Post Traumatic Growth

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

by Sharon Burch, APRN, CNS

“Post-traumatic growth” is a term coined by University of North Carolina psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun. It describes the growth that many survivors discover in the process of healing from a traumatic experience.

After counseling people who had lost loved ones, were severely injured, survived cancer, were veterans, or had been prisoners, the researchers found growth in five main areas: personal strength, deeper relationships with others, new perspectives on life, appreciation of life, and increased spirituality.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has received attention because it is a "diagnosis", but post-traumatic growth is much more common. Tedeschi estimates that 90% of trauma survivors report experiencing at least one aspect of growth from their experience, but it is important to note that not everybody experiences growth and I am not implying that traumatic experiences are a good thing.

When it comes to trauma, Tedeschi rejects the word "disorder" and points out that when someone has an accident that produces many broken bones we don't say they have a broken bone disorder. We say they have an injury, and the same is true with trauma survivors; they have been physically, psychologically and often morally injured.

Here are 7 methods that trauma specialists have found particularly helpful to turn traumatic injury into growth and strength:

1. Mindfulness