Precautions to Conducting Research on and Facilitating Posttraumatic Growth Among Persons With Serious Mental Illnesses: A Perspective Piece

Gerald Jordan, Laura C. Burke, David Roe, Larry Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Serious mental illnesses may lead to negative outcomes and immeasurable suffering. However, recent research has revealed that people can also experience posttraumatic growth following the onset of a serious mental illness. Posttraumatic growth has been defined as positive changes in multiple areas of people’s lives following struggles with adversity. Aspects of posttraumatic growth include developing a greater appreciation for life, improved relationships with others, increased personal strength, new life possibilities, and spiritual or religious development. Research on posttraumatic growth may provide people with hope and lead to shifts in how we understand the aftermath of mental illness. However, while research about and attempts to facilitate posttraumatic growth may be important and promising, we must be cautious that when such work crosses boundaries into the field of serious mental illness, it is not misused. The objective of this perspective piece is to outline potential precautions for, and make recommendations about, how the boundaries between the concept of posttraumatic growth and serious mental illness should and should not be crossed. Specifically, we caution that in researching or facilitating posttraumatic growth, personal and political sources of suffering not be neglected, funding to mental health services not be cut, new expectations and categories for people not be created, and persons with mental illness not be fetishized or romanticized. By discussing these points, we hope that various stakeholders (e.g., researchers, clinicians, etc.) will engage or continue to engage with the construct of posttraumatic growth carefully and respectfully.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-113
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, University of Nebraska Press. All rights reserved.


  • disability studies
  • mental illness
  • posttraumatic growth
  • recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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