Building on strengths of individuals

Recognising and building on the strengths of individuals or communities

A strengths-based approach is based on the idea that people have competencies and resources and are able to learn new skills. A strengths-based approach helps individuals to address their own concerns, to resolve problems and deliver their own solutions. It involves them in the process of discovery and learning. By applying a strengths-based approach, individuals do not remain passive consumers of support but become co-producers of support.

A strengths-based approach focusses on the following aspects:

  • personal resources, abilities, skills, knowledge and potential of individuals;
  • social network and its resources, skills and abilities;
  • community resources.

How can a strengths-based approach improve resilience?

Using a strength-based approach can help to build resilience. Resilience allows people to adapt to challenges and develop a positive well-being. It is a process that develops over the life course as individuals are gaining skills and knowledge and are confronted with new challenges. Resiliency theory is based on the concept of protective factors that may protect individuals against the negative effects of risks. It is possible to distinguish two types of protective factors: assets and resources.

Assets refer to positive factors that reside within individuals such as self-efficacy and self-esteem. External factors like relationships and social support can be called resources. These protective factors can help individuals to move towards healthy development and resilience. A strengths-based approach tries to identify the positive basis of the person’s resources. It does not create resilience, but creates a context for resilience to exist. This approach enables individuals or the community to become aware of their capabilities and skills to overcome challenges.

Health literacy is one of the key assets in a strengths-based approach. It can be strengthened by increasing knowledge and skills of individuals, or by improving infrastructure, processes and materials of the health system Read more here.

What can health professionals do?

Start with the identification of resources and strengths instead of using a deficit-based approach. Use this information to support resilience.

Acknowledge the expertise of the individual. Especially many people living with a chronic condition are already self-determining and have valuable knowledge.


Adili, F., Higgins, I., Koch, T. (2013) Older women and chronic illness: Transitioning and learning to live with diabetes. Action Research 2013 11(2): 142–156. DOI: 10.1177/1476750313477157

Zimmerman, M. (2013) Resiliency Theory: A Strengths-Based Approach to Research and Practice for Adolescent Health. Health Educ Behav. 2013 Aug; 40(4): 381–383. DOI: 1177/1090198113493782