Self-Report Measures, Screenings and Assessments
What Is the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI)?
THC Editorial Team December 24, 2021
- What Does the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory Measure?
- Posttraumatic Growth Inventory Scoring Guidelines
- Interpretation of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory
- Validity and Reliability of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory
- Outlook and Further Implications
Posttraumatic growth refers to positive personal growth and transformation that one experiences after recovering from traumatic or otherwise highly challenging life circumstances.1,2 Although personal growth and change are often subjective, a tool called the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) allows psychologists to measure the impact of such transformation.
The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory is the most prevalent measure used to assess positive outcomes after extremely stressful and potentially traumatic events.3 It is primarily a self-report measure and used by individuals to rate their own posttraumatic growth and compare them in two or more points in time.
What Does the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory Measure?
While there are variations in the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, the basic model consists of 21 questions that are grouped under five factors, or general categories:4
- New possibilities
- Relating to others
- Personal strength
- Spiritual change
- Appreciation of life
The original inventory was created in the mid-1990s by the developers of the academic concept of posttraumatic growth, psychologists Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi from the University of North Carolina. Since then, several updated variations of this tool have been proposed. One of the significant proposed changes is the addition of more questions under the spiritual change factor to reflect cultural diversity regarding religion and spiritual beliefs.3 This proposed version of the measure, called the PTGI-X, includes four new spiritual-existential questions.3 There is also a short form under consideration that contains only 10 items with two questions under each factor (PTGI-SF).5
The PTGI can be found online in many locations.6 It consists of 21 questions to which responses are given on a scale of 0–5, with 0 representing no change and 5 showing a great degree of change.
Posttraumatic Growth Inventory Scoring Guidelines
After a client completes the questionnaire in a counseling session, the therapist tallies the scores to obtain an overall score, which provides information about any growth the client has experienced since the traumatic event. Additionally, although clients won’t see which questions fall within a specific grouping on the inventory that they complete in a counseling session, the therapist can obtain a score for each of the five categories to determine where the client has experienced the most growth and where more positive change can occur.
Additionally, a therapist can have the client complete the inventory at least twice, perhaps a couple of months apart. This enables the therapist to establish a baseline to see where growth is occurring more accurately.7 Once slower growth areas are identified, the therapist can devise and revise the client’s treatment plan as needed to encourage further growth in all areas.
Interpretation of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory
Many online versions of the PTGI show the category under which each question falls. By completing the inventory online, individuals can gather information about their growth after trauma. However, people should take care when trying to make sense of the data on their own. People recall memories differently, and it can be challenging for someone to remember how they used to feel about specific aspects of their life before they lived through the traumatic event, particularly if a great deal of time has elapsed since their trauma.
Because of the potential differentiation in memory recollections, individuals should use the results of the completed inventory in conjunction with mental health treatment so that the counselor can help them identify strengths, weaknesses, and different areas where growth can occur.
Validity and Reliability of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory
The original PTGI has good internal consistency and acceptable reliability and validity.4,8 The newer PTGI-X also demonstrates very good internal consistency and acceptable reliability.3 Some translations of the PTGI to foreign languages have also demonstrated reliability and validity.9
Studies reviewing the PTGI have shown that posttraumatic growth is multidimensional, meaning that the positive changes affect many areas of a person’s life.10 Another study demonstrated that those who completed the inventory understood the questions as intended and recorded only permanent positive changes.8 The inventory is designed such that temporary changes do not impact the overall scoring associated with the positive growth seen after a traumatic occurrence.
However, as the PTGI is a self-report measure, concerns have been raised regarding the validity of respondents’ memories over time and the relational relevancy due to different perceptions between individuals.
Outlook and Further Implications
Because the PTGI has demonstrated reliability in determining actual growth following trauma, this questionnaire can be tailored for use with people who experienced specific traumatic events, those diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer, or those who have posttraumatic stress disorder.11
While certain groups, such as extroverts, women, and optimists, are more likely to experience posttraumatic growth, this does not eliminate the possibility for others to learn skills that allow them to alter their perceptions for an improved future. By effectively identifying those who experience positive changes with the use of this inventory, researchers are better able to identify specific traits that are more likely to enable improved quality of life for certain people, as well as develop specific plans to help those who are not predisposed to these positive changes to potentially learn the skills needed to effect such growth.
When used as part of therapeutic interventions in patients recovering from traumatic events, the PTGI can determine the level of growth that occurs over a certain period, enabling therapists to see what has worked or what might need readjusting in the course of the treatment plan.