Post-Traumatic Growth: Beyond Survival and Recovery

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Post Traumatic Growth

There has been a great deal of research and attention directed toward recovering from PTSD and trauma. However, psychology has been slow to explore the possibility of post-traumatic growth (PTG). For too long, treatment of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders were left out of the growing movement toward strength-based psychology. The focus of treatment remained on recovery more than growth. In recent years, however, PTG has been attracting more and more attention.

Following one of my all time heroes, Dr. Viktor Frankl, who searched for meaning in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, I searched for meaning in my war experience with all its intense traumas, injuries, confusion, guilt, etc. My search led me to study and teach the psychology of war, enmity and victimhood, the love of hating, how young men are taught how to kill without guilt, and the role of women in the making of war. Ultimately, these explorations have helped me grow and find deeper meaning in my life as a result of (not in spite of) my past traumatic events. (OZ)

Researchers have discovered not only what makes people resilient but what characteristics and conditions enable people to come through healing and end up wiser, stronger, more fulfilled, and with a deeper meaning to their lives than they had before trauma struck. Therapy with traumatized people, we now realize, is about more than just surviving or recovering.

Among the surprising and important facts that our Post-Traumatic Growth CE course discusses are:

  • Guilt and shame can have positive adaptive qualities and actually contribute to post-traumatic growth;
  • The search for meaning may cause a short-term deterioration in functioning–but finding meaning is critical for enabling PTG;
  • The extent to which an event impacts a person’s sense of self and identity is related to mental health outcomes;
  • Following 9/11, many New York City therapists reported professional growth in the areas of boundary changes, connectedness, skill development, self-care, and political activism. The trauma not only helped them grow but changed the way they practiced.

The Post-Traumatic Growth course has three sections. Section One provides a theoretical and research overview of post-traumatic growth. Section Two examines PTG in specific traumatized populations, including New York City therapists after 9/11. Section Three provides additional resources for clients and therapists.

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