In developing the Resilience Equation, I sought to create a model of resilience that would have both theoretical credibility, and practical applicability within the field of psychosocial risk-management.

I’d been exploring the dynamics of resilience, particularly how individuals navigate through critical incidents, and I came to understand resilience not simply as a single trait, but as a dynamic balance between two vital components: resistance and recovery.

Resistance speaks to our ability to stay strong in the face of adversity, drawing on our inner resources to weather the storm. Recovery, on the other hand, is about the journey of healing and growth that follows, where we learn, adapt, and emerge even stronger than before. It’s a concept I’m passionate about because it captures the complexity of our human experience and offers a roadmap for not just surviving, but thriving, in the face of change.

The Cambridge dictionary states that resilience is:

the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened (1).

Further, it states that resilience is also:

the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape, after being bent, stretched, or pressed.

Interestingly, it seems that in common views of resilience, both definitions are often found conflated, drawing a false (yet popular) comparison between the intricacy of human experience and objects that have no sentience such as rubber bands, or springs, etc. Whilst such an idea may seem relevant, it is nonetheless misleading, as it is quite literally impossible to return to your previous state following a critical incident, or indeed any other significant change in life.

We simply have to integrate the new normal, and cannot return to our old world, and its old schemas.

The Resilience Equation
The Resilience Equation (McCallum, 2024)

Definition: The Resilience Equation is resistance + recovery = resilience. It is predicated on the principles of preventionintervention, and intravention.

Within the framework of the Resilience Equation, it’s considered that resilience is the ability to successfully endure adversity. It is also suggested that a person’s resilience is therefore dependent upon both their ability to withstand and recover from adversity. In essence, resilience is the sum-total of its component parts.

Logic naturally dictates that if one has not effectively recovered from a trauma, then one’s ability to resist and recover from further trauma will naturally be reduced, posing a greater risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and potentially complex PTSD for the individual (2).

Let us further explore the Resilience Equation and define further its constituent parts.

Prevention – Supporting Resistance

DefinitionPrevention is care undertaken to support resistance.

Definition: Resistance is the ability to withstand adversity; a component of resilience.

From a psychosocial risk perspective, prevention is largely within the scope of organisations. For example, prevention may be achieved through measures taken to minimise psychosocial risk within the work environment, but also may be the provision of educative support, such as mental health training and development.

Intervention – Supporting Recovery

Definition: Intervention is care undertaken to support recovery.

Definition: Recovery is the ability to overcome adversity; a component of resilience.

Intervention lies within the scope of any organisation that exposes their people to psychological hazards. For example, this may include the provision of effective employee assistance such as a CRISIS Response following a critical incident within the workplace.

Intravention – Supporting Resistance, Recovery, and Resilience

Definition: Intravention is self-care undertaken to support resistance, recovery, and (therefore) resilience.

Definition: Resilience is the ability to successfully endure adversity; a combination of resistance and recovery.

Intravention is a bi-dimensional self-care concept inclusive of a person’s own conscious and unconscious activities undertaken to create resistance to and achieve recovery from psychological adversity. For example, Intravention may be illustrated through a conscious decision to engage in developmental activities such as Coaching and Mentoring, or it may relate to a person’s unconscious drive for the dynamic integration of experience following a critical incident. In short, intravention does place an empowering responsibility upon individuals to undertake self-care to support their own resistance and recoveries.

Understanding both conscious and unconscious intraventions can help individuals take a holistic approach to resilience-building, addressing both automatic responses and intentional efforts toward personal growth and development.

Resistance + Recovery = Resilience.

Supporting Responders with the Resilience Equation

Our work to develop Responder Resilience is naturally driven by the Resilience Equation. It provides a credible theoretical model of resilience, whilst enabling the provision of effective systems of support through prevention, intervention, and intravention, thus supporting resistance, recovery, and naturally therefore, resilience.

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Posted by:Sean McCallum CTIRt CCt

Crisis Intervention & Trauma Consultant