Review of Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches, Carole Pemberton

Sometime ago I reviewed another book on resilience (Neenan 2009) and it has been interesting to compare the definition of resilience in that as “… a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversity which can be unusual or commonplace.” (p. 17) with Pemberton’s definition of “The capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours when faced by a life disruption, or extended periods of pressure, so that we emerge from difficulty stronger, wiser, and more able.” (p. 2).

Neenan was writing for those seeking to develop their own resilience through the application of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), whereas Pemberton is addressing coaches who wish to help others develop resilience, albeit with the recommendation that we apply first to ourselves anything we propose to clients.

Pemberton also explains that resilience is not the same as bounceback, stressing instead that we are not like rubber balls but are changed by life’s obstacles, that this process is tough, and is about learning rather than being toughened by adversity. Loss of resilience for her is evidenced by change, such as the person recognising they have lost confidence or have changed their behaviour.

Describing the history of thinking about resilience as having gone through trait theory, environmental impact in childhood, and learning from experience, Pemberton suggests that all three themes should be kept in mind as an explanation of how clients own sense of resilience has been formed. She goes on to distinguish loss of resilience from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and from burnout, both of which might need referral to a specialist.

Of particular interest to me was Pemberton’s own concept of the Narrative Wave™, which she says emerged from her recording and then analysing in detail her coaching sessions with research participants. From this, she noted that constructs might or might not be carried forward to another session. She describes how the picture that emerged was of a wave rather than one of steady progress. She analysed several themes which she labelled, such as: ‘holding’ – themes related to the loss of resilience that were carried from one coaching session to the next; ‘adjusting’ – that repeat an idea from previously but from a different position; ‘exiting’ – themes that appear in one session only; and ‘entering’ – new themes.

She also proposed a pattern of five key processes that she found in her research to be applied across the entire coaching relationship as well as within individual coaching sessions. Drawing these as a circle, she identified them as: being a privileged audience and hearing the story; being an empathic listener leading to a deepening of the story; being a critical listener and challenging the story; being a plot developer and opening up new narratives; and being a sustainer in terms of supporting the new narrative; with the final sustainer process leading back into being a privileged audience and hearing the story.

Like Neenan, Pemberton also addresses CBT, but in her case this is one chapter accompanied by others on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), mindfulness, solution-focused, and positive psychology approaches. For each of these, she provides succinct explanations of what the approaches involve, how each links with resilience, what evidence is available about the usefulness of the approach, how to apply it within coaching, and some cautions about when the approach might not be appropriate.

This book has a sub- title of ‘A Practical Guide for Coaches’ and it is certainly that. Potential homework activities and checklists of questions are included and there is a resilience questionnaire that Pemberton recommends is used by the coach as well as by their clients. Diagrams are included to illustrate theories and short case study vignettes are used frequently to illustrate ideas, so that the reader is given plenty of practical guidance.

Note: Pemberton writes of her narrative wave with the trademark symbol ™ although this indicates only that she is seeking to trademark the item – once trademarked it would have the symbol ®.


Neenan, Michael (2009) Developing Resilience: A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach London: Routledge – the review is at


Hay, J. (2015). Review of Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches, Carole Pemberton [Review of the book Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches, by C. Pemberton ]. Retrieved from

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Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches