Strength Based Therapy: What is it and why do we need it?

submitted by Dydia Burnside, LCSW Assistant Director of Therapy Services

A few years ago I read a news article about a college student who was in a coma after being the sole survivor of a small plane accident in which his father died. Several years before this accident both father and student were involved in another small plane accident where the student’s mother and two sisters died. After reading the article I wondered how this young man was going to survive such a trauma. I wondered how he managed after the first trauma and how he was going to cope now.

Part of a Strength Based approach to therapy is using a person’s past struggles to empower them to effectively cope with current stressors. During the therapeutic process both client and therapist will work in reviewing what has helped the client in the past, why it worked, and how those same skills can be used in the present situation. Another side to a strength based approach is looking at the positive in the situation and focusing on those aspects instead of solely focusing on the negative.

This approach can be used in any situation. From a child who is struggling with school work (strength is the child’s attempts) to an adult who has suffered a trauma (strength is the survival characteristics). We all have strength in us, sometimes we just need a little help to identify it and use it effectively.

Heroism … is endurance for one moment more.” George Kennan