I have just returned from the UKESAD 2012 Conference in London where I presented with Annemarie Louw to delegates on something that we are both passionate about. That is building of resilience and enhancing spiritual connection in people recovering from eating disorders and addictions.

First off, here are the three main points that we put across in our presentation (with more detail further down in the post):

1. That in the treatment of eating disorders (EDs) and Addictions, Spirituality is at least as important an ingredient of treatment as any other component of treatment.
2. That various resilience-building tools from the discipline of Positive Psychology can enhance clients’ spiritual growth, emotional stability and cognitive functioning in areas such as problem-solving/lateral thinking and open-mindedness and receptivity to new ideas.
3. That Positivity is an important ingredient of resilience-building, spiritual growth and improved emotional and cognitive functioning.

By implication we are suggesting that a systematic focus on enhancing the resilience of clients contributes to improved outcomes. What is your experience of this? Please share with us in the comment section below.

Although at Montrose Manor we help our clients thoroughly explore the darker aspects of their ED histories, we believe that remembering the past in a safe environment makes it less likely that people need to repeat it. In addition we also ensure that many aspects of our programme help clients to identify and access their strengths. We thereby work towards enhancing positivity and resilience so that clients can leave with greater hope and authentic optimism about the future.

In our UKESAD presentation we gave examples of ways of increasing positivity and resilience taken from our own work and that of Positive Psychology pioneers such as Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues (eg see her book “Positivity” 2009). It was therefore interesting to come across the article “The Role of Resilience in Recovery” by Sandra Watski Psy.D.

In this article she discusses Resilience-building as an important factor in ED recovery and illustrates this with pointers emerging from a survey she carried out on her clients. Although she uses the APA tipsheet on ways to build resilience, much of what she mentions resonates with the points made in our presentation.

As an example, she mentions the first step of Acceptance of Adversity – in this case accepting the challenge of having an ED. She discusses the importance of choosing Hope despite doubts, fears etc. She mentions how clients learn to Change their Thinking so as not to believe negative thoughts. She also confirms the centrality of Making good Connections in ED recovery and the capacity to take Action towards realistic goals.

All of the above points relate to the findings of Positive Psychology and other sources and reaffirm

(1) the importance of resilience-building in Eating Disorder recovery, and
(2) the fact that many of the elements of any good Eating Disorder programme succeed in achieving this. Such elements may be as diverse as 12 Step work, DBT and CBT-based strategies, and spiritual practices of Mindfulness meditation and practising Gratitude.

What has been your experience in recovery work? View my presentation slides below and please share in the comments below.