October 2, 2018
Fred Dyer, Ph.D., CADC
Originally published in the Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery
The answer is to help African American Emerging Adults at risk for a substance use disorder develop resilience.
There are many definitions of resilience. Garbarino (1999) says that resilience is more than outside success, more than graduating from high school, staying out of jail, or holding a job. It also means developing a positive sense of self, a capacity for intimacy, and a feeling that life is meaningful. According to Walsh (2016) resilience can be defined as the capacity to rebound from adversity, strengthened and more resourceful. It is an active process of endurance, and growth in response to crises and challenges.
There is a Japanese belief that everyone has the DNA, the traits, and the cells to be resilient, and that resiliency must be practiced, developed and controlled (Bell and Suggs, 1998). Wolin and Wolin (1996) lists 12 characteristics of resilience. From their list, the one that I believe encapsulates the remaining 11 is having a goal to live for, which gives life meaning and purpose....resilience is more than outside success, more than graduating from high school, staying out of jail, or holding a job. It also means developing a positive sense of self, a capacity for intimacy, and a feeling that life is meaningful.
Helping African American Emerging Adults identify meaning/purpose is a protective factor from developing a substance use disorder. Even with the presence of risk factors including poverty, discrimination, family alcohol and drug use etc., purpose can help them to thrive in the midst of risk.
To help African American emerging adult clients tap into purpose, I ask them a range of questions:
- How did you survive that?
- How have you been able to endure so much?
- What are your previous life challenges preparing you to do with the rest of your life?
- Do the challenges you have faced help create a mission for you?
- What is your life purpose?
- What are some steps you are willing to take today towards that purpose?
Read more from Dr. Dyer in the Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery.
Bell, C., Suggs, H., (1998). Using Sports to Strengthen Resilience in Children: Training Heart. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Volume 7, Issue 4, October 1998, Pages 859-865
Garbarino, J., (1999). Lost Boys: Why our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. Anchor Books. New York, NY.
Walsh, F., (2016). Strengthening Family Resilience. Guilford Press. New York, NY.
Wolin, S., Wolin, S., (1996). The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity. Random House. New York, NY.
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