Posttraumatic Growth

Posttraumatic growth is a positive psychological change, frequently involving finding meaning and purpose following a traumatic event, such as an accident (e.g. motor vehicle accident, work-related accident), personal injury, medial issues (e.g. surgery, cancer, heart attack), divorce, bereavement or assault (Joseph, Linley, & Harris, 2005).  It has been estimated that 40 to 70 percent of individuals who experience a traumatic event later report at least some positive changes resulting from their struggle with trauma (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1999).

Posttraumatic growth is a consequence of new information being integrated intellectually as well as affectively, and results in changes in perception of self, relationships with others, and philosophy of life (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2004; Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1999).  Five major areas of posttraumatic growth include seeing new possibilities, changed relationships, paradoxical view of being both stronger yet more vulnerable, a greater appreciation for life, and changes in the individual’s spiritual and existential domain (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2004).

Some personality factors influence an individual’s ability to experience posttraumatic growth, such as openness to experience and optimism.  In psychotherapy, a psychologist can help an individual to create a narrative which integrates altered schemas and facilitates growth.