Personal Growth After a Traumatic Event

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback. In prior years, it was seen as something in a person’s innate nature. Today it is seen as a learned skill and one that can be developed throughout a lifetime. Posttraumatic growth or PTG differs from resilience because it is significant personal growth after a traumatic event. 

Most of us have heard of people overcoming trauma and tragedy to form a new outlook on life or even a new calling. The term PTG was coined in the mid-1990s by Richard Tedeschi, PhD and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD. The two defined their theory as “the positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.” 

The road to personal growth after a traumatic event is long and arduous. People are likely to endure psychological struggles such as distress and confusion (often diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as they try to make sense of their excruciating experience and how it relates to a transformation of their world view. It is important to note that what is traumatic for one person may not be quite as traumatic for another. Lack of judgement towards someone as they process a traumatic event is key to truly see the person and their struggle.

How it is Assessed

Tedeschi and Calhoun have developed a 21-item assessment tool called the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and note that PTG tends to occur in five general areas:

  1. Appreciation of life
  2. Relationship with others
  3. New possibilities in life
  4. Personal strength
  5. Spiritual change

Moving Forward

Traumatic events can vary widely and can be anything such as personal loss, divorce, the destruction of a home from fire, natural disasters, and often have racial and gender disparities. Coping with such an experience is difficult, to say the least. Speaking with a mental health professional will greatly aid a person as they try to come to terms with the event. Going forward in life is a difficult task. Having a coach at your side for impartial support and to work with you in developing new coping mechanisms is a powerful resource. Your coach can help you design your new life by identifying the goal(s) that are important to you, and assisting you in obtaining those goals.

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