Building Resilience for Posttraumatic Growth

Gayle Demarest -Blog Post- METCJ720 -Trauma and Crisis Intervention

We often hear about people who experience adverse and traumatic experiences and who become eventually diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, from either acute short-term trauma or chronic trauma, which lasts over a long period and can cause significant physical and mental illness (Rousseau, 2023). We hear less about people who resiliently recover from their experiences and thrive into posttraumatic growth.

Resilience is a buffer to becoming diagnosed with PTSD and allows us to adapt successfully in the face of adversity and stress (Horn et al., 2016). One can innately have resiliency or build resiliency to protect oneself from traumatic events. Resilience can also be taught to PTSD patients, potentially moving them into posttraumatic growth.  Several advances in the study of trauma and resilience have shown a greater understanding of how individual strengths, protective factors, and the adaptational responses of human beings can build our resilience to overcome adversity (Horn et al., 2016).  An essential step for all trauma survivors, according to Van der Kolk, is the importance of treatment provided early on,  preferably right after the trauma. If too much time passes, the traumatized person or group can become emotionally numb and only able to relate to their traumatic memories. This delay creates a setback to treatment and could steer someone toward a diagnosis of PTSD rather than posttraumatic growth (van der Kolk, 2014).

Certain protective factors have been identified in recent studies of children exposed to the extreme traumas of war (forced displacement, bombings, and rapes), including solid social support systems, religious beliefs that show meaning in suffering, and positive bonding with a caregiver. (Horn et al., 2016).  Individuals who can overcome a moderate stressor, like the death of a family member, may be able to be resilient to later stressors (Horn et al., 2016). This phenomenon is known as stress inoculation. Additionally, if an individual has control and agency over a stressor, it is less likely to become unmanageable (Horn et al., 2016).  Cognitive reappraisal is an emotion-regulating strategy often used by resilient individuals; this skill allows one to monitor negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones (Horn et al., 2016).

Rousseau states that the outcome of exposure to a traumatic event is more dependent on the inner workings of the person who experienced it than the event itself (Rousseau, 2023).  In the TED talk by Jane McGonigal, she shares that some individuals use traumatic events as a springboard to live a better life than before and that we do not have to suffer. Strengths that can lead to posttraumatic growth include mental, physical, social, and emotional resilience. If an individual can work on these areas within themselves, they are likely to experience healing from their trauma and regain a meaningful life (Rousseau, 2023). Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, points out that only through connection with others can survivors leave behind their vulnerabilities and regain their sense of self (Rousseau, 2023). In B.U. student Brogan Gerhart’s film review of “Boys and Men Healing: From Child Sexual Abuse” (2023), she writes about the widely unspoken issue of sexual abuse against men and boys and the lack of resources they have available to them for healing. She states that most of the survivors in the film found healing and resilience in connecting with other male survivors of child sexual abuse (Gerhart, B. film review, 2023).

Resiliency comes in many forms, all essential to the healing process, and if we commit to working on ourselves to improve those skills and characteristics within, we can all move toward healing and posttraumatic growth, redefining our lives and making new memories, leaving behind the traumatic ones. Building resilience is there for all of us, and there are multiple roads to get there.



Gerhart, B. (2023). Review: Boys and Men Healing: From Child Sexual Abuse [Film] directed by Barbini, 2011. Boston University, MET CJ720 Trauma and Crisis Intervention. Accessed December 5, 2023.

Horn, S. R., Charney, D. S., & Feder, A. (2016). Understanding resilience: New approaches for preventing and treating PTSD. Experimental neurology, 284, 119-132.

Rousseau, D. (2023). Trauma and Crisis Intervention. Module 1. MET CJ720. Boston University.

Van der Kolk, B.A. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Viking Penguin.




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  1. I found this blog post fascinating because it touches on resilience and posttraumatic growth. I agree that resiliency comes in many forms, just like trauma comes in many forms, and while it may take others time before they seek treatment and grow, resilience can happen along the way. Great Blog Post!

  2. I liked the idea regarding resilience and numbing. I think it is extremely crucial to combat numbing in order not to deprive yourself of small joys of life. Unfortunately, it is hard to stop numbing especially in cases of severe trauma but reconnecting with your beloved ones if possible can speed up the healing and bring this person back to reality. At least this worked with me when I experienced some panic attacks (even though I realise that this experience differs from numbing, but it still has a lot in common because when the brain is in the alert state, it is not present in the current reality).

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