9 August 2023

Post Traumatic Growth

This article is part 6 of a series on trauma written by the Fortem clinical team. To read part 5, click here.

Anyone who has spent some time in a first responder role knows that the experience changes you. Exposure to trauma, tragedy and the dark side of human nature can be seismic events that challenge what you believe about the world and the people in it – including yourself. 

Confronting a traumatic event and trying to make sense of it can therefore lead to powerful shifts in thinking.  

What is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?

PTG is the experience of positive change in oneself as a result of struggling with highly stressful and challenging life events. The struggle is part of it. Sometimes as we navigate the turbulence of traumatic events, we also grow. 

Almost 30 years of research into PTG tells us that there can be both positive and negative outcomes of trauma and that growth can co-exist with traumatic stress. 

What does PTG look like? 

The research outlines five ways that people can experience post traumatic growth: 

  • New perspectives, priorities, and goals 
  • Stronger relationships 
  • Increased personal strength and courage 
  • A deeper appreciation for life 
  • Increased meaning or spirituality 

How does PTG happen? 

Often PTG happens naturally as people process traumatic events. In other cases, processing traumatic events in therapy can foster PTG.  

It is important to note that PTG is not experienced by everyone who goes through trauma. The process of growth is individual and can happen slowly over time.  

The good news is that social support and belonging play an important role in facilitating PTG. So, the more you invest in your social network, the more you support the possibility of positive personal change as you face the challenges that life throws at you. 

Article written by Dominic Hilbrink, Senior Clinician at Fortem Australia.