Posttraumatic growth – How our worst experiences can change us for the better

Judith Mangelsdorf, President of the German Society of Positive Psychology and associated researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This famous notion of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche emphasizes the conviction that even the most challenging life experience can result in long term benefits. New priorities in life, a deeper understanding of oneself, and more meaningful relationships are only examples of psychological gains that people report as a consequence of coping with critical life events. However, by far not all survivors of life-threatening illnesses, accidents or assaults experience growth. Some people never really recover from the psychological harm that comes along with potentially traumatic life events. Thus, the critical question is: Is there genuine growth and is it possible to foster posttraumatic growth after potentially traumatic life events? This talk provides an overview of the current research on posttraumatic growth and gives practical insights for the work with people coping with highly challenging life events. 

Dr. Judith Mangelsdorf is president of the German Society of Positive Psychology and associated researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her research focusses on posttraumatic and postecstatic growth. Dr. Mangelsdorf also works as supervisor and trainer for hospice service teams and victim support services.