How to help a child victim of abuse find within himself/herself the necessary resources to overcome his/her trauma? This is what assisted resilience is about.
Francesca Giordano is a doctor of developmental psychology and a member of the Research Unit on Resilience in the Catholic University of Milan. As part of BICE program which aims at fighting against abuse, she has been participating in the assisted resilience project with child victims of abuse in Lithuania. In an interview, she goes back to the principles of this method.
Francesca, could you explain us what the assisted resilience method consists in?
Resilience is a process whereby the child faces difficulties by drawing on his/her own resources which can be internal resources (self-confidence, ability to resolve a situation, to socialise…) or external ones (family ties, socio-economic context…).
Resilience can develop naturally, but it can also be fostered by professionals working with children (teachers, psychologists, social workers…). Through their actions, these professionals will be able to promote, develop, and support the child’s resilience: they are called tutors of resilience.
To this end, they will have to identify among all the factors that interact within the resilience process, those which, according to a typology of trauma and a given context, are particularly effective (protection factors) or, on the contrary, those which are particularly harmful (risk factors). Then, they will seek to develop or address these key factors more specifically. This is what we call assisted resilience.
How do we isolate those key factors?
It is a real scientific work that requires to conduct both quantitative and qualitative studies. We rely on several clinical scales to measure the weight of the various factors (sociodemographic scale, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, post-traumatic stress disorder rating scale…) as well as on the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) which is a questionnaire that is internationally used to assess the level of resilience.
Of course, each child is unique, but this method enables one to identify the common essential protection factors.
For example, in Lithuania, we have noted that the perception that the child victims of abuse have of their efficiency (ability to start over and move forward) is a central resource in the resilience process. With this type of trauma, the children often develop feelings of guilt and shame which prevent them from confiding in someone. Then, their internal ability to cope is a true strength that should be sought and fostered.
Do your tools enable one to determine when a child has become resilient?
I do not like the adjective resilient: we are not resilient. Resilience is a process that never ends. It is a life-long dynamic work that can be more or less difficult to develop at some stages of one’s life. That is the reason why I find this concept very useful for any professional working with children who are growing, by definition. The therapist does not seek to heal the child but to enable him/her to reinforce, enhance and stimulate his/her own typology of resources which are known to be essential. The child is actor and he/she fixes and builds himself/herself his/her life course.