Resilience can be learned. It is a journey, not a single event or point in time. No two roads to resilience are alike.

Those messages are the tenets of the APA Practice Directorate's "Road to Resilience" campaign, now being actively promoted by APA Members in communities across the country.

"The resilience outreach campaign offers a whole range of activities for any psychologist to participate in, from displaying the brochures in their offices, to pitching story ideas to the media, to hosting forums," says APA Executive Director for Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD. "It can be tailored to whatever the psychologist has time for."

The resilience effort is the latest component of APA's ongoing public education campaign "Talk to Someone Who Can Help," which seeks to educate the public about the value of psychology. APA developed the campaign's resilience phase after a series of post-Sept. 11 focus groups found that people yearn for guidance on how to cope with life's uncertainties.

Though the idea was sparked by the terrorist attacks, "this campaign is not just about helping people through those types of traumatic events," says Newman. "It's about the hardships that define all of our lives, anytime that people are struggling with an event in their communities, such as the sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area."

Tools for outreach

Members are guided in their outreach by a free tool kit offered by APA's Practice Directorate. The kit includes:

  • Information on the purpose of the campaign, resources and further reading references.

  • A sample of the brochure on resilience that psychologists can disseminate to the public. The brochure defines resilience, describes 10 ways to build resilience and offers places to look for help.

  • Tips on how to get started on public outreach, including advice on ways to talk to the media.

  • Information on how to give a presentation on resilience and a forum discussion guide.

  • A video of "Aftermath: The Road to Resilience," the documentary about resilience produced by APA and the Discovery Health Channel. The video offers two versions of the documentary--one 44 minutes long, the other 20 minutes--as well as a 23-second public service announcement.

A malleable message

Psychologists who've participated in the campaign say the resilience theme is well-received by the public because it can be customized to any audience.

"The beauty of the resilience message is that people understand it and it fits a multitude of populations, from elderly people looking for ways to cope with loneliness during the holidays to special needs populations to parents who want to raise resilient children," says practitioner Nancy Molitor, PhD, of the Illinois Psychological Association.

Molitor recently hosted two resilience forums for journalists attending the Oct. 12 meeting of the Chicago Headline Club. "They came to us looking for guidance on how to cope with work stress," says Molitor. "With the demands of 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week writing and editing and the stress of covering so much bad news these days, even the veteran journalists are having post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms."

Christine Tatum, technology reporter for the Chicago Tribune, said she left the workshop with a more hopeful outlook on her work life. "The message of resilience is one that should be in every journalist's toolbox," she said. "Journalists are asked to do superhuman things at times, from meeting extremely tight deadlines, to having to be 100 percent accurate and working long hours. We walked away from the session with some hopeful messages, including that it's okay to admit that you're not perfect and that you can say no."

Other APA Members used the resilience materials for the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Practitioner Teresa Parr, PhD, of Parent Coaching Consultants, in Mechanicsville, Pa., spoke at a Sept. 7 resilience workshop to help prepare parents for questions their children might ask that week. "We talked to parents about what words to use when talking about the terrorist attacks and how to deal with fears they may have," Parr says.

Mark Skrade, PsyD, secretary of the Missouri Psychological Association and president of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, used the "Road to Resilience" materials in a Sept. 11 anniversary event at the institute. Skrade said that while attendees wanted to "remember and honor," they were also "grateful for the reminder that we need to move forward."

Skrade, who said students and psychological trainees will be involved in future resilience presentations, sees great value in the campaign. "Until this campaign was introduced, I believe even I was stuck in a rut," he explains. "I think I was leading myself to believe that I had not experienced the trauma of 9/11 in particular....I had lost sight of "resilience," of moving forward, of the positive in a horrible situation. The campaign and the concepts it portrayed gently nudged and reminded me of resilience, of the ability to overcome."

To receive the free "Aftermath: The Road to Resilience" kit, call 877-274-8787, ext. 135.