eNewsletter - September 2017

Behavioral Health Partners


Building Resiliency in Adolescence:  What is the Key? 
Marcie J. Smith LCPC, NCC

Why it is that one person may face a trauma in their lives and have difficulty handling it in an effective way and another person may face the same trauma but handle it very differently? 

Resiliency, or how we deal with these “hard times”, can vary from individual to individual. Therefore, it is difficult to accurately define the concept of resilience as it is multifaceted but, we can look at it more broadly.  

We know that what works for one person in a stressful situation may not work for another.  Still, developing resiliency is a personal journey that has common threads.

Today’s adolescents are faced with numerous challenges. Having the ability to be “connected” 24 hours per day 7 days a week has both benefits and risks. The ability to respond to social media instantly and be informed of local and national news instantly can lead to stress and anxiety but, at the same time, can create a sense of human connection. 

This connection is fine as long as it is seen for as for what it is, an online group of acquaintances.  While some of these acquaintances may be or turn into in-person friendships, it should be considered that how an individual creates friends, particularly in adolescence, is important to the concept of resiliency. A friendship is based upon mutual respect and is someone to turn to in time of crisis. This should considered when an adolescents use social media.

Adolescents face stressful situations in their everyday lives from the variety of settings and situations they encounter. These situations may include learning how to navigate difficult situations involving friends, acquaintances, school, work, family, drugs, alcohol, emotional abuse, and homelessness.

Why do some individuals flourish in these situations but others do not? 

The research shows that one common characteristic of an individual learning resiliency is the presence of a trusting relationship in their lives. This trusting relationship can be with anyone who is willing to accept them for not being perfect, but still hold them accountable for their actions. This is a relationship built upon realistic expectations. 

This relationship may be with a parent, family member, teacher, mentor; anyone willing to form a consistent, trusting relationship with the adolescent.  This learning process can build and shape the adolescent’s confidence, competence and coping skills. They can learn through this relationship that it is ok to fail at things. They can turn to these tools during “hard times.” These tools may consist of lessons they learned from their failures, coping skills, and the ability to turn towards others to ask for help.

Adolescent’s, and people in general, are more likely to feel stress when they feel like they have no control over what is going on, no way to predict what is coming, how bad it will be and how long it is going to last. Sometimes during a traumatic stressful event, individuals many know some of this information but other times they will not. 

Learning to accept what you have control over helps the process of moving forward when things appear to be out of control. Being able to look at a situation and take responsibility for what you can and cannot do helps an individual to move forward. Learning and honing good coping skills in adolescence such as relaxation techniques, help adolescents from becoming overly reactive to situations that are non-life threatening.  These are tools you can learn from relationships. It helps to build confidence and competence to face adversities and challenges.

Developing resiliency during adolescence not only helps with choices and how an adolescent reacts at that point in their lives but it also teaches them skills and the ability to handle things as they reach adulthood. Studies have shown that resiliency can help protect individuals from depression and anxiety along with a variety of medical issues as they age such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease throughout their lifetime1,2

Resiliency is vitally important to build in adolescence. Learning how to effectively adapt, manage, and persevere during difficult times is essential throughout life. Recently, the American Psychological Association put out an article on tips for building resiliency.  This is good information on enhancing adolescent coping skills.  

It is important to remember that resiliency can be learned over time but having a trusting relationship in adolescence can make all the difference in building skills to help the adolescent to learn how to not only succeed but that it is ok to fail.


Works Consulted

  1. How to build resiliency. (2017, May 18). Retrieved August 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311. 


Marcie J. Smith LCPC, NCC

Marcie is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor. Over the last 20+ years Marcie has worked in a variety of mental health and school settings. She holds a Professional Educator License as a School Counselor. Currently, Marcie works for Linden Oaks as a School Liaison where she coordinates student return to school after hospitalization. She is also in private practice in St. Charles.