Resilience After Trauma

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‘Resilience After Trauma: The Emerging Science of Dose’ is open licensed from the Social Work Seminar series run by the School of Social and Political Science at The University of Edinburgh.

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Scientists now recognise that the impact of trauma is best thought of in terms of dosage, with each subsequent trauma exposure adding to the harm, in part because of the biological impacts of exposure to chronic stress. Almost everyone is exposed to traumatic events (the pandemic has made this truer than ever), but this sad reality also means that resilience is far more common than we used to believe. There is extensive untapped wisdom about resilience, a concept that is frequently misunderstood, even in the scientific literature. The concept of dosage can transform our ideas about strengths and what we need to overcome trauma, just as it has revolutionised insights into the true burden of trauma too. Resilience refers to all the things we do—and all the resources we get from others—that help us overcome trauma. These individual, family, and community strengths can also be thought of in terms of dosage, countering dosages of trauma and ameliorating harm. There is a growing evidence base showing that building your resilience portfolio (across meaning making, regulatory, and interpersonal domains) can help people counter even large trauma dosages. Easily accessible tools, such as mindfulness, exercise, volunteering, committing to a cause, “forest bathing” (spending time in natural environments), yoga, expressing gratitude, build our resilience portfolios and minimise the aftereffects of trauma. Psychologists used to treat resilient people like unicorns—remarkable and rare. Now we know they are more like squirrels—they are everywhere!


Sherry Hamby, Ph.D. is Research Professor of Psychology at the University of the South and Director of the Life Paths Research Center. She is also the founder of ResilienceCon. Dr. Hamby is an internationally recognised authority who is known for her work on trauma dosage and resilience. A clinical psychologist by training, Dr. Hamby has worked for more than 25 years on the problem of violence, including front-line crisis intervention and treatment, involvement in grassroots organisations, and research leading to the publication of more than 200 articles and books. An influential researcher, she has been ranked in the top 1% among more than 6 million researchers in 22 disciplines based on citations to her work. Her awards include Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Trauma Psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Hamby’s work has appeared in the New York TimesUSA TodayHuffington PostCBS NewsPsychology Today, and hundreds of other media outlets. Her newest book, with Victoria Banyard, is Strengths-Based Prevention: Reducing Violence & Other Public Health Problems (APA Books, 2022). Check out her TEDx talk, Trauma is Everywhere, But So Is Resilience.

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Header Image: Title screen from video