Trauma recovery and post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Jason Brien.

     During the mid-90’s, psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun suggested that individuals who had endured significant trauma, either singularly or repeatedly, would experience positive growth afterwards. That is, individuals would gain new insights about themselves and the world they live in, gain greater understanding of how they interact with themselves and others and generally gain more positive future-oriented thinking. Richard and Lawrence termed these new insights and positivity as Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG).

     There is some controversy as to whether PTG exists and whether it is simply resiliency, however most academics argue that resiliency is a priori to trauma (that is, if one is resilient before trauma then one would not experience post-traumatic growth) whereas PTG is posteriori (comes after trauma). Academics also argue about whether PTG occurs universally (i.e., for all people who have experienced significant trauma) or is isolated to a select few. To measure PTG accurately, self-report scales such as the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) developed by Richard and Lawrence are used. The PTGI measures growth in 5 key areas;

1.            Appreciation of life

2.            Relationships with others.

3.            New possibilities in life.

4.            Personal strength.

5.            Spiritual change.


     Research derived from exploring PTG has shown that the higher one is in openness to experience and extraversion, the more likely they will experience PTG. Research has also shown that women will report more growth compared to men. Research suggests that this gender difference may be due to differing self-reporting styles whereby women are typically more emotionally open and men’s emotional disclosures can be impacted by perceptions of masculinity or fear of displaying weakness for example. Outside of the academic world of self-report scales and clinical studies, growth can be reported in seven key areas;

  • Deeper appreciation for life
  • Strengthening of close relationships bonds
  • Greater altruism and compassion – greater empathy
  • Greater future oriented thinking and focus on achieving goals and finding purpose in life
  • More insight of one’s personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Stronger religious or spiritual motivation
  • Enhanced creativity

     The majority of trauma survivors will experience a sense of hopelessness, hostility and powerlessness about the horrific experience they endured. Whilst experiencing trauma is certainly not ideal nor enjoyable, it is also not the end of the world. There is light at the end of the tunnel with post-traumatic growth.

     This hope of a light at the end of the tunnel is even more important in today’s COVID-19 climate. With people around the world having to face isolation for the first time in their lives, due to mandatory quarantines which can last a minimum of two weeks, their mental health is really being put to the test. People in quarantine are noticing how lonely, isolated, depressed and vulnerable they can become in such a short period of time.  


Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research and practice. Routledge. 

Frazier, P., Tennen, H., Gavian, M., Park, C., Tomich, P., & Tashiro, T. (2009). Does self-reported posttraumatic growth reflect genuine positive change?. Psychological Science, 20(7), 912-919. 

Grubaugh, A. L., & Resick, P. A. (2007). Posttraumatic growth in treatment-seeking female assault victims. Psychiatric Quarterly, 78(2), 145-155. 

Shakespeare-Finch, J., & Lurie-Beck, J. (2014). A meta-analytic clarification of the relationship between posttraumatic growth and symptoms of posttraumatic distress disorder. Journal of anxiety disorders, 28(2), 223-229.