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Facilitating Post Traumatic Growth

Learn more about facilitating post traumatic growth.
Hands joined in prayer in front of lit candles.
© University of Glasgow

It is important to understand the individual and contextual characteristics that facilitate PTG in different circumstances.

A range of individual variables has been researched as facilitators of PTG (Sheikh, 2008). Examples include:

  • Self-disclosure and self-expression through activities such as writing, talking, praying, and introspection, which can reduce emotional distress.
  • Cognitive reappraisal of the traumatic event(s) in the context of one’s life. For example, positive accommodation of the trauma by finding meaning and significance in this experience.
  • Nurturing personality characteristics such as agreeableness, openness to experience, and extraversion.
  • Developing effective coping strategies such as problem-focused coping, religious coping, and acceptance coping.

Tips for Promoting PTG in Counselling

Young person in a therapy session.Young person in a therapy session. Source: Pexels.com

A growing body of research has shown that PTG can be promoted as a result of psychological counselling, even in instances when PTG is not an explicit therapeutic goal (Sheikh, 2008). Some evidence-based approaches for promoting PTG in counselling settings are detailed below. It is, however, important to note that research in this area is still emerging and is, therefore, inconclusive.

Encouraging individuals to strengthen social connections which are deemed valuable and needed, as well as encouraging clients to consider disengaging from social relationships that are deemed to be harmful. Encouraging the individual to reflect on the meaning of the trauma in the context of the individual’s biography. For example, potentially helpful questions for them to explore are ‘how did this happen?’ and ‘why did this happen to me?’
Demonstrating respect and attentiveness to the individual’s own meaning-making, and facilitating the development of effective coping strategies based on this. Organising group activities which involve discussing or writing about life, death, uncertainty, hopes and dreams for the future.
Self-examining one’s own beliefs and attitudes as a counsellor regarding growth. Caution is warranted here. A counsellor’s implicit or explicit reservations regarding the possibility for growth may communicate therapeutic pessimism to the individual and, therefore, limit opportunities for growth. Conversely, a counsellor’s belief that growth is possible for all might, in some cases, translate into high expectations, which could be perceived by the individual as unreasonable and cause distress. Noticing growth as it arises, and encouraging the individual to examine aspects of, and barriers to, further growth. However, counsellors should not prematurely label an event or a process as ‘growth’ without it being first acknowledged by the individual as a positive change.
Facilitating an understanding that growth is created by the client, not the therapist. This may involve positioning the therapist as a companion and a facilitator rather than an expert.

References

Sheikh, A. I. (2008). Posttraumatic growth in trauma survivors: Implications for practice. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 21(1), 85-97. doi:10.1080/09515070801896186

© University of Glasgow
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Global Context

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