This brief describes post-traumatic growth (PTG), positive psychological change that occurs as the result of one’s struggle with trauma.
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is positive psychological change that occurs as the result of one’s struggle with a highly challenging, stressful, and traumatic event. The presence of PTG can manifest itself in five domains: an increased appreciation for life, relating to others, new possibilities, an increased sense of personal strength, and spiritual growth. Law enforcement officers deal with exposure to multiple traumatic events during the course of their career. While it is common to have psychological injuries as the result of this exposure, it is also possible for changes to occur within that allow for greater personal growth and encourage introspection about what gives life meaning. Traumatic experiences that disrupt an individual’s expectations and understanding of the world create changes that allow for growth. PTG has been studied in a broad range of trauma survivors, from survivors of motor vehicle accidents to bombings and other terrorist events. Helping others not only heals the individual but promotes their growth. Proven strategies for the facilitation of PTG include therapy, journaling, and art therapy; outdoor activities; and positive psychology exercises, such as the “three good things” writing exercise where an individual documents three good things from their day and why those things were good. Growth and distress are separate dimensions but are oftentimes cooccurring. Trauma survivors may have suicidal thoughts and feelings, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms, and they can experience growth within the context of this distress. Officers can experience overall growth as well as growth in the five domains. These experiences of growth in the domains of relating to others and spiritual change become even more prominent as individuals age. There is also evidence that individuals will find new possibilities in life; personal strength; and appreciation of life, which will eventually level off, only to increase later in their lives.