Review of Developing Resilience: a Cognitive-Behavioural Approach, Michael Neenan

Within Chapter 1, the author comments that he “… will help you to increase your understanding of resilience, including examining some misconceptions about it, and show you how to develop greater resilience…” (p. 3). This seems to me to be a good summary of the book, which I felt was written more for those who are looking for practical ideas about their own resilience, with some useful ideas for professionals who might want to use CBT approaches with their clients. As the book is also written in a way that will suit academics, I did wonder how some clients might react to the writing style and referencing and came to the conclusion that the book would be fine for clients with a reasonable level of academic education but might not be suitable for those who have limiting beliefs about their own abilities to handle written material (and I can’t resist commenting thinking that they might need CBT for those beliefs before they could move on to this one on resilience).

In the final Chapter, the author helpfully provides an overview of the material in the book, as a series of “… key lessons to remember in developing and maintaining resilience.” (p. 177) these include knowing that you already have resilience, including the attitudes and skills you need and that an important factor is your self-belief; that everyone can learn from whatever happens to them, although elsewhere in the book Neenan challenges Nietzche’s well-known quote and writes that “…[what] doesn’t kill you can also leave you weak or shattered by what you’ve been through.” (p.6); and that we need to learn to distinguish what is within and outside our control, to manage our negative emotions, and to act in line with and maintain resilient beliefs. He also comments that we need to see resilience as a way of adapting to new realities and not necessarily as a “bouncing back [that] presents a picture of a rapid, pain-free, almost effortless return from adversity – the comic book version of resilience.” (p. 178).

The book is structured into 10 chapters, beginning with comments about resilience followed by two chapters about attitudes, one of which looks at how attitudes contribute to resilience and the next at how attitudes undermine resilience. Chapters 4 and 5 are about how to make yourself more resilient and the strengths needed. Chapters 6-8 focus on contexts – the workplace, relationships, and difficult people. Chapter 9 includes ideas on maintaining the resilience that you have hopefully now developed, and as mentioned above, Chapter 10 provides an overview.

An explanation is included about the familiar CBT model of ABC, including several client case examples that show how the Activating event, which is here often referred to as Adversity, is processed via Beliefs and Attitudes and hence leads to Consequences, that may be emotional and behavioural. Hence, change the beliefs and you will get different consequences. This is the overall message of the book, where the content relates well to a lengthy definition of resilience that Neenan says he developed with his colleague, Professor Wendy Dryden, and which includes the comment that “Resilience comprises a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversity which can be unusual or commonplace. These responses can be learned and are within the grasp of everyone; resilience is not a quality given to a chosen few. While many factors affect the development of resilience, the most important one is the attitude you adopt to deal with adversity. Therefore, attitude (meaning) is the heart of resilience.” (p. 17)

As a transactional analyst, I find that CBT fits neatly with the cognitive-behavioural application of TA that became the ‘classical ‘approach most closely associated with the original writings of TA founder Eric Berne. The focus on meaning by Neenan also fits well with the more recent developments of constructionist (Allen et al 2004) and cocreative (Summers & Tudor 2000)) TA approaches. However, in spite of the numerous good ideas in Neenan’s book, I still wondered about the impact of the relationship between practitioner and client that consistently shows up in ‘common factors’ research (Rosenzweig (1936) and the barriers that exist for some clients because of failures of attachment (Ainsworth & Bowlby 1991) that will have affected their meaning-making abilities from early childhood.


Ainsworth, MDS & Bowlby, J (1991) An ethological approach to personality development American Psychologist 46 331-341

Allen, J R, Bennett, S & Kearns, L (2004) Psychological Mindedness: A Neglected Developmental Line in Permissions to Think Transactional Analysis Journal 34: 1 Jan 3-9

Rosenzweig, S (1936) Some implicit common factors in diverse methods in psychotherapy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 6, 412-415

Summers, G & Tudor, K (2000) Cocreative Transactional Analysis Transactional Analysis Journal 30:1 23-40


Hay, J. (2015). Review of Developing Resilience: a Cognitive-Behavioural Approach, Michael Neenan [Review of the book Developing Resilience: a Cognitive-Behavioural Approach, by M. Neenan ]. Retrieved from

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