“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” [Friedrich Nietzsche]. We all know inherently that, in facing the challenges in our lives, we have the potential for gaining new strength. In biological evolution, this phenomenon is described by the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. The same can be said for psychological development.
The Post-Traumatic Growth model fully acknowledges the pain caused by traumatic events, while also seeing the opportunity for personal growth that they provide. In the PTG approach, the therapist first aids the trauma survivor in looking at his or her pre-trauma characteristics (attributes and resources), the characteristics of the traumatic incident(s), and resulting challenges to be addressed. A process of “rumination” is undertaken to transform both thoughts and feelings related to the trauma, to reconnect one’s past and present experiences and sense of self for the purpose of transformation in the forms of problem solving, meaning-making, and anticipating in order to build a sense of future and purpose. The survivor’s social context is also taken into account as a strong factor of support in this process. The intended outcome is one of growth: in a new sense of self, in improved relationships, and in one’s philosophy of life, or worldview.
This model in no way trivializes the very real pain and disruption of self that a survivor of trauma has experienced; it simply uses the opportunity for growth as a focal point. Rather than viewing a person’s response to trauma as something to be fixed, or a syndrome to be cured, both therapist and survivor are encouraged to use the history of trauma and present resulting challenges as a catalyst for change, the beginning of a transformational process.
Transpersonal psychology supports this model, moving away from a ‘disease’ concept toward one of balance and the potential for transformation. The spiritual and / or metaphysical realms are considered as well, which can be especially powerful for this approach to healing. Further, somatic psychology, which includes the physical body in its view of mental health, can aid in the somato-energetic reintegration process of trauma recovery.
In the face of trauma and its aftermath, there’s hope.