Understanding Posttraumatic Growth

Jun 22, 2021 | Blog, Make It A Good* Day

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Understanding Posttraumatic Growth


When an individual experiences trauma, there are so many different ways they could respond. Where one person might struggle to recover from their trauma, another might appear to thrive. This is the phenomena of posttraumatic growth (PTG) and it has become a popular topic in recent years in the field of positive psychology.

Let’s take a look at PTG and how it can be a useful concept for growth and mental wellness when navigating the NDIS.

What is posttraumatic growth?

Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is a concept coined by psychologists Tadeshi and Calhoun in the mid-1990s. It describes a situation where an individual can experience positive change after an encounter with trauma – PTG happens as they start to make sense of a traumatic life event. 

PTG doesn’t minimise or dismiss trauma, but focuses on how an individual rebuilds their life after the very foundations have been shaken (or in some cases, completely shattered). Current research suggests that it’s not the type of trauma that predicts PTG, but rather certain personality traits and life experiences that might play a role.

5 domains of posttraumatic growth

So what does PTG look like? It tends to show up in five particular ways in an individual’s life:

  1. A sense of one’s own personal strength
  2. A greater appreciation of life
  3. More meaningful relationships with others
  4. Recognition of new possibilities, and
  5. A deepening of one’s spiritual life. 

The desire to find meaning in our suffering or pain can be linked to PTG and it’s an idea that’s often confused with resilience. But what makes PTG different is that it isn’t just about bouncing back to normal – PTG contains significant personal growth after trauma. 

It’s worth mentioning here that having a psychosocial disability doesn’t prevent you from experiencing posttraumatic growth. We know it’s not easy, which is why our recovery coaches can connect you to find the right services on your NDIS plan. 

What is the difference between PTSD and posttraumatic growth?

As mentioned above, there are a variety of ways someone can respond to trauma. A common psychological response is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If someone can’t recover from a trauma and they’re experiencing flashbacks or nightmares with intense emotions, this could be a sign of PTSD. Especially if the individual is repeatedly reliving the trauma, which is called ‘intrusive rumination’.   

PTG is different from PTSD even though the two share some qualities. If someone is experiencing PTG, they may experience similar responses as someone with PTSD, but instead of reliving the trauma, they start deliberately ruminating on what happened. This focused thinking is often driven by a desire to make sense of the event and may be considered one of the keys to PTG. 

Is posttraumatic growth possible?

Yes, PTG is possible! Tadeschi and Calhoun developed a Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) scale and questionnaire to help identify when it might be present. They’ve also found that if an individual is extraverted and open to new experience there’s a higher chance they’ll experience growth after trauma, but there are other factors that affect this, like life circumstances, age and genetics. 

Get support from a One Good* Day Recovery Coach

At One Good* Day, we know you can do it. Everyone’s growth journey and recovery is going to look different, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. If you or someone you know is looking for non-judgemental Psychosocial Recovery Coaching, get in touch with us

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