After the Fire: Post Traumatic Growth in Recovery from Addictions

  • A J Hewitt

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Growth in response to trauma (Posttraumatic growth – PTG) has been established in a number of studies, though only two (Hewitt 2004, McMillen et al 2001) are directly related to the traumatic experience of addiction to drugs and alcohol. This study built on previous work by the author (Hewitt 2002, 2004) that established that addiction could be seen as a trauma, and that both negative and positive effects could result from the experience. This research sought to explore the experience of posttraumatic growth in recovery from addiction. The aim was to clarify more explicitly the experiences of some of the people who reported PTG in relation to addiction, increasing our awareness and understanding of some of the outcomes, strategies and processes involved, and the implications of these findings. The research comprised two studies. In the first, the experience of 16 people who felt they had PTG effects resulting from their previous addiction to drugs or alcohol was analysed using Grounded Theory. In the second study, the experience and views of another three people who fulfilled the same criteria but in addition were also ‘experts’ in this area were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Combining the data analysis from both studies described a uniquely personal overall process of individuation, with growth along a developmental continuum from addiction recovery to thriving resulting from the deliberate use and generation of recovery capital and growth capital. There were a large range of positive feedback loops that supported this growth, and meaning was of central and ongoing importance. The study findings were compared to the wider PTG literature and found to have much in common, further supporting the view that addiction can be seen as a stressor in PTG terms, and suggesting that there may be much theory and practice from the PTG field that can be applied to the area of addiction recovery. Limitations of the study are discussed, and recommendations made for further testing of the model developed within the thesis in order to examine its generalisability, as well as for study and theory development, and for the development of policy and practice relating to promoting recovery from addictions and subsequent growth.
Date of Award1 Apr 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRichard Velleman (Supervisor)

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