, but to embrace them, this fosters hope and optimism.
3. Sustainable long term change occurs in environments where authentic relationships are cultivated. People need to know that they are supported by someone that cares. This process of facilitating and supporting change isn’t about ‘fixing’ problems, it becomes about identifying and working to increase your capacity to overcome them.
Strengths-based programs naturally build resilience
We believe it’s not what you do — but rather, how you will be. Our strengths based approach does not focus on deficits but focuses on children’s capabilities. The starting point is always “what’s right with people” and external resources are added when required in ways that complement people’s strengths and goals. Strength-based programs are a collaborative process between all parties involved, and they must be able to work together and support each other to identify strengths and assets and work towards shared goals. Working together and fostering strong, supportive relationships allows individuals to be co-producers of services and support rather than solely consumers of those services (Morgan and Ziglio, 2007).
Our resilience programs build on the skills and strengths that are accessible to both you as an Educator and the children in your care. By synthesizing aspects of neuroscience, positive psychology, social development theory, social learning theory and attachment theory we have developed a sustainable and interactive program that allows children and adolescents to not only play a part in their own treatment, but to guide it using their own strengths and uniqueness. By doing this we not only increase their ability to cope with current challenges and stress, but help them to identify and respond positively to future adversity. This is true resilience.
Bogenschneider& Olson, 1998