Post Traumatic Growth versus Resiliency


Many of us are familiar with the acronym PTSD  — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  — whether through the media, involvement with veterans and active military, or firsthand in our own families. We also have a rough understanding of the word “resiliency” and how these two mental health terms may be related. A term not widely  recognized or frankly even used in this arena is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG).  On the surface many may assume that resiliency and PTG are interchangeable. This assumption is incorrect. According to an article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from traumatic experiences. PTG is when an individual struggles to bounce back from a traumatic experience which  questions his/her core beliefs, and then experiences a sense of personal growth which affects one’s world view,  and core values. What is interesting to note is that the individuals who experience this growth are the ones who struggle most as their foundation is shaken, not the ones who aren’t as affected by the trauma. There are evaluations to measure PTG. These inventories look for positive responses in the following areas: appreciation of life, relationships with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength, and spiritual change. Although there has been evidence found to suggest a possible genetic predisposition for PTG, the link has yet to be solidified. Moreover, there are ways in which practitioners can assist in the healing of individuals with PTSD and encourage PTG. Some top line techniques noted in the article, Growth After Trauma in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor,  are integral to the EAGALA Model of equine assisted psychotherapy utilized at Berkshire HorseWorks:

  1. Highlight strengths of the individual – instead of focusing on their faults and struggles with this experience, focus on how they are making it through and what it is that is allowing them to do so.
  2. Go beyond getting by – Instead of providing clients tools to simply cope and ‘get by’, allow them space to discover how meaningful and fulfilling life can be. Provide  an environment where they can discover options  to lead a more fulfilling life. i.e. volunteer, spend more time with loved ones, start a hobby or career path

In closing, a psychologist at Boulder Crest’s Warrior Program in Bluemont, VA said that he hoped his clients will, “develop new principles for living that involve altruistic behavior, having a mission in life and purpose that goes beyond oneself, so that the trauma is transformed into something that’s useful not only for oneself but for others.”  We provide an environment for those with PTSD to discover their own solutions, while working with horses, in a safe, non judgmental space.


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