The authors of The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook: Coming Through Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient, Richard Tedeschi and Bret Moore, are both practicing psychologists and have been for many years (Tedeschi for over 35 years and Moore for more than 15 years). Their experience with clients includes significant time with active-duty soldiers as well as bereaved parents and others. This combined 50 years of helping people cope with trauma and loss have given the authors a well-developed perspective on both what clients may be feeling and what works in helping them to get past the trauma.
The The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook can be used as a guide on how to face past trauma, despite how difficult that may be. Reflecting on one’s feelings and thoughts at the time of the event(s) can be the start of using the trauma for growth, which may be a lengthy process but worth the effort. The authors call it a “psychological rebirth.”
Trauma can have many causes. Perhaps because of news coverage, most of us quickly think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by horrific military experiences. Without diminishing those experiences in the least, trauma can also be caused by physical abuse, rape, automobile accidents, tornadoes and other weather tragedies, divorce and infidelity, terminal illness, and more. When one thinks of all of the possibilities it is easy to imagine how many people are affected by trauma and see how this workbook can have a broad impact.
Not everyone has the same reactions to a trauma. In divorce, for example, many people are able to process their feelings and move on with their lives. There are many factors that contribute to people’s ability to move on after a divorce, but in truth, what they have done is to grow from the experience and create a different life.
Like many self-help workbooks, The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook seems it would be most effective if one moves through it slowly and thoughtfully. Rushing through in order to come up with a solution or new life plan — to “get the answer” — will likely not be as helpful.
After an introduction, the authors start with a little education, then move into asking the reader to recall their reactions to the traumatic event, including emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical symptoms. Of course, different traumas and people produce different reactions. An important aspect of the reader’s growth is considering how one’s core beliefs have been affected. These include faith, self-worth, and many more.
Tedeschi and Moore have used their experience to suggest that trauma victims can seek out five types of growth: personal strength, improved relationships, appreciation of life, new paths, and spiritual change. The workbook helps readers explore each growth category. Even without the tragedy of a traumatic event, it can be healthy for us to reflect on these.
An important concept suggested by the authors is that of having an “expert companion.” This companion must be able to provide compassion and understanding to the affected one. It does not have to be a trained professional, although that could certainly be valuable. The expert companion is with the person every step of the way, offering support, a friendly ear, guidance, and feedback. The book even shows how to find this companion and suggests there may be more than one companion.
As the reader nears the end of the workbook, some of the questions asked in the beginning are asked again to compare how one’s thoughts and views may have changed. While for some people growth following a traumatic event may come quickly, it isn’t that easy for others. It could take months or years. Coming back to the workbook over time could be useful.
The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook could be a great tool for someone who has experienced trauma or even some stressful event that doesn’t seem to quite fit the definition for trauma. To be effective, it requires introspection, honesty, and thoughtful recollection of past events. The event or events may have been very painful or harmful, both physically or mentally, so it could be difficult. But this book will get readers to explore these events and, just as important, guide them to new paths of understanding and a resolve to change their lives.
Some self-help books help us to reflect and develop new insights, which can lead to positive change. Although we are often encouraged to write down our thoughts and ideas, we don’t always do that because we prefer to keep reading and come back to that later; too often that doesn’t happen. The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook puts the paper right in front of us and psychologically “forces” us to slow down. This book is a valuable approach.
The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook: Coming Through Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient
New Harbinger Publications, Inc., December 2016
Paperback, 184 Pages