Boulder Crest Institute for Posttraumatic GrowthSM

We deliver comprehensive training – using educational and experiential methods delivered offline and online – for mental health professionals, interns, residents, medical students, medical doctors, teachers, first responders, clergy, military members, and laymen in communities and areas of need. Our training focuses on the principles of PTG, how to integrate PTG into practices, workplaces, environments, and how to support others in achieving PTG. This effort will include the scaling of our established PTG programs (PATHH) to communities in need.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.
If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
— Goethe

 

Boulder Crest Institute is the first-ever organization to develop and deliver programs designed to cultivate and facilitate Posttraumatic Growth. Our work – based on the decades-old science of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) – has led to the development of a new science: Applied Posttraumatic Growth. 

The principles that underpin both Posttraumatic Growth and Applied Posttraumatic Growth are best captured by the famous Nietzche quote: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” This idea, that times of deep struggle, and even despair, can be the gateway to a life that is more authentic, fulfilling, and purposeful than ever before, is not new, and in fact is the foundational principle of nearly every organized religion and the military. This philosophy – that deep struggle can create profound strength and lifelong growth – is at the heart of everything Boulder Crest does, and a key differentiating factor. 

Posttraumatic Growth in DEPTH

Posttraumatic growth is the foundation of the Boulder Crest Institute and reflects thousands of years of understanding, decades of research, and years of application and operationalization at Boulder Crest's PTG Academies — Boulder Crest Retreat Arizona and Boulder Crest Retreat Virginia. 

The underlying concepts of PTG are as old as organized religion. In Romans 5:3-5, it is said, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

From Hinduism to Buddhism, Islam to Judaism, Catholicism to other forms of Christianity, the idea that life is full of suffering is a foundational element of all faiths. The only question, therefore, is what to do about it. 

In the words of Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
— Viktor Frankl

At the core of PTG is restoring the element of choice to life, and learning to respond, rather than react, to life’s ups and downs. In the process, lessons are learned — about the world and, more importantly, about oneself. The challenge and obligation is then to share those lessons in service to others. This idea, that life is a classroom, is reflected in our definition of a hero: A hero is an ordinary person who endures an extraordinary experience and returns to share important truths about life that they learned, so they can enrich the lives of others. 

In 1995, after interviewing hundreds of parents who lost children to cancer and other illnesses and accidents, UNC-Charlotte professors and psychologists Dr. Richard Tedeschi (the Distinguished Chair of the Boulder Crest Institute) and Dr. Laurence Calhoun noticed a surprising trend. Many parents — having suffered what is believed to be the worst loss imaginable — reported elements of their life becoming more meaningful in the wake of their child’s passing. The two psychologists continued talking to the parents, and worked to reverse engineer this process of transforming deep struggle and loss into profound strength and growth. 

Tedeschi and Calhoun first published their findings on PTG in 1995, and Tedeschi continues to do so, with numerous articles and books published on the subject. The research has expanded to cover a range of trauma survivors, including combat veterans.

A New Approach to Times of Struggle

Our current system pathologizes times of struggle through diagnoses, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, which leave those struggling feeling broken, and as though something is defective about them. The result is a belief that one must grow accustomed to life as a diminished version of themselves — enjoying just a fraction of the joy, love, connection, and satisfaction that was previously available. This notion is demonstrated in the chart below:

This chart captures the notion that trauma is inherently diminishing

This chart captures the notion that trauma is inherently diminishing

A significant limitation of our current systems of care is that they focus on symptomology...this narrow and reductionistic approach to psychological health lessens the likelihood that growth will occur and increases the likelihood that the veteran will need to accept a diminished version of themselves...
— Dr. Richard Tedeschi & Dr. Bret Moore

At Boulder Crest Institute, we believe that times of struggle can serve as catalysts for growth, change, and transformation to levels previous unseen in the life of someone who is struggling. That is the story of some of those we admire most (Viktor Frankl, and the Prisoners of War who endured years in captivity at the Hanoi Hilton) and the birthright of all who walk the road of deep struggle. This idea — that struggle can unlock hope, love, connection, and joy that was previously unreachable — is captured in the chart below:

This chart reflects Posttraumatic Growth: that idea that times of struggle can serve as catalysts for growth and change

This chart reflects Posttraumatic Growth: that idea that times of struggle can serve as catalysts for growth and change

The chart above speaks to our belief in the power of all those who experience trauma, and represents the central gift that PTG gives anyone who struggles: Hope. It is hope that serves as the antidote to suicide, and provides those who struggle with a vision of a life that isn’t inhibited by symptoms, or debilitating memories of past experiences.