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Why Embodied Resilience?

Embodiment and Resilience are certainly two words floating through health and wellness communities. But what do they mean, and particularly, what do they mean when used together?

Resilience is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” It often is described as bouncing back although I’m not a fan of this description. For many, the idea of bouncing back means things return to the way they were before the adverse experience; however, in my experience, resilience requires a flexibility to change and actually means adapting to adversity in ways that make us stronger than when were previously.

Each of us possesses resilient traits. Trauma expert, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, stated, “Every trauma survivor I’ve met is resilient in his or her own way, and every one of their stories inspires awe at how people cope. Knowing how much energy the sheer act of survival requires keeps me from being surprised at the price they often pay: the absence of a loving relationship with their own bodies, minds, and souls.” Counseling and personal growth work focused on resilience allows us to establish this loving relationship in ways that make us stronger moving forward. Embodiment means we recognize what experiences feel like in our bodies.

Traditionally, counseling and psychotherapy focused solely on cognitive interventions to address adversity and promote resilience. However, as neurophysiological research demonstrated, cognitive interventions have limited capacity for impact because they only address one of the three areas identified by Dr. van der Kolk. For this reason, approaches that increase our contact with the body and soul are equally important.

Embodied Resilience means knowing and experiencing resilience in our bodies, minds, and souls allowing us to develop more compassionate and caring relationships with these parts of ourselves.


van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Penguin.

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