The Neuroscience of Resilience

Article Contributed by Guest Author Sandra E. Clifton, M.Ed., PCC, CEP, ET/P

This past summer, in order to earn “core competency” hours to renew my ICF-credential as a Professionally Certified Coach (PCC), I attended a seminar at the Cape Cod Institute called “Bouncing Back:  Rewiring the Brain for Resilience and Well-being,” taught by Linda Graham, MFT.  Linda has been a marriage and family therapist for 25 years, and specializes in attachment, trauma, and mindfulness.  This five-day seminar was full of rich research that Linda embedded with personal anecdotes and practical exercises for professionals in the field of mental health, from states as far away as Texas.

One of the themes running throughout the course was the idea that, “You can’t stop the waves—but you can learn to surf,” a quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn and an apt visual for our location by the sea.  Participants in this workshop learned that resilience requires embracing upheaval as a catalyst for growth and that we can learn new ways to ‘ride the wave of change’ for optimal personal and professional progress.  Linda explained that the brain learns best “little and often”—in baby steps.  For example, research indicates that just five minutes of meditation a day is more effective that an hour once a week.

Each section of this course was framed with the “Six C’s of Coping”:  Calm, Compassion, Clarity, Connections, Competence, and Courage—with the idea that flexibility and neuroplasticity invigorate these coping skills.  In fact, the brain can actually encode new wiring and neural pathways to trump negative experiences with positive ones, when we work with a practiced therapist to help rewire trauma with new and positive experiences.  The goal of our work with clients is always integration, and Linda highlighted that, through positive attunement with our clients, a single dose of the “happy chemical,” oxytocin, can improve the entire chemistry of the brain.

If you are interested in learning more about resilience, you can find Linda Graham at  As well, the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence has an upcoming 6-week online course entitled The Resilient Leader:  Instilling Grit beginning October 20th.  Click here for more details:


Sandra E. Clifton, M.Ed., PCC, CEP, ET/P

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