How Can We Help Our Clients Grow after a Traumatic Event?

Trauma changes people.

And for someone who just wants life to return to “the way it was,” this can be difficult to accept.

But in some cases, people have not only been able to bounce back following trauma, they’ve also been able to experience growth.

In the video below, researcher and author Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD offers her insights into what contributes to post-traumatic growth.

Take a look – it’s about 3 ½ minutes.

How will you use these ideas in your work? Please leave us your thoughts in the comment box right below.

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119 Comments

  1. Jacquie says:

    I love this …… this was my experience. After carrying a wall of complex childhood and adult trauma for years, I went through an experience that caused the wall to be pulled down… there was a lot of vulnerability but for the first time there was a release of emotion … I could cry… the world is no longer grey and desolate … there is colour and hope … not only a means of survival
    This was through a spiritual experience (faith) and through trusting someone enough to allow them in….. friendship.

  2. ellen says:

    Very interesting….

  3. Thanks as ever for these wonderful inputs and opportunities to reflect. I am a huge advocate, for myself and my clients, of the alchemical and elemental perspectives on adversity. When we reflect on what specific qualities a situation required / requires us to cultivate in order to navigate a trauma, we’re not only growing towards having that quality but we’re also finding personal meaning in the trauma, as our catalyst to become more of the person we were born to be.

  4. I feel the most important thing for a client after trauma is a loving, safe connection where they feel supported and there is space for them to process their strong and difficult emotions and sensations, so they can experience their internal capacity to find their sense of ground and resiliency. Their healing is being able to process their experience and find meaning in unexpected ways and treasures along the path of healing, allowing them to become a different person that is deeper, richer and fuller from having gone through the painful event. This is truly the hero’s journey, with it’s ups and downs and difficultly that in the end one has changed it a way that one could have never imagined and has left them stronger, more courageous because they faced and dealt with their trauma. I feel one needs the space to know and feel their emotions and that they are ok and make sense because they are the road home to a new sense of self and center.

  5. Anton Hay says:

    I love listening Dr Sonja, thank you… enjoy the informal setting and feel enriched by the clip

  6. Joanne Nemecek, LMSW says:

    I have lived through a trauma and I find what Sonja describes as true – I am much more thoughtful in life and I have come to my own conclusions which are different from some values that I was taught. I even changed professions from nursing to social work.

  7. Susan devore says:

    This lovely little tidbit says NOTHING about helping clients grow after trauma. I’m surprised you even identified it as such. She merely offers that indeed, some people rise to higher levels. How nice for them. I’ll bet they’re a lot more fun to work with and study!

  8. Don says:

    The course of trauma therapy often opens up for discussion the impacts of previous life traumas – the addressing of which can certainly contribute to a picture of post-traumatic growth and self-comfort.

    • linh says:

      I enjoy the passion Sonja showed in this presentation. Thank you, Sonja.

  9. Monte Pope says:

    I can only speak from my personal experience about growth after trauma. In my case, my partner committed suicide after I disclosed I had been cheating on him… he purpose protrayed me as the villain to our friends and family… even though he admitted he too had cheated! I really struggled with the aftermath and almost lost my life too! There was no visible growth… I appeared and felt stuck! One day, a decade later… I noticed profound gratitude inside me! It took a while to tease it apart… I was not grateful for his death… I would change it if I could… but the lessons I learned! I am a better person now as a result of his death! I am grateful something happened to get my attention and wake me up! I lean into gratitude when things are difficult now… if something as bad a suicide has a gift in it.. why won’t be current problem?

    • Jeanette says:

      Thankyou for sharing your epiphany. I can understand that gratitudeis a powerful and overwhelming experience after trauma. Letting it flood your soul is enriching and life enhancing. Thankyou again.

    • Anton Hay says:

      Thank You … shrug and lift my head .. smile

  10. Genevieve Braem says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for having shared this video. I recognize so much myself in the post-trauma growth.
    Lost my own Mum from suicide at the age of 3. Dad has never spoken about her to her 3 children (me and my 2 siblings (aged 6 and 8). I was abused by my own brother at the age of 14 (sexual games).
    Finally after having left the parental house during a turmoil (at the age of 25), I met and married the brother of my best friend. He was 37 and I was 30 at the wedding. We’ve got two gorgeous children from the marriage. When the kids were toddlers he suggested me to move from Belgium to Australia.
    I left everything and followed him.
    After a couple of years up and downs appeared more frequently in our couple far away of our roots. I started to feel something wrong and tried some family therapy. He was a pure pervers narcissist, he started to manipulate not only me but the therapist. He inherited a huge amount at the death of his parents that he put in a huge renovation of our house. I didn’t want a house, I wanted a home. And when he realised (never told me ) that he saw too big, he decided to stop working and finish by himself. He never did. I went back to work when the children were getting older. I was full time mum and full time worker. I thought divorcing in 2013 but thought no for the best of the kids !!!??? Anyway 2015 saw me descending to hell. An anxiety crisis in March 2015, followed by a double pulmonary embolism (I escaped death by a finger) in May 2015 (2 years ago on 11/5). The devil left me alone in ressuscitation room (even if he didn’t work at that time) pretending he had to feed the kids (18 and 15) and there was a nice tv program. My program was 6 doctors and nurses trying to save my life. It was not enough, he signed a contract to go to work at 3,000kms from here, leaving me and the kids alone. When I was declared on severe depression with suicidal ideation he refused to come back 3 times. Only when my GP threatened him of desertion of family (we haven’t got any family here but us) he came back but convinced me to change GP within 3 days and left again. He signed agains my consent my admission in a respite house (it was awful for me since it echoed the circumstances of the suicide of my mum) and then one month in psy ward. Finally after having lost more than 13 (yes thirteen) kilos and being able to sleep max 90 minutes a night, I was able to come back several times to help my kids to keep a householding by themselves (the first one was on last year of high school, the second in year 10…. well I thought he had to feed them … now he was leaving them 6 weeks alone). When I finally requested him (after several re-admissions to short stay at the hospital) to come back, it was the big blow of the volcano lid. Our mariage finished with police and other black legs and arms. Me splitting in front of the police, him telling me ‘How do you dare?”, the sales of our house and him turning the kids against me. My adult son being removed from my new place by the police since he became violent towards me and my own daughter telling me ‘mum you would be better to commit the same as your mum so that we will get rid of you”. Well she was one of the other weapon of her father. Nothing like that shocks me anymore since I heard from the mouth of one of the nurse in ED when I was at risk of swallowing my whole stock of medications (blood thinner and antidepressants), she told me ‘commit suicide so that your children will know who you are’.
    But …. but … as the video mentions s well I have bounced back. I’m on the other side of the bridge,I don’t recognize myself as a victim but as survivor of domestic violence. Domestic violence was daily at home (sarcasm, put downs etc without mentioning all the lies I have found during the removal proving that he asked me my inheritance of my first grandparents to make an investment….lie and liessssss he used it to refund his debts. Our arrival in Australia was not for a better life but to escape the fisc. I was stupid, I found everything when I split from him.

    Yes I bounced back, yes I’m another person. Yes I found my ownself. Yes i love myself. I lost my job during the ordeal and yes I’ve started and finished new studies. Yes I’ve grown to another person, a better one. Yes life is beautiful and worth. Yes life is a journey and yes you cannot rewind your past but you can take your past as an experience to give you the strength to rebounce.

    Thanks so much for having shared this video, dear Ruth

  11. Rohini says:

    I feel drawn to Sonja’s comment on the relationship between Meaning and Happiness and it’s potential to offer resilience. From personal experience, it was a “driven” search for meaning to traumatic experiences that enabled resilience and growth, in terms of arriving at acceptance, a growing awareness of the contextual experience in terms of time and the Why?, How? Who?, When? and Where?, and a sense of objective detachment from the traumatic event. Though not an easy ride, especially with concurrent aspirations to regain happiness also being present, I feel that with the passage of time, this “on lookers” perspective of something that caused so much pain and loss to oneself, offered some level of self-mastery and control in defining what was was meaningful and conducive to personal happiness. I am also learning (from currently living in India), that trauma may be “karmic” in nature, with spiritual growth as a necessary outcome, and this kind of makes sense to me when considering the recurrence of traumatic events in clients who are pushed to find the meaning of happiness and identify ways to welcome it into their lives.

  12. MJ Rogers says:

    I agree with Billur. most of the things spoken of in the video are not real or severe (life-threatening) trauma, which makes permanent changes to the brain and nerves. People working in the mental health field OUGHT TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between real trauma and simple bad life experiences that anyone can get over and grow from. Treating any bad life experience as though they are trauma makes light of what real trauma survivors are going through. Real (C)PTSD is considered incurable for the most part due to its severity. If it is just a simple choice to grow from it, it probably wasn’t a true traumatic experience, because a true traumatic experience is very difficult if not impossible to heal from. This video makes it sound like people just have to decide to get better and they will, but many people with real trauma try to no avail. And people with real trauma do not need to be made to feel that the injury they suffered is their fault if it is too severe to heal. Nobody wants to heal more than them, but this kind of misleading video does a disservice to them.

    • Jason Brooker says:

      Whilst I do agree that many people today do trivialise real trauma I don’t think it is fair to say that this video does. She talks about holocaust survivors initially, and how some don’t believe they can be happy again and some do. Which suggests that much of our experience regardless of how traumatic it may be judged by others is really about what meaning we take from it.
      And I don’t think it is correct to say that real PTSD is considered incurable. What we do know is that long term neglect and low level abuse (over a long period of time) can have very similar effects on the brain as a sudden traumatic event such as rape. And what we also know now is that newer treatments such as those related to a Polyvagal approach can have a remarkable effect on helping people to recover from trauma. What this video is suggesting however is that if we can have some success in helping a client to find new meaning in their lives this too will aid recovery. This may not always work of course but I believe in principal that it is possible.

  13. Sandra says:

    What an interesting shift, bringing light to the growth after trauma. It is interesting to study why some people bounce back even stronger or more resilient.

  14. Sukie says:

    I learned a lot from this 3 minute video, thank you. I hadn’t thought of trauma and resilience in quite this way before.

  15. Debra Jo Moe says:

    after receiving EMDR treatments and excellent cognitive therapy, my life was changed! not only did I heal from the trauma 46 years earlier, my life was better, more balanced, more beautiful. I recognized that I thought differently. I thought is possibility, in boundary, in ownership of my one precious life.
    …I am soul happy now….each day is valuable, and I can FEEL..actually FEEL the emotions I have.
    I cry..but not in despair. I cry because of deep emotion. I laugh..really laugh. I have lost most of my anxiety.
    there is lilfe after trauma..a better life

  16. After multiple and intense trauma after trauma (packed into a 10 year period), I barely got over one before another climbed on top! it wasn’t until I unhooked the energy PATTERN from my subconscious mind AND from my body too. During this time, I was able to help my own clients get to resolution of their difficulties using EFT but I wasn’t getting that same response despite my own multiple weekly sessions over years using EFT (from multiple EFT/therapist). The missing piece was that the traumas weren’t broken apart and resolved before suggesting forward movement. That was a huge missing piece. I couldn’t even think about gratitude, or forward movement when I was still in reactionary, energetic, subconscious anchoring.

    • Thanks, Joanne. Can you say more about how you broke the trauma pieces apart to resolve them? What you are explaining here makes so much sense and I really resonate with it as someone who works in the field of healing but is also healing from trauma as well. Thanks very much.

  17. Melissa Sepe Chepuru says:

    Experiencing fully all the complex reactions we have with a compassionate and present witness or witnesses in a safe environment, consistently, through a period of time I think is key. If we have permission to process in our own time, in a holding environment, the human spirit re-groups. I’ve observed that on myself and others. But there needs to be an experience of safety, of trust, outside the self.

  18. Carrol laneulie says:

    By being connected to be allowed to share the experience….the U.S. is a very emotionally isolated society…I was back in Europe recently and felt I had a right to share my truth….
    America on the other hand is a paradox….wonderful books on the self help BUT!! Americans are reticent to truly feel and share…I feel they live in a bubble of deniel
    I this week left Florida for good! Am now in Atlanta and really hope with all my heart I will be a Le to meet some real people
    Thank you!

  19. Susan says:

    I have experienced trauma quite regularly from birth from adoptions, divorce, ill health, lost of work and money, very ill husband and most recently copying my husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Sometimes I wonder if it will stop. I’ve had many years of therapy and always go back to my tool box. My go too place is always being aware of the blessings that come out of it and I usually rise higher than before. Even with the last 6 years of continuous challenge I can talk about the blessings that have come out of it all – mostly a sense of being surrounded by community. As an older woman of 66, I look at my future and wonder where I will end up. My resilience has never let me down and see no reason why not. I love the term Post Traumatic Growth and rather than saying I have post traumatic stress will change it to having a post traumatic growth opportunity. Thank you.

  20. Steve says:

    I get very few clients who have just one trauma. Many of my clients suffer from developmental trauma disorder which does not particularly create resilience in and of itself. It is only through more major changes in the brain over a period of time that they are able to grow from their trauma.

  21. I’d like to hear more about the individual differences that lead people who have experienced trauma to say either, “What if this (worse thing) had happened?” and focus on the ‘what ifs’ to “Thank goodness, this (worse thing) didn’t happen!” and focus on the blessings.

  22. Sherry Criswell says:

    Yes, I see where trauma can equip certain individuals fundamentally in growth. I begin that line of thought with the awakening of such a complex area in cognitive realizations which would undoubtedly lead to a more matured or “broader” perception of thought processing. Good video

  23. Dr. Geri Keskeys says:

    As an educator, I see children coming from very traumatic environments on a daily basis. My hope is that each and every child experiencing adversity has a compassionate caring adult in their life. The research on relationships is key and may be the saving grace for many of our young children. Teachers may be their only hope for a resilient life. Educators need trauma informed care training to provide a trauma informed school environment.

    • Carmen says:

      Dr. Geri Keskeys,

      I have recently gone through persona trauma and have felt the devastating effects it can have in one’s life. I am also a teacher. This year I am working with students who have experienced great trauma in their lives. I find that my personal experience provides a strong understanding and foundation for working with these students. I do believe educators need trauma informed care training to provide a safe school environment for students to begin to build a resilient life.

    • Christine says:

      Thank you. I so agree! I am a school nurse in a School filled with students with complex traumatized students… Do you have any suggestions on reading material or trainings to help me to be more trauma center informed and how best to assist students in school settings?

  24. yvonne solorio says:

    I really believe in what Sonja delivers. I would like research data on this, where to find?

  25. Kimberly says:

    I actually feel that trauma is there AS as opportunity for growth. And that is what has kept me going in the darkest times. Knowing that I would not only grow but be able to help others somehow.

  26. Lori Evangelisto says:

    I have experienced this myself. After a traumatic marriage and divorce as well as a loss of a job I went down into a pit that I thought I would never be able to get out of. I am now 10 years past these events and have started on a path that was better than before. I have found myself and recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I do believe in Post traumatic growth. This process is painful but beautiful. I am so grateful to be conscious of this shift in perception. I would love to be a part of this ongoing discovery.

  27. John Farmer says:

    Very helpful perspective on recovery after traumatic life experience.

  28. In my area of expertise, i.e., the unacknowledged trauma of competent non-disordered adults who grew up with parents with a (diagnosed or undiagnosed) serious mental illness (see: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/37852), I find that grief intersects and interacts with trauma in potentially powerful ways, as demonstrated via the Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) concept, i.e., post-traumatic growth as a trauma reaction by the cohort I researched after their parents’ physical death. Trauma is a normal reaction so is grief. Normalising grief and trauma reactions of this group (even if social taboo lines are crossed – and they often do!) validates this population I researched on two levels: (1) as traumatised children, when matters were outside their control due to dependency needs; and (2) as disenfranchised trauma-carrying adults. So I think happiness “potentially” connects with meaning in the PTG context but this would depend on a case by case basis taking into account all the variables I discuss in my thesis.

    • Sherry Criswell says:

      Thank you. I’m going to look at your research.

  29. April Wilson Smith says:

    I’m not a clinician, but I’m a trauma survivor and a public health researcher. I think that social support is so key to growing after trauma. If the family or social circle is not supportive or wants to deny that the trauma happened, it’s hard to heal. With proper support and love, healing and positive change can happen.

    • Barbara says:

      With proper support I think the issue really looks smaller and manageable too. I think this can help us go a long way. Struggling without support has revealed itself to be detrimental to my health in the past especially after the experience of several losses. Although family is not always there when we want it, I understood my support could means more. And the rebound becomes possible with hope and time to heal from the traumatic events.

    • Christine says:

      Thank you I free as someone with unite a history of trauma the lack of family validation and support has made healing hard… But fortunately it’s by speaking support outside of my family I have been able to heal… Still a work in progress but I find there are so many things that have helped… A validating therapist, yoga, meditation, 12 step recovery programs….

  30. After a traumatic experience, no matter How Hard or Big it was, a person needs to recover, re-engineer or even imagine their new ‘fighting spirit’ through the “CAN DO ATTITUDE’, validated by the actions and outcomes.

    As we know, crawl, walk, jog sprint is the wisest formula because there is a period of adaptation for body, mind, soul, psyche, immune system, perceptions and consciousness… before it becomes a habit and thereafter a SKILL WE OWN and practice daily or regularly. Then apply the 6P’s: Perfect Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Those results will go long way to supercharge your self-esteem. But it must be gradual, consistent, persistent, unrelenting, disciplined, etc. Once this formula is mastered and you stick with the most important follow through, you will be completely amazed HOW EASY IS OUT-GROW YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS!

    I strongly recommend using as an additional form of hobby/therapy any of the creative arts./ However, not as a job but a hobby and pastime (for me creative writing and classical music have been extremely beneficial, after 29 years suffering from Bipolar disorder type II. Today highly functioning. Many thanks for the opportunity to comment, Cheers.

  31. Ada Andrist says:

    Resiliency is interesting, and I see people who are amzingingly resiliant and others who struggle. I use ACT and DBT and the skills to increase effectiveness for both sets of clients. I read and listent o experts who have worked with many people to hear what has worked for others.

    • Marcia Christen says:

      Thank you for this. I have found that the DBT skill of validating for families of BPD or anxiety/depression persons could be greatly enhanced by going beyond validation and offering empathy specifically the empathy that is in Nonviolent Communication. The intention to be with a person however they are, be present and give them a sense of being gotten is quite powerful. Having a safe space to be heard, to mourn and experience presence and acceptance can be one of the most powerful things. It seems to support people in having their inner wisdom have room to come out where they begin to have gratitude and resilience.

      • Christine says:

        Beautifully said! And I so agree!
        Just challenging to find people who have those skills to truly listen with compassion and empathy…

  32. billur ugursal says:

    Examples given in this segment do not qualify as ‘trauma’ except for the holocaust
    survivors. divorce, having children with down syndrome or coming out as gay/lesbian
    maybe classified as ‘adverse experiences’ but they should not lumped under the
    category of ‘trauma survivors’. not a compatible study group I find.

  33. Danielle STAPLETON says:

    After living through family violence for the last 8 yrs I look back at who I was and only being three months out of this situation it takes a great deal of positive reinforment and and I use CBT to help support the growth and changes I have and to combate the flash backs and stinking thinking that attacks you when you live in the cycle of abuse. I see how important it is to mourn the loss of self and fantasy of the happy family, but I am loving the visualisation I get when you talk about post traumatic growth, it shows me that I do have an Identity, I have choice, and I can be happy and be true to who I am meant to be by riding the rollercoaster with the safety gear on this time! I am free to follow my passion and give back to others.

  34. Jana Schulz says:

    Thank you zo much for this video from Sonja. And I’m absolutely agree with her statement from my own experience in my live. I’m 53 years old now, a mindfulnesstrainer and I can say that I had 2 very ‘good’ strong trauma experiences in this life. After going really down, very, very, I can say that my life is on this other level now, wat Sonja disciribed. Thanks so much for this recogniition. But I have changed and also relationships, that was in some cases also very painful for me and sometimes it feels as a lonely path? But it is not possible to go the way back. And I feel it is very important and inspirering (I heard) for younger people us a rolmodel, how to live this life.

  35. Kathy says:

    I agree that finding and doing something meaningful after going through trauma is a healing way to find happinesss. I’ve always been a person who could find the silver lining. It’s been tougher in the last few years raising a son with severe Reactive Attachment Disorder, giving up my career( which was part of my identity) to save him, and recently caring for and then losing a Mom with advanced Alzheimers, losing a precious and close brother after a grueling fight to live through an unexpected complication to surgery, as well as taking care of a Dad who targets me with his angry paranoid dementia. I’m just so exhausted and it’s tough to get the energy to invest in llooking for the silver lining, but I know it’s there and I know I will find it. I always found it in the past and just need to breathe so that I can see it clearly in that moment it becomes obvious to me. Meaning = Contentment which allows me to experience joy.

  36. Eveline Goy says:

    Some have wanted to find meaning, maybe even a personage message, in the event of abuse or the trauma they have suffered. While I fully agree that happiness and meaning have a mutual, perhaps inter-causal relationship, to seek to narrow meaning to a sole event, however momentous for the individual, might be a mistake. It can lead to a desire to implicate the person in the event, which is absurd and can lead to myth- making. However find a meaning in the largesse of life can be hugely healing and transcend the needs and imperatives of the ego. I have seen this successfully applied in recovering from trauma.

  37. clementia eugene says:

    Empowering. A new concept for me all in keeping with positive psychology. That life can indeed get better after a critical incident.

  38. Wonderful to be thinking about this topic, and to read people’s shares. Thank you. (Author of ‘The Uses of Sadness’, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 2009)

  39. Anon says:

    I agree in post traumatic growth but my question is ‘can it be sustained?’ To give a bit of context….I was sexually abused by a family member for two years starting at age 8. I then witnessed my oldest brother attack both of my parents with a kitchen knife which left my mum critically injured and which my dad tragically didn’t survive. For the next 8 years I was emotionally and mentally tormented by these events and engaged in high risk activities & became suicidal… despite hiding behind a bright and bubbly personality. At age 18 I became a chriistian and for the next 25 years I lived in freedom from this torment. I still had loads of challenges but I seemed able to overcome them by applying these biblical principles. BUT, 12 months ago an event triggered the tormenting emotions and I now feel too exhausted to mentally and emotionally cope with any more adversity. I desperately want to go back to how I was 18 months ago but just don’t seem to be able to. What do I do when I’ve experienced post traumatic growth only to return to what feels like PTSD 35 years after the trauma first happened. I feel desperate. :(

    • Velma says:

      Have you tried EMDR with someone who is certified to offer that? ( certified, not just trained)

    • Waki says:

      I sort of have similar path, but the collapsing started about 4-5 years ago with series of hard event, and it took at first a few years to realise that it was also very old trauma wounds resurfacing. I was difficult because I thought my spiritual life should have fixed all hidden wounds. But spirituality is not psychology, so we still need to heal psychologically the psot trumtic disrorder and not use spiritual blessings and realisations as a bypass –oh well, we don’t even notice we do so when we do. Beside therapy (including body wor, creative work and meditation) you may like to read anything on spiritual bypass. I like also Abdi Assadi’s blog as he deals wih this is a very war way.
      Astrology has also helped me understand that we go through cycles and sometimes things resurface –an opportunity to work on ourself and grow at a deeper level, though it feels horrible at times, and sometimes some astrological cycles last for years. You’ll be stronger and happier at the end, don’t give up, just do your work. And trust the divine blessing that says you are strong enough now to heal the deep pain.

  40. Debbie Davis says:

    Absolutely: Post-traumatic Growth is Possible in most of my clients. My discovery in treating adult survivors of historical sexual abuse is that within the context of a nurturing therapeutic relationship, most are able to eventually become the individuals that they were supposed to be. It is a long, difficult journey, but worth the intense work.

    Debbie Davis
    MSW, RSW

  41. Irene Marie Erckert says:

    I agree that finding meaning after trauma does foster happiness/post traumatic growth but first i believe the pain of the trauma must be honored and experienced to truly grow

  42. Sara says:

    I agree that there is a strong and positive connection between happiness and meaning.
    I find it difficult to believe that a person can truly be happy without meaning in their life. Of course we decide what meaning is for us, right? I do think we can have meaning without being happy, however. In fact, as someone who has experienced a number of losses over a short period of time, I am finding it is taking quite a bit of time to get back to “my normal”. I can see for me, though that meaning is what came back first and now I am moving toward being able to be happy again. In the beginning, I couldn’t see a path toward either.
    I do believe that we are always capable of growing so it makes sense to me that some will continue to grow after recovering from traumatic experiences. I hope to be one of them.

  43. Elizabeth says:

    Profoundly sobering. Many thanks for this radiant peak into what it means to be fully human.

    Elizabeth Agnese, M.A. (Applied Community Psychology through the Arts)

  44. Bea Schild says:

    Finding meqaning in what happened, i.e. what sense can I make of it for myself, setting goals for oneself for after the trauma, feeling as a art of a whole, etc.

  45. Marion houghton says:

    I think this is a very complex matter that involves accompanying the client on the journey. Timing would be very important… not getting ahead of the client’s process.

  46. Keri Brewer says:

    There is an excellent TED talk on Post Traumatic Growth… https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life

    • vick says:

      Excellent talk, thanks

    • Bea Schild says:

      Thanks for the link, it’s interesting to see, how she links the regrets of the dying with the characteristics of post traumatic growth

  47. Janet Harvey says:

    I work with clients to help them gain self compassion rather than self reproach, greater self understanding/other and working the process towards self mastery which is a life long process. Being mindful in the power of now and that where is is no mud no lotus. There are other truths to be discovered along the way.

    • Victoria says:

      Thank you for this Janet. I have found this gentle approach creates powerful and effective results as well. We heal and grow via love and acceptance paired with the gift of insight.

  48. Ria Lawson says:

    I work with a strength based approach with people and familes I encounter in my work. This gives the focus on what the person has experienced and how it effects their life. It involves a learning aspect, a different framework of ‘seeing’, an understanding of supports & resources the person can tap into, more insights into one’s self, aresumed control over one’s life and a practical way forward. I have often seen the gilded egde of trauma in people and am moved when the people I work alongside reveals their pain as well as their strengths – thank you for your sharing and research findings on trauma experiences

  49. I made the experience by my own: abusion, getting nearly killed , the suicid of my youngest son. Coming through all this, it makes me more free, more alive, more energetic, more understanding for myself an others and leads me to the profound experience, that death is an illusion, there is only life and love. I’m a rich woman, full of thanks to existence, ready to tell my story. May be it can encourage people in difficult situation

  50. Marcia Harms says:

    Good idea of how to help folks going through a trauma and rise above the prior level of functioning once healed. Love the ‘Post Traumatic Growth” phrase for measuring and improving on healing. Gail Sheehy had written the book Passages. It has been in my mind all these years. She had said, and cannot quote her exactly, but that we would pay for our crises if knew what they might do for us. I have found that a wise comment and look for that silver lining through life challenges.

  51. Cher says:

    As an interfaith minister and public speaker, I can craft my inspirational talks toward resiliency. I like this idea of re calibrating and the term post traumatic growth. Both concepts can be helpful when working with grief counseling as well as victims of trauma. It offers hope and is uplifting to be encouraged that with good mental hygiene and spiritual practices, life can normalize to a new level.

  52. EstherG says:

    I really like the term “post traumatic growth”. I’ve never heard it before, thank you so much. This new vocabulary takes the pathologization away and opens the door for healing vs staying in the disease model of things. I believe it is mind over matter and this is a very empowering set of words. Having an “action” term is so much more health promoting than a label. Thanks again!

  53. it makes so much sense that meaning and happiness go together. Thank you

  54. Mary Moore says:

    What did this circumstance/ condition help you understand about who you are and what you prefer?

  55. Karin Berman says:

    I loved hearing Sonja talk about this topic and associating related issues in a broader sense. I have been reflecting on the issue of happiness versus meaning – and read research that stated that finding or having meaning in one’s life does not necessarily mean one would be happy. For what it’s worth, here is a snippet:

    “…happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs…In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness…Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness—perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.” Article written by Baumeister et al. (2013) in the Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6).
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2013.830764?journalCode=rpos20

    • Eliza Kieding says:

      this resonates with the trajectory of my life, though I see how one might be able to break through to a “higher'” happiness filled with meaning, just haven’t experienced it personally.

  56. Thank you for the video post Ruth.

  57. Inez Wong says:

    When you have lost control of your life and so scared that you could never get back to your normal self again and then you do get it back…for me it was not the same. I appreciated every aspect as never before! I never loved my life as much as I do now. I am almost thankful for the trauma that happened to me. It also made me spiritual.

  58. Barb says:

    I’m glad to know someone is doing research on this. I tell clients that there is a silver lining to working through trauma, and it is what is being pointed to here. This underscores what I know, personally and from many clients.

  59. Judy hanazawa says:

    Thanks for this. I think it’s an important observation that post traumatic growth does occur but the ability to actually survive beyond the traumatic experience is an important first step and having meaningful support is also important. Nelson Mandela is one who was able to truly evolve in his humanity in the face of trauma and adversity. Thanks.

  60. Amelie Frank says:

    I can speak only as a patient, but there is no question that if you can work through trauma and gain a better understanding of how much you still matter and how meaningful your life can be for yourself as well as others, you will develop, and in ways you could not have imagined. I never thought I could have an unshakable sense of who I am or how appropriate that understanding is for me, and I would not trade what I know and understand now to have back the pre-trauma happiness I new. It will never be the same, but it can be different in surprising and beautiful ways.

    • Amelie Frank says:

      That should be “knew,” not new. Sticky K key.

  61. Nike Brandt Poulsen says:

    May be by takibg clients out in Nature, to helt them feel the beauty about being here.
    Or try to helt them engage in meaningful activities.

    Or going to a spriritual level, by proposing that there must be a meaning with them still being here in this World, it must be because they have something important that has to be done?

    It is a bit challenging, as people tend to follow a specificere route, that sometimes has to be disturbed. If they tend to be depressiv, their route has ro be distracted.

  62. smfields says:

    Recognize the time needed to transition from the old way of life (pre trauma) to the new way of living. Empathize with the fears and confusion around the demands of change. Explore sources of comfort and be comfortable enough to explore and encourage client to explore meaning of life and mortality. Encourage client in his/her faith as a personal journey embarked on by all cultures and individuals seeking to understand trauma and fear……normalize without diminishing. We live, we die. Help clients to open their eyes to the positive; the rescuers came, the neighbors cared, the community stepped up, the flowers bloomed, and they have learned vulnerability that possibly at some time in the future will enable them to reach out to someone else. We keep reading about meditation and yoga and mindfulness; that is what prayer can be/is, listening in contemplation and silence or calm music. Walking to the sounds of nature; believing that there is something greater than oneself that can join with ones sorrow is powerful indeed and can put present time in greater perspective. Faith has become a bit of a dirty word in therapy conversations…clients can hesitate to raise it, fearful the therapist will be disdainful, so bring it up respectfully. With every client we can expand our own knowledge and experience and we are privileged to stand with people in deep pain. Tell them that. We also are always growing. So can they.

    • I like this reply and agree with it. I love the phrase post traumatic growth. Very helpful.

  63. Dahna Berkson says:

    I keep thinking of Victor Frankl,
    Man’s Search for Meaning. Our capability
    to find meaning in the most horrific
    circumstance. Thank you.

  64. Rita says:

    It seems to me that the biggest barrier to resilience in the face of trauma is how entrenched the person is in fear.
    Currently I’m wrestling with how to reach and get my sister-in-law to make even small changes. My oldest brother is in early/middle stages of alzheimers. Both he and his wife lived near and assisted when my father went through the disease 20 years ago. Despite seeing effects of disease first-hand, my brother’s wife seems entirely unable to adapt to her husband’s condition. She believes my brother can improve. Worse, she cannot understand why her life has to change and she resists on every level: she still works but never learned to drive. She knows my brother failed an official driving test, but on the sly, she gets my brother to drive so she/they can do errands on the weekend. They are not rich, but they do not have to worry about money either. My sister-in-law’s fears, however, extend to spending almost any money — not just for cab drivers, for workmen to repair their house, landscapers to replace my brother in lawn/snow care, etc. etc. This disconnect between instituting positive factors to assist — and not harm/help my brother — is best summed up by her turning off the hot water.

    She is entirely encircled by fears. My brother is much more open and positive. I do not know how to help her become less fearful. I think about it a lot. How to reach her with loving kindness and get her to make even the smallest shift towards reality, openness, and hopefulness. How does one successfully get someone to overcome ANY of their fears and change their dangerous behavior?

    Breaking a cycle of fear seems the secret to resilience. For some, however, a deep, intransient attachment to fear seems insurmountable.

    • Marcia Harms says:

      Fear is another avenue of exploration when it comes to recovery and how to work through. This whole topic is unfortunately been so paramount for many nowadays and warrants further investigation. All these comments are thought provoking and inspiring. Wish I could comment on them all and maybe I shall as time allows. If anyone has read the study on Adverse Childhood Experiences, it helps to start to define how hard the issue of fear can be far imbedded in our psyche. Early study of development in this field are paramount for understanding and development needs to be brought back into the study of psychology more profoundly, especially when it comes to families.

  65. Elaine Dolan says:

    My response to Sonja is so complex and multi-faceted that it would take expanding the topic in several directions to answer it adequately. But one aspect of growth is a shift both into one’s worth and into belonging here- here on earth. Interaction clicks into place. Where you are (including wherever you’ve been) makes sense.

    One’s growth factor must be totally different from another’s growth factor–perhaps in a ratio to the love and encouragement of supportive others, as well as one’s ability to see, hear, and feel that support.

  66. Alison Lynch says:

    I think that survivors of trauma are and do become very strong as a result of what they have gone through. What I think is lacking in the therapy process is reflecting not only the experience of the client with the wide range of emotions they face everyday but reflecting and drawing out the strengths, positive characteristics and humor of the client that the client downplays or doesn’t notice or appreciate about him/herself. As a trained therapist and also as a client, I feel there is much too much that is not celebrated, acknowledged, or even focused on that is happy, positive and a sign of growth in the client and too much left for the client to kind of figure out and then eventually leave therapy because she now realizes she is “enough.” I think the therapist, rather than being afraid of emotionally taking care of the client, needs to partner with the client to find agreed upon strengths that the client can internalize that will further the belief that she is okay. It’s okay for the therapist to do a little bit of cheerleading. If your therapist can not be for you, and the client feels too shitty to be for herself, then there’s not much hope-but when your therapist can be for you, before you realize that you’re worth being there for yourself, what a gift that can be to the client!

  67. JoAnn Baird says:

    I think there are a lot of contingencies. Whether a person experiences decline, return to status quo or growth depends upon the client’s temperament, the quality of support in the person’s environment pre- and post-trauma, developmental trauma prior to the event, and whether or not the client was fortunate enough to seek treatment and the quality of that treatment. Probably many other contingencies. So, what I get out of this piece is that there is hope after trauma and even happiness, under the right conditions. Am I getting this right?

  68. Rossen Russev says:

    It is a great!

  69. I recently was impressed by the back cover notes on Alex Brumbaugh’s, The Praxis of Recovery. Suggesting that “the threshold of success does not occur until after five or more years of sustained remission.” And it frames “recovery in terms of learnings.” To experience post-traumatic growth, it strikes me that these “learnings” are key. And how we go about creating the environments, the teachers and the competency to support this five+ years growth process essential.

  70. yvonne solorio says:

    I feel so hopeful and excited to receive this kind of information, not only for myself but as concrete evidence of where we are going as a species, i.e., into enlightened living.

  71. I have specialized in living with disability in the family for years, in my private clinical practice. Many of my clients either face the challenge of long term physical conditions, being a spouse in that situation, or as parents of children with disabilities. So often it involves a loss of identity (giving up a career, dreams for a future together, etc.) and the necessity for redefinition of self. We will explore, who was I before, what can I bring forward from the past, what must I let go of, and what are new possibilities? Eventually we end up discussing the “gift” embedded in the loss or challenge they face, but not before giving ample air time to their grief about what dream has been lost. It’s when people don’t have the “permission” to be seen and acknowledged for their losses, that they get stuck and can’t see their way clear to re-create meaning.

  72. E. Suzanne Carter LPS-S, NCC, LCDC, MAC says:

    I have seen my clients do both – refuse happiness or develop a happier life. I am always hopping for the happier life and I do affirm all indications that the client will become happier. I know the affirmation helps my clients in that moment, but I do not know if it is a component of helping the happier life to develop.

    • Marcia Harms says:

      For many year doing grief and loss groups it was always the clients who seemed to grieve more at the onset who were more able to move on as they often has reported such a good relationship with a partner. They sought to duplicate it sooner. It was the ones that my grief professor warned me about were the ones who seemed to not grieve as much but it never seemed to end. They were ones that had a poor relationship with the partner. They never seemed to move on until that relationship got resolved. the group members were always baffled by the fast transition of the former. I have found this helpful in dealing with clients who have loved ones they have strong conflict with, to resolve it before it becomes this situation.

  73. Ginger stage says:

    Though I’ve always been dubbed in incurable optimist, I know that the peace and security I get is knowing that there is the creator of the universe who is wiser and more loving than me. He has shown me again and again the truth of the Scriptures that say God can make all things work for good for those who love him. Though he allows things to happen that we often do not understand, he also will allow those things to help us grow, if we trust him. Those who have come from a really difficult family history have a harder time trusting that an authority figure could be all loving, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Much of what people seem not to understand is that there is evil in the world and that wanting to be our own God often makes things very hard for us. Even for clients who are not believers, these truths can still operate so presenting an alternative to letting trauma have us rather than us having had a trauma is a very helpful view. The helplessness and powerlessness that are so much a part of trauma get re-framed with the concept of conquering and making something good out of an experience that wanted to defeat us. Whether somebody gets that extra assist from God or not is their call. These are truths that have been written long before any of the recent researchers.

  74. Eileen Farrow says:

    A therapist is working with a client that has experienced a family suicide, loss of a son and breast cancer.
    After many years of pain, grief and sadness, this lady has learned to enjoy life in a new way. With many ways of learning about herself—she has learned acceptance, resilience and contentment.

    LOVE is her answer—-know how to love and cherish yourself, then learning to love others.
    True loving kindness can take you to a higher place than living a normal life.

  75. Ladonna Zimmerman says:

    Very validating of my personal experience with traumatic events and in my professional life as an LCSW. I’m the Trauma Informed Care Coordinator in a maximum/high/ minimum security Forensic Mental Health facility in Missouri, Fulton State Hospital. I definitely see individuals who grow and mature and find meaning in their lives. The other thing I believe we also know is the importance of connection and having at least one person that believes in you.

  76. Marta Luzim says:

    I work with clients who are challenged with complex trauma and PTSD. I myself have experienced both. Trauma is a dark night of the soul. A heroine’s/heros journey, resourcing deep faith, surrender to what you cannot control and re-directing energy into positive action, being able to tolerate pain and passion, finding your tribe and where you belong, and choosing creative inspired living. Personally and professionally I don’t know why one person recovers meaning and happiness and others do not. I believe it has to do with something spiritual, karmic and beyond our knowing. My sister committed suicide. I fought for my happiness, meaning and love. I am still standing. Still passionate. What I have witnessed throughout my life and career are those who can reach a recovery of love and passion are those who can internalize their resources of faith, radical self acceptance, loving-kindness, relearning trust and re-building and re-patterning the fragmented self into wholeness. They never give up. They want to receive love and give love. It takes a deep hunger desire and practice to reach new levels of happiness after trauma. I don’t know, in this research, what those individuals did to find happiness after trauma. What I do know it take alot of strength, vulnerability, ability to receive your worthiness and establish healthy attachments and find meaning. Your organization has helped me to understand trauma in so many meaningful and healing ways, I am grateful for you passion and dedication to healing trauma. Deeply humbled and thankful

  77. claire says:

    I think it’s great that this is scientifically validated now, because it must be part of our job as therapists to totally believe in the person’s ability not only to bounce back but also to go way beyond themselves, their expectations of themselves and even our own expectations of them. I have seen this happen so many times – and it’s exciting! It shows us that we really are living in a space of infinite possibilities and if we can bring that energy to our work then we are hopefully not limiting our clients by our own limited mindset about what is possible for them – we are actually holding a space which supports and encourgages them to go as far as they will.

  78. Fi says:

    Trauma enables a person to discover just what they are made of and how far their limits or boundaries of what is possible go, it can be empowering to get to know a part of ourselves hidden until trauma happens to let us see what we are made of!

  79. Laura Kearney says:

    I did my advanced project in undergrad about Posttraumatic Growth (PTG), and I am so happy to see you talking about this! I think it is a fascinating and hopeful topic, and it is something I have experienced myself. 5 years ago I was immersed in research by the PTG Group at University of North Carolina (Tedeschi & Calhoun), and Dr. Stephen Joseph’s book “What Doesn’t Kill Us.” I am so pleased to see that body of work continuing and growing.

    I think the specific areas of growth involved in PTG are important to know, in order to recognize and support them in our clients (and in ourselves). Research has shown the 5 top areas of growth in PTG are:
    – Increased Sense of Personal Strengths
    – Greater Appreciation of Life
    – Seeing New Possibilities
    – Increased Intimacy in Relationships
    – Spiritual Development.

    • Linh says:

      Thank you for sharing, Laura. I greatly appreciate it.

    • Minky Motlhale says:

      This sounds interesting, any possibility of sending a link or more information on the subject? I find that I’ve grown so much from surviving domestic violence in my marriage and nursing my son back to life from his long stay in ICU. I’I’ve also witnessed how most of my clients grow after sessions of TRE with them. Now I know how this is possible.

  80. Bob Dale says:

    After experiencing my daughter’s protected illness and subsequent death, I can say with unfortunate authority that parents of children with disabilities do experience life with greater complexity. That can often be overwhelming since complexity can be positive or negatively perceived. As a therapist, my task is to normalize that complexity in the context of redefining existence and meaning. Those who get stuck in the negative end of the pool are the challenge.

  81. Prithwiraj Sinha says:

    I think happiness depends on fulfilment of the physical and psychological needs of a person.
    This is explained well in Human Givens psychology.

    • Can you please send me the link please, I am studying Hypnotherapy/Psychotherapy/Neuro Linguistic Programming and Counselling at the Diploma level and onto Masters after , as a previous employee of Correctional Services, I wish to learn and develop as much knowledge to help Police Officers/Correctional Officers and anyone with more sound knowledge of this field. Also this link “Human givens Psychology” could you provide link please. South Australia.

  82. HUTCHERSON WILLIAM says:

    I love the quote which has made so much sense and growth in my own life…

    “There are places in the heart that do not yet exist,
    pain must be for them to be.”

  83. Michael Lederman says:

    My parents were in the Holocaust & I am totally amazed by their tremendous resilience! I have come to learn that no one can take my spirit away!

  84. David McGough says:

    I live with C-PTSD – Although i have a huge vulnerability on the other side Superhuman strengths – Trauma can be very educative because even though the events are truly staggering the person by living such a tough battle becomes a very impressive entity – re-defines their own life and uses Trauma to get not only your life story told but to emerge out the other side (this isn’t easy) superior than before

  85. Genevieve says:

    In order to come through and thrive, after severe trauma, it is not unreasonable to suggest that a viable and supportive network is required. I can well imagine, from lived experience, that those with a positive and viable support network do better than those who live in relative or complete isolation.

  86. Our center uses the Feuerstein program, created to help holocaust survivors move out of a limbic system hijacked state by developing frontal lobe cogitive growth. We are getting some good results. Some people, of course, need more time and intensity.

    • Nicole Ditz says:

      Could you provide a link to information on this feuerstein program and its methodology?

      Thank you!

  87. I always say to my patients, family, friends and myself: there’s nothing good about trauma, tragedy and crisis, and yet, it’s happened/happening, so you may as well grow. Looking for small and big miracles helps. I’ve used the idea of PT growth in my work and in my book as the thing that can make all the difference. I find that perspective, thoughts about events and loving kindness from self and others, will make all the difference.
    It did for me.

  88. Elsa says:

    Hi Ruth, The person who came to mind, listening to the research on people growing after and/or through a traumatic event, was you. I remember hearing of your huge loss – the loss of your partner. And I wondered: are you more daring, more complex, now. For example, has NICABM is some way come about in part in response to the loss – that you have taken on this enormous challenge, to share what you know with ever so many more people. All the best to you – to all of us.

    • Thanks for thinking of me, Elsa. And yes, it was a huge loss that I grow from continually.

  89. Bridget Herod says:

    I will take these examples and applying them. I value you information.
    I teach students who experience trauma and I will modify and adapt.

  90. kathy says:

    What causes differences between each group?

    Again what determines the outcome of advestiry? Did they check what kind of thinking styles the people had before the adversity?

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