Academic journal article Parameters

Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel: Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Parameters

Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel: Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel: Theory and Practice

Edited by Robert R. Sinclair and Thomas W. Britt

Washington, DC; American Psychological Association, 2013

268 pages



After almost 14 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the threats arrayed around the world today, there is a great need to understand how to sustain the strength of our military. One answer has been to ensure we have a force that is more resilient. However, with over 104 different definitions of resiliency in the research literature, senior leaders and policymakers really need to ensure they understand what exactly we mean by resiliency and what it means for the readiness of the force.

This edited volume focused on building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel provides an excellent overview of the conceptual basis for resilience. The two editors, Sinclair and Britt, both experts in their own right, have brought together an impressive group of authors to guide readers through resilience as a concept, the theory that underpins it, and the practice of resiliency. To that end, the editors have effectively achieved their stated goals: They have brought together researchers in military personnel and families to highlight the different ways resiliency is defined and to provide an overview of the applied interventions that have been developed to purportedly increase resiliency in service members and their families.

One of the fundamental issues highlighted in this volume is there is no "universally accepted" or agreed upon definition of resiliency and the editors honestly acknowledge the difficulties in doing so, given that resilience is a "nebulous construct." For their purpose, the editors define resiliency as the "demonstration of positive adaptation after exposure to significant adversity." The editor's note "most," but not all of the definitions offered by other authors within the chapters of this book adopt their definition. Given the lack of consensus on what resiliency is, the editors acknowledge they are seeking to build a consensus on what contributes to positive adaptation as an integral component of resiliency. To that end they offer: realistic optimism, flexible coping strategies, and effective communication.

The authors use the Soldier Adaptation Model as a framework to posit a soldier's resilience is determined by related processes of appraisal and coping responses to potentially demanding events that influence the outcomes experienced by soldiers. This offers a critical distinction that places emphasis on the "appraisal processes" along with the nature of the "stressful circumstances" rather than on a presumed personality trait, disposition, or capacity that is possessed by the individual. The various chapters help to highlight the importance of carefully considering this distinction since how one views the problem should determine the type of practical training and intervention programs developed to address the problem.

Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on understanding resilience by reviewing research related to personality, morale and cohesion, the role of adaptation, and how leadership influences and builds resilience. These chapters provide compelling and thoughtful assessments for better understanding why when we consider resiliency, we really need to understand whether we are thinking of something we do (coping resources), something we are (a disposition or personality trait), or something that we possess (skills, experiences or beliefs that can be trained or developed by knowledgeable leaders). …

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