Post Traumatic Growth (not PTSD) What the Heck is that?

Written By: LaTisha Carter, CEO/Executive Director

Some may (or may not) understand the destructive nature of trauma, but you must know, there is another side to the story. The narrative that can unfold as someone works to overcome and heal the pain and loss caused by trauma can help build greater resilience and access higher levels of well-being. This term is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Trauma can be described as an experience that overwhelms someone’s capacity to cope. Through healing trauma, new skill and tools can develop that can build their capacity to process and deal with the stress of trauma. Post-traumatic growth is therefore not about returning to life before the trauma; but rather, it is about building greater strength, flexibility and creating positive change that can come from rebuilding life after trauma.

It is important to remember that accessing PTG is a process. Before someone can get to this level, there is often a lot of terrain to cover. Understanding this concept is not about shaming those who have not accessed it yet; but rather to offer hope, reinforcing there is light at the end of the tunnel in this lifetime. It is also not about denying the pain or erasing the hurt caused by trauma, but rather highlighting that life still exists after trauma and that one does not have to suffer a lifetime due to the past. A brighter and beautiful future can be created as one develops a greater understanding of themselves, others and the world around them.

The Phenomenon of PTG was identified by psychologist Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the 1990s. Through their research, they found that for some survivors of trauma the crisis caused a powerful shift in someone’s ways of thinking and beliefs which forced them to adopt new ways of seeing themselves, their relationships and their world. That it provides some with a way of coping to recreate a worldview that supports their growth and healing that results in a positive psychological transformation.

Those who experience PTG often report experiencing growth in one or more of the following five ways listed below. It is important to note, not everyone who goes through PTG experience transformation in all areas.  Looking at the following five areas will help you develop a greater understanding of how PTG really works.

Post Traumatic Growth is Measured in Five Domains

  1. Appreciation of Life: Since trauma can bring one, face-to-face with mortality it can create a greater appreciation for life. It can help people savour and treasure the moments they have and not take them for granted. This type of appreciation is more than an intellectual understanding but is rather experienced through greater mindfulness and an ability to be more present focused in someone’s daily activities.
  2. Improved Interpersonal Relationships: Social support is a large part of what helps people heal their trauma and thrive in general. Allowing professionals and friends to support one can lead to great compassion and healing. This ability to be vulnerable, open and seen by others is an important part of PTG.
  3. Seeking Possibilities in Life: Since trauma can shatter one’s belief and worldview an organic shift can occur where things that were once meaningful no longer carry the same interests. There can be a shift in values and where one wishes to commit their time and energy into new opportunities and an outlook on life.
  4. Spiritual Connectedness: Many trauma survivors report a shit in their spiritual connection. As someone seeks to understand and heal their trauma, they may begin to develop a deeper sense of connection, sense of love and meaning in their lives that is often spiritual in nature.
  5. Personal Strength and Empowerment: Those who experience PTG feel capable of processing difficult emotions in a healthy way. They feel strong as they have tapped into their inner resources that have helped them not just cope but to both feel and process both emotional and physical pain rather than numbing and distracting. There is a sense of empowerment and inner strength that can develop as a result of PTG.


References and Hyperlinks


Karanci, A. N., Işıklı, S., Aker, A. T., Gül, E. İ., Erkan, B. B., Ozkol, H., &Güzel, H. Y. (2012). Personality, posttraumatic stress and trauma type: factors contributing to posttraumatic growth and its domains in a Turkish community sample. European journal of psychotraumatology3, 10.3402/ejpt.v3i0.17303.

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