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Strength-based Resilience Program (SBR)

Co-authors: Drs. Tayyab Rashid, Afroze Anjum & Jane Gillham

The SBR program was recently awarded for it’s innovation with plans to expand into more Toronto schools. To read the press release, click here.

The Millennial Generation faces multitude of challenges – cyber living and cyber bullying, global warming and global viral pandemics, obesity and emaciated social ties, political polarization and questionable leadership. Ironically, juxtaposed among these challenges are objective measures of our progress, that we are smarter (at least in terms of IQ scores), richer (in terms of per capital income), healthier (in terms of longevity), safer (in terms of declining crime rates), have more social freedom (in terms of rights obtained for minorities), and have even more leisure time (in terms of increase in leisure hours). This is what it means to be human in contemporary times— connected yet lonely, compulsively attached to accomplishments and outcomes, yet ever more stressed, anxious, worried and eventually depressed.


Our educational system spends a lot of effort on improving academic achievement. However, challenges listed above are not unlikely to be resolved by just focusing on academic achievement. To adaptively deal with aforementioned challenges, we need resilience which can be taught to our children. Resilience, however, is not only about mitigating risk factors, as it is also amplifying our own resources. Capturing the complexity of contemporary human being, Strength-based Resilience (SBR) program rooted in the Positive Psychology field, is currently being implemented in various Toronto District School Board (TDSB) middle and secondary schools and attempts to:


Prepare students to deal with inevitable hassles, stressors and challenges head on using their character strengths. Participants not only learn ways to explore, express and enhance their psychological assets – their character strengths but also build awareness of their unhelpful beliefs such as making problems bigger than they are, jumping to conclusions or holding themselves responsible for a problem when they are not. Students learn ways to spot their strengths from their lived experiences and also learn how to notice strengths of others. Additionally, participants learn specific strategies and skills to cultivate gratitude, savouring, altruism, empathy to deal with their problems and challenges using their strengths through video/movie clips, role plays, stories as well as art activities. We all know the importance of building relationships in enhancing our well-being, but to some friendship skills do not come naturally and may need to be learned. We do that, for instance by teaching assertiveness skills or how to respond to someone’s good news. In doing so, the aim of the program is to nurture student’s growth and resilience at the same time.


SBR is not about building a caricature of smiley face happiness, but it is about identifying and amplifying your strengths such as grit, self-regulation, zest, curiosity, optimism and hope, and love. Furthermore, we stress the importance of adaptive use of strengths to solve your problems, as we do not encourage you to use strength like a hammer so that everything else looks like a nail. For instance, humility is strength but an overuse of it may make you become a doormat. Similarly, an overuse of humour may end up upsetting someone and make you look like a clown. Hence, a mindful use of strengths can be taught and nurtured.


Mindfulness is a buzz word these days, but some may think it is only about getting a yoga mat and going to a serene place to sit on the floor with closed eyes for half an hour? Could it be effortless about way of being, where we learn to stay with our experience without judging or running away from it? Some skeptics question that mindfulness may be too difficult for young children, but we are finding from our experience that when kids start doing it every day, they could learn to do a minute of meditation when they are feeling anxious before the test, getting bored in a class or waiting in a line to get a subway sandwich. It is not that difficult!  We would like to bring this program to dedicated schools who are prepared to implement this program in a systematic manner.


For more questions please contact Dr. Afroze Anjum, Psychologist, TDSB at or Dr. Tayyab Rashid at

Furthermore, feel free to take a free online assessment to know your signature strengths by registering at the website:

Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D., C.Psych

Tayyab Rashid is a licensed clinical psychologist and researcher at the Health & Wellness Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), Canada. Dr. Rashid completed his clinical training at the Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ and at the Positive Psychology Centre, University of Pennsylvania where he developed and empirically validated Positive Psychotherapy (PPT) under the supervision of Dr. Martin Seligman. Dr. Rashid’s expertise includes positive interventions toward personal and professional growth and engagement, resilience, the search for meaning and how to succeed in doing the right thing both individually and collectively. Dr. Rashid has trained professionals and educators internationally. He has also worked with survivors of 9/11 and the Asian Tsunami as well as flood relief workers in Pakistan. Published in peer-reviewed journals and an invited keynote speaker, Dr. Rashid’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation and at TEDx.

Afroze Anjum, Psy.D, C.Psych

Dr. Afroze Anjum is a licensed school psychologist at the Toronto District School Board. Dr. Anjum’s expertise includes strength-based, school-based interventions that incorporate character strengths, resilience, mindfulness and adaptive problem solving to cope with challenges such as depression, anxiety, bullying and lack of motivation in children. Dr. Anjum obtained her Doctoral degree from the Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey and completed her post-doctoral training with Dr. Jane Gillham at University of Pennsylvania where she worked on the Swarthmore Positive Psychology Curriculum study with high school students. Trained as a Penn Resiliency Curriculum facilitator, Dr. Anjum has applied, taught and empirically tested positive psychology interventions for more than a decade in a variety of school settings including the Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia and University of Toronto Schools. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and in edited volumes.

Jane Gillham, Ph.D

Dr. Jane Gillham is a licensed clinical psychologist, educator, and researcher at Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania, USA. Dr. Gillham’s research focuses on promoting resilience and well-being in youth with a particular focus on how schools, families and communities can help students survive as well as thrive. A graduate of Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University, Dr. Gillham is co-creator of Penn Resilience Program (PRP), an intervention tested with more than 20 controlled and randomized studies completed across the world. Dr. Gillham is also leading several research projects including the Girls in Transition Project, Sacramento Teenage Resiliency Project (STAR-P), and Mindfulness and Coping. Dr. Gillham’s research has been published in top tiered peer reviewed journals and two edited volumes. Dr. Jane Gillham is also on the editorial board of several well-respected journals.