What Is Post-Traumatic Growth? What Is The Theory Behind It?

What Is Post-Traumatic Growth?

“Along your healing journey, you may notice some positive change come from what you’ve been through. This is known as post-traumatic growth.”

When I talk about trauma, what I mean is a prolonged period of time that includes a lot of mental health conditions such as sleep deprivation and disturbance, grief, anxiety, stress, flashbacks, and substance abuse. 

It takes a considerably long amount of time to heal properly mentally and physically from trauma. But with time, some positive changes can be seen, and this experience is what is known as Post traumatic growth. 

What Do You Mean By Post-Traumatic Growth? 

According to an article posted in Psychology Inquiry, “Developed in the mid-1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D., and Lawrence Calhoun, Ph.D., post-traumatic growth theory is defined as the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with a highly challenging life crisis.”

Licensed clinical psychologist Matthew Scult, Ph.D., said, “Post-traumatic growth is all about the positive transformations people can undergo after experiencing trauma. It goes beyond the concept of resilience in suggesting that in some areas, people may not only return to their baseline levels after experiencing trauma, but can have positive shifts in perspective as well.”

Social worker Silvi Saxena said, “Post-traumatic growth theory proposes that the way people process trauma can offer them a new worldview with new insights about themselves and others.”

Who Is Likely To Experience Post Traumatic Growth? 

According to Dr. Scult, “Not everyone who experiences trauma will experience post-traumatic growth, but some people may be more likely to. “

He added further, “People who are extroverted and who are more open to new experiences have been shown to be somewhat more likely to experience post-traumatic growth. Post traumatic growth is also more likely to occur when people have strong social support and feel comfortable talking about their trauma with others.”

There are a few factors on which the likeness of someone experiencing post-traumatic growth depends as well, according to the American Psychological Association, and they are. 

  • Age 

“Young children under the age of 8 are less likely to have the capacity to experience post-traumatic growth, while young adults may be more likely to experience it, as they can be more open to change. Still, young children are capable of post-traumatic growth, as experts note they have an innate resilience.”

  • Sex 

“Women report slightly more growth than men (although the difference is relatively small).”

  • Genetics

“Certain genetic variants may play a role in post-traumatic growth, but more research still needs to be done.”

What Are The Signs Of Post Traumatic Growth? 

If you are looking for certain signs of post-traumatic growth, then a few of these signs are well documented by Dr. Scult and Silvi Saxena, such as. 

  • “More meaningful relationships.”
  • “A value-driven shift in priorities.”
  • “An increased appreciation for people, experience, and life.”
  • “An increased sense of personal strength.”
  • “A richer existential and spiritual life.”
  • “Increased patience.”
  • “New beliefs.”
  • “A positive attitude.”
  • “Stronger will.”

6 Phases of Post Traumatic Growth

If you are treating PTSD or trying to understand PTG properly, you should know that there are several approaches and phased models to go about it. 

But today, I am going to talk about two main models: Hudgins’s (2019) Therapeutic spiral three-stage model and Herma’s (1992) Tripartite thee-phased model.

  • Therapeutic Spiral Model

When it comes to the therapeutic spiral model, there are three-stage processes attached to it. They use everything from experiential trauma therapy to treating trauma by means of stabilizing oneself and working through the past and, at the same time, integrating post-traumatic growth. 

Stage 1: Perspective Roles

“Stage one focuses on identifying the roles that will be needed to “face the impact of trauma with spontaneity, creativity, and a fully activated autonomous healing center.” 

“The roles include self-observation and strengths. Stage one then involves learning to use these strengths, foster engagement, and also to use the “psychological functions of observation, containment, and restoration to promote healthy self-organization.”

Stage 2: The Trauma Triangle

“Stage two involves demonstrating and working through “the dissociated feelings, survival defenses, and repetitive memories until it is safe for feelings to be consciously expressed in the present.”

“The focus of this stage is to work through the aftereffects of past trauma and their impact.”

Stage 3: The Role Of Transformation

“This is where transformation “conveys the concept of the autonomous healing center igniting the body for self-healing when the conditions are right.”

“Stage three engages with the client’s moments of insight and how to use them in the future, ultimately realizing potential.”

“The entire self-organization is changed when new experiences cause positive changes in body, mind, heart, spirit, and relationships with self, others, and the world.”

  • Tripartite Model Of Trauma

“The tripartite model was proposed by Judith Herman (1992) as a safe, effective, and phased approach for therapists working with clients to revisit traumatic memories.”

  1. Safety & Stabilization

“Safety and stabilization involve a period of symptom management, including communicating to clients how trauma affects the brain and body and teaching them strategies for regulating their emotional reactions.”

“Ultimately, the aim is to normalize clients’ symptoms, help them manage their day-to-day lives, and lessen the risk of re-traumatization.”

  1. Remembering & Mourning

“Remembering and mourning requires “engaging with the trauma memory or narrative so that it can be safely processed.”

“The client is supported as they gain increased awareness and mastery over their traumatic recollections and boost their sense of control over distress. Such upsetting feelings are gradually moved toward being thought of and referred to in the past tense.”

  1. Reconnection

“Reconnection includes supporting the client in regaining their connections with social networks and finding their way back to reintegrating with society and experiencing fewer symptoms.”

“The individual integrates their newfound knowledge, skills, and awareness to enhance their personal and relational wellbeing.”

“The phased approach to understanding and promoting post-traumatic growth can be particularly helpful when individuals have been exposed to prolonged or repeated trauma and may need to acquire psychologically stabilizing resources to draw on before moving forward.”

How Will You Cultivate Post Traumatic Growth? 

“Trauma recovery can vary from person to person and there are many different tools and resources to help heal after experiencing trauma,” such as:

  • Physical & Emotional Self-Care

According to experts, “These practices help people care for themselves with or without the guidance of a mental health professional, and can include taking stock of the habits in your life and which ones make you feel the best.”

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

“This type of therapy centers on the interplay between thoughts, behaviors and feelings and focuses on changing those pattern of thoughts and behaviors that can lead to difficulty functioning.”

  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy

“As per experts, this type of cognitive behavioral therapy helps people approach trauma-related feelings, memories and situations over time.”

  • Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing 

“This type of therapy helps people reduce trauma-related symptoms by focusing on trauma-related memories while experiencing bilateral stimulation on the brain (typically in the form of eye movements).”

“Not addressing trauma can lead to more pain, says Saxena, so it’s especially important to really take the time to process that trauma in order to heal and move forward. “In that process, feel all your feelings,” she says. “It may feel counterintuitive, but allowing yourself to feel the pain, anger, sadness and any other negative emotion will let you get through those emotions and teach you a lot about yourself.”

What Are The Common Criticisms Of Post Traumatic Growth?

Post-traumatic growth is a widely recognized study and is practiced by a majority of psychologists and therapists on a daily basis. However, there are still some criticisms surrounding the study. 

  1. “Neither trauma nor growth us adequately defined, How much stress is required for personal growth? And will too much prevent it from happening?”
  1. “PTG might be better referred to as stress-related growth. Multiple minor stressors (as opposed to one big one) may also lead to growth and yet are not always recognized as trauma.”
  1. “The PTGI may not be generalizable. The PTGI was developed and validated on limited populations, primarily female college students. It could be that the inventory is not generalizable to other populations.”
  1. “The dimensionality of the PTG. Questions have been raised regarding whether PTG is a multi-or-one-dimentional phenomenon. More research is required to understand the number of factors involved in this psychological construct.”
  1. “Is the growth from the reported trauma? It can be unclear whether the client-reported growth is directly related to the trauma identified, other traumas, or whether, as individuals, they are better at reporting growth.”
  1. “PTG measures are not measuring growth. We cannot be confident that only PTG is being measured. It could be that the scales are capturing other forms of growth.”

What Is The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory? 

“Importantly for academics and researchers, PTG is measurable. The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun (1996) scores positive responses in each of the following five areas:”

  • Appreciation of life.
  • Relationships with others
  • Spiritual change
  • New possibilities in life
  • Personal strength 

Where To Download The PTGI Scale?

“The PTGI is widely available online and is considered a reliable resource for scoring personal growth following traumatic events.”

Scoring And Interpretation

“The PTGI is a 21-item scale scored using six-point responses.”

“Participants indicate the degree to which they have or have not experienced a particular change using a scale ranging from zero (“I did not experience this change as a result of my crisis”) to five (“I experienced this change to a very great degree as a result of my crisis.”

“A higher score indicates a higher level of post-traumatic growth.” Examples of the scored statements include: 

  1. “Appreciation of life
    My priorities about what is important in life
    An appreciation for the value of my own life.”
  1. “Relating to others
    Knowing that I can count on people in times of trouble
    I accept needing others.”
  1. “New possibilities
    I developed new interests
    I’m able to do better things with my life.”
  1. “Personal strength
    A feeling of self-reliance
    Knowing I can handle difficulties.”
  1. “Spiritual change
    A better understanding of spiritual matters
    I have a stronger religious faith.”

“Studies by Tedeschi and Calhoun suggest PTGI’s validity and its usefulness in furthering our “understanding of the natural processes people use as they struggle with the aftermath of trauma to derive meaning, feel wiser, and face uncertain futures with more confidence.”

PTSD Scales & The Davidson Trauma Scale\

“There are various scales available for scoring trauma. The American Psychological Association lists several on websites corresponding to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used for diagnosing mental disorders.”

  1. Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale

“This 30-item structured interview can diagnose PTSD in the past month and over a lifetime and assess symptoms over the last seven days.”

“The scale can typically be administered in less than one hour and is available for download upon request.”

  1. PTSD Symptom Scale Interview

“This scale involves a 17-item semi-structured interview for assessing and diagnosing PTSD.”

“The interview takes approximately 20 minutes to perform and assesses the presence and severity of symptoms over the past month and their impact on daily life.The PTSD Symptom Scale Interview is available upon request from its author.”

  1. PTSD Symptoms Scale-Report Version

“Based on the above scale, this is a 17-item self-report version for diagnosing PTSD and assessing symptoms.”

“Scoring describes the symptoms in terms of frequency and severity, and the results indicate the likelihood of PTSD.”

  1. Treatment-Outcome PTSD Scale

“This eight-item assessment of PTSD treatment outcomes takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.”

“The scale uses an interview-based assessment based on three symptom clusters: re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal.”

  1. Davidson Trauma Scale

“This 17-item self-report questionnaire assesses the symptoms of PTSD.

Each item is answered using a score for frequency and severity to determine if the symptoms meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for PTSD.”

Wrapping Up! 

Well, there you go; here in this article, you can learn everything about post traumatic growth, in this article here. Learning post traumatic growth is as important as knowing about post traumatic stress and disorder. 

So, if you think this article was informative and important for your further understanding, then give it a like and comment down below.

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