Post-Traumatic Growth in Sexual Assault Survivors: Impacting Factors, Implications, and Recommendations for Therapy Practice

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Pagely, Kelsey
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This capstone paper has explored the contributing factors to cultivating posttraumatic growth (PTG) for sexual assault (SA) survivors by analyzing nine peer-reviewed research studies. PTG is defined as the positive psychological changes that occur after experiencing trauma and contributes to growth from a pre-trauma state in one or more psychological domains. There is a lack of literature exploring a cohesive response to working with SA survivors to promote growth and transformation. The results from the nine studies were thematically analyzed to uncover three core areas of change that contribute to SA survivors exhibiting PTG. Additionally, six subthemes were found as specific factors that influence the cultivation of PTG. The three areas of change include changes in perception of self, in one's relationships, and general philosophy in life. The six subthemes indicate that perceptions of personal agency and control and the perception of self-blame can influence growth. Social and community-level connections, as well as employing cognitive strategies and religious/spiritual coping, are also factors that contribute to PTG. A fourth core theme was identified as systemic and external barriers influencing SA survivors' ability to achieve PTG. These findings provide avenues that can be applied in clinical settings for mental health practitioners to utilize while working with SA survivors. Methodological analyses of the nine studies, ethical considerations, and recommendations for future research and clinical practice are discussed in the conclusion of this capstone.
posttraumatic growth , sexual assault , sexual violence , positive psychology , sexual assault survivors , mental health practitioners