Develop and maintain meaningful relationships with other people. I often say connection is the best medicine we have. When adversity strikes, our ability to connect to others can help protect us against stress and keep us resilient.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Goldberg Mintz.
Melissa Goldberg Mintz, PsyD, received her Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Menninger Clinic with Baylor College of Medicine. She currently owns a private practice, Secure Base Psychology, and holds the title of Clinical Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Goldberg Mintz is passionate about providing evidence-based care to children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma. She is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), the gold-standard treatment for traumatized children and adolescents, as well as Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), gold-standard treatment for traumatized adults. Her new book, Has Your Child Been Traumatized? How to Know and What to do to Promote Healing and Recovery will be published by The Guilford Press in August 2022.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Of course. I’m a clinical psychologist, mom, and a writer living in Houston, Texas. I always knew I wanted to be a psychologist but had no idea what I wanted to specialize in until I happened upon an opportunity in graduate school treating traumatized children and families. I was taken by the effectiveness of some of the models that treat this population, and even more amazed by how a warm, supportive parent-child relationship can facilitate the healing process. In my own practice, I often found myself looking for resources for caregivers to support them in parenting traumatized children. The literature was scant, so I wrote a book to fill this gap.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I am blessed to be in a field full of interesting stories! One lesson I frequently find myself re-learning is not to make assumptions. Since I specialize in child trauma, I frequently have parents bring kids in after some horrific adverse experience. Frequently, the kids are unphased by the experience, and would rather spend their time talking about the plight of a failed romantic relationship or the latest friend drama. Sometimes this may be because a child is trying to avoid talking about something more uncomfortable, but other times it is truly because the child was resilient to the event and doesn’t need to talk about it!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I probably turn away patients more frequently than other private practices. Very often, I’ll get calls from anxious parents who worry something “must” be wrong with their child after the child experienced some type of adverse event. Often times, I’ll meet the child for an initial assessment only to determine that their child is doing just fine and perhaps was more resilient than the parent gave them credit for. It often surprises parents to learn that adverse childhood experiences are exceedingly common, and that it’s not rare at all for children to be naturally resilient and heal without therapy after experiencing something scary.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are truly too many to name. Mentorship is crucial to professional success and there’s no chance I would be where I am today without mentors who have guided me throughout every stage of my career thus far.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I see resilience as the ability to adapt through challenging or painful experiences. The people I know who are most resilient share circumstances more than they do characteristics: they have a lot of emotional support, whether this be through family, friends, or professional support, their basic needs are being met (e.g. they get sufficient sleep each night and wake up feeling rested in the morning, they get their nutritional needs met, drink enough water, take care of physical ailments, etc.), and their day-to-day life generally feels sustainable to them (e.g. they enjoy their careers and home lives and are not constantly yearning for vacations).
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
To me, courage is more of a choice than resilience is. Picture an individual faced with something fear-inspiring who chooses to confront the scary thing despite their fears. That’s courage. Resilience is not so much a choice a person can make. Of course, there are things people can do to foster resiliency, but it’s not as simple as “I’m going to be brave and choose to be resilient to this adverse event.” Your ability to be resilient depends on so many things: your current stress level, how much support you feel you have, you have a history of trauma preceding the current adversity, etc.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I think of all my patients. When people hear I specialize in child trauma, I often get remarks like “I could never do that,” or “that sounds so depressing.” I find it quite the opposite — inspiring and motivating. Getting a front row seat to watching children heal from adversity and thrive inspires a sense of vicarious resilience.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Thankfully, everyone in my circle is supportive. I don’t think I’ve ever been told one of my goals — even the loftiest of them — was impossible.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Actually, I don’t love the idea of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These feel-good stories are all over the media of people who defy the odds to overcome horrific tragedies and bounce back stronger than ever. This idea may be harmful to trauma survivors who develop some expectation that if they just “get over the hump” of the trauma, they’ll be somehow immune to future stress. This is not true for many people. At the same time, when people can lean on friends and their support system when facing major setbacks, they can leave that situation feeling closer and more connected to the people around them and feeling like they can cope with challenging events.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I’ve cultivated my own resilience by leaning on my support systems during times of personal adversity. While many of us might prefer to keep our struggles to ourselves and project an image that we “have it all together,” I find that mindset of going things alone to be detrimental to resilience. One personal example of this was a health scare I had during one of my pregnancies. I called on all of my inner-circle for support until that resolved.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Develop and maintain meaningful relationships with other people. I often say connection is the best medicine we have. When adversity strikes, our ability to connect to others can help protect us against stress and keep us resilient.
- Make sure your basic needs are being met. When you’re sleep deprived, hungry, or in physical pain, psychological resilience can be hard to access.
- Do something every day that makes you feel competent and confident. This could look like gardening, baking, writing — anything that you feel you are good at and enjoy.
- Talk about your feelings. Instead of bottling things up, find an outlet to express your emotions.
- Practice gratitude. A gratitude journal in which you write about what you feel grateful for can be protective against depression and stress.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to help parents realize the crucial role they play in helping their children heal after experiencing an adverse event. So often, after something terrifying happens to a child, parents’ first instinct is to take them to therapy. Now therapy can be a critical part of the healing process, but even more fundamental to recovery is the parent-child relationship.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I am a big fan of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ work! I would love to talk about child trauma and how parents can help facilitate healing with her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
At my website, www.melissagoldbergmintz.com or my Instagram: melissagoldbergmintz
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!