University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Post-Traumatic growth and spirituality in burn recovery


Wiechman Askay, S., & Magyar-Russell, G



Publication Info:

International Review of Psychiatry, 21(6):570-579


For decades, research on long-term adjustment to burn injuries has adopted a deficit model of focusing solely on negative emotions. The presence of positive emotion and the experience of growth in the aftermath of a trauma have been virtually ignored in this field. Researchers and clinicians of other health and trauma populations have frequently observed that, following a trauma, there were positive emotions and growth. This growth occurs in areas such as a greater appreciation of life and changed priorities; warmer, more intimate relations with others; a greater sense of personal strength, recognition of new possibilities, and spiritual development. In addition, surveys of trauma survivors report that spiritual or religious beliefs played an important part in their recovery and they wished more healthcare providers were comfortable talking about these issues. Further evidence suggests that trauma survivors who rely on spiritual or religious beliefs for coping may show a greater ability for post-traumatic growth (PTG). This article reviews the literature on these two constructs as it relates to burn survivors. We also provide recommendations for clinicians on how to create an environment that fosters PTG and encourages patients to explore their spiritual and religious beliefs in the context of the trauma.

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