Inside Disruption Blog

Beyond Resiliency - Post Traumatic Growth

Dennis Potter
September 29, 2015

Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) refers to a positive psychological change experienced as a result of having experienced a disruptive event. This change helps the person to move to a higher level of functioning. The disruptive event often represents a significant challenge to their adaptive resources and pose a threat to their way of understanding the world and their place in it.


Post Traumatic Growth is not about just returning to the same life as before the event, but rather it is about undergoing significant, ‘life-changing’ psychological shifts in thinking and how a person relates to the world. These changes contribute to a personal process of change that is deeply meaningful to the individual.


The concepts are associated with the Positive Psychology movement. The term was coined by psychologists Richard G. Tedeschi and Lawrence G. Calhoun at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1995. According to Tedeschi, 9 out of 10 survivors report at least one aspect of Post Traumatic Growth, such as a renewed appreciation for life.


We have long been emphasizing that returning to the level of functioning before a trauma, stressor, or challenge as the ultimate goal of a CIR interventions. That is still a worthwhile goal, and one that is very helpful for employees.


Is this line of thinking different? Yes there is a difference between resilience and Post Traumatic Growth. What are they? Well the difference is the recovery point. Resilience gets us back to where we started. Post Traumatic Growth goes above and beyond resilience. Post Traumatic Growth finds benefits within challenges. It allows the person to thrive.


Now there is significance evidence that individuals facing a wide variety of very difficult situations can experience significant positive changes. Post Traumatic Growth occurs with the person’s attempt to adapt to an event that has set off high levels psychological distress.


Post Traumatic Growth does not occur as a direct result of trauma, rather it is the individual’s struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of the situation that is crucial in determining the extent to which post-traumatic growth occurs.


A number of factors have been associated with adaptive growth following exposure to a trauma. Spirituality has been shown to highly correlate with post-traumatic growth and in fact, many of the most deeply spiritual beliefs are a result of trauma exposure (O’Rourke 2008). Social support has been well documented as a buffer to the stress response.


As Richard G. Tedeschi and other posttraumatic growth researchers have found, the ability to accept situations that cannot be changed is crucial for adapting to traumatic life events. They call it “acceptance coping,” and have determined that coming to terms with reality is a significant predictor of post-traumatic growth.


What are some of the most common changes?

  • recognition of personal strength
  • greater appreciation of life
  • changed sense of priorities
  • warmer, more intimate relationships
  • recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life
  • spiritual development


So what can we do to help others reach this growth potential? For the vast majority of disruptive events, getting back to per-incident functioning is a worthy goal. For the most part, they are rarely truly traumatic events. Both for those that are both disruptive and traumatic, perhaps we can “plant the seeds” for greater growth for those individuals. We won’t necessarily see them take root, but that is not the important part. What is important is that we give the person hope that they can not only survive, but possibly thrive.

Dennis Potter