2 Enhancing resilience
As previously discussed, overcoming challenges appears to strengthen emotional resilience. For example, studies of black and minority ethnic social work students report that succeeding in the face of disadvantage – including discrimination and socio-economic inequalities – could be a source of optimism and resilience. Students spoke of ‘having something to strive towards […] the belief that anything is possible so you push yourself’ (Fairtlough et al., 2014, p. 613); and expressed strong determination ‘I just got to believe in myself and said well, I’m going to go for it, I’ll do it’ (Hillen, 2013, p. 19).
Researchers have become interested in the resilience shown by social workers in the face of workplace demands and other stressors (for example, Beddoe et al., 2013; Collins, 2007; 2008; Collins et al., 2010). Louise Grant and Gail Kinman, social work educators and researchers at the University of Bedford, conducted a study to explore the development of resilience as a protective factor to enhance the confidence and wellbeing of social work students.
Grant and Kinman (2014) suggest that the most resilient social workers are those who have developed a varied repertoire of coping strategies, which can be drawn on in different kinds of difficult situations. They came up with the idea of an ‘emotional resilience toolkit’ which we have adopted in this course.