The Paradox of Struggling with Trauma: Guidelines for Practice and Directions for Research

January 1, 2008
Trauma, Recovery, and Growth: Positive Psychological Perspectives on Posttraumatic Stress

This chapter illustrates posttraumatic growth (PTG) as a leading theory and treatment approach for treatment of posttraumatic stress, and discusses PTG in the context of other leading theories and evidence-based interventions drawn from positive psychology.

We coined the term posttraumatic growth to describe the experience of positive change resulting from the struggle with a major life crisis and we have been looking at this phenomenon, in the dual roles of scientists and practitioners, for more than 25 years. Our original scholarly efforts in this area emerged from some quite basic qualitative work with persons who had become physically handicapped as adults and a group of older adults, mostly women, who had experienced the death of their spouses. We were struck by the degree to which much of what these people told us reflected ways in which they had been, without having the choice, changed in positive ways, and sometimes in ways they considered of major importance.

Although we are experts as clinicians, we do not know about the experience of individual persons in individual contexts—and so we must learn from the client.
Dr. Calhoun and Dr. Tedeschi

The idea that something positive can be intermingled with, or can come out of, the struggle with something very difficult and distressing is an ancient point of view. This view is a theme in literature, religion, and philosophy and it has been present for a very, very long time. And, although we would like to have been the first to suggest this possibility in the more academic domains of inquiry, there has been a quite long tradition in the social and behavioral sciences that points to the possibility of growth from the struggle with crisis. However, it was not until the 1990s that social and behavioral scientists began to focus their research attention on the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth as a distinct area of inquiry

Read the Chapter “The Paradox of Struggling with Trauma: Guidelines for Practice and Directions for Research”

About the Authors