As part of APA's ongoing effort to bolster public resilience, the APA Task Force on Resilience in Response to Terrorism has developed a set of fact sheets on how psychologists can help a variety of client populations, from older adults to people of color, deal with the stress of terrorism and become more resilient.
The task force that created the sheets--made up of 15 psychologists with both clinical and scientific backgrounds--was appointed in 2002 by APA's Board of Directors. The Governance Affairs Office will send the sheets to APA members who request them, and it has posted them on the APA Web site.
"Many psychologists don't know much about resilience, so we started this task force to develop good scientific information that people could use in their practices to promote resilience," says APA President-elect Ronald F. Levant, EdD, who co-chaired the task force with former APA board member Laura Barbanel, EdD. "It's also useful for psychologists looking to do work beyond their practices, in their communities." For example, the fact sheets offer useful information that could be provided in resilience forums for community members. "Our success in helping people to overcome fear requires us to build their internal resources, like resilience," Barbanel says.
The task force's charge
To aid the task force with its mission--giving practicing psychologists concrete ways to help specific patient populations--the American Psychological Foundation provided more than $2,000 in funding, and Verizon Inc. provided a $5,000 grant for Web site development. With that help, plus some contingency funding from APA's Board of Directors, the mission was accomplished, says Levant.
"These fact sheets are a good way to help practicing psychologists improve resilience in their patients," Levant says. "They aim to help practitioners reduce the stress caused by the changed world order since Sept. 11, which has led to a state of chronic unease throughout the population. Psychologists can prepare themselves to deal with this added stress in the community with the help of these resources."
The fact sheets undertaking grew out of work done in the Task Force on Psychology's Response to Terrorism, which formed within weeks of Sept. 11, 2001. Working online and through conference calls, the fact sheets task force drew from the first group's work in producing its documents, which it turned over to task force co-chair Barbanel for editing and finalization.
Specifics for each population
The fact sheet package contains information geared toward specific populations, such as adults, children, people of color, older adults, military families, adults with serious mental illness, primary-care providers, mental health workers and first responders.
The sheets define resilience, discuss aspects of trauma exposure, and provide psychologists with population-specific tools for promoting resilience as a life skill and offering coping strategies. Psychologists are encouraged to advise adults, for example, to "take a step back to problem solve before addressing problems," "seek help from others" and "get involved in the community and help others."
Each fact sheet also gives information on common responses to terrorism and stress in each client population to help practitioners know what to expect, especially if they are called on during crises to interact with unfamiliar groups, Levant says.
For example, the sheet on working with older adults points out that they are often more resilient than other populations because coping qualities such as having a generally positive outlook, engagement with friends and family and a sense of personal mastery, have been found to develop over time as a product of life experience. However, older adults may be more vulnerable to stressors like crime and violence, which would need to be addressed in therapy.
The sheet on working with adults with serious mental illness says this population may already struggle with high levels of trauma and unstable support systems.
The sheets encourage psychologists to refer their clients to APA's public education resources on dealing with stress at the APA Help Center Web site (www.apahelpcenter.org) and the Road to Resilience campaign materials--some geared specifically for use by children--also on the APA Web site.