Reported Posttraumatic Growth Is Commonplace, But Usually Proves Illusory – Casting Doubt On the Validity Of Relying Solely On Self-report Measures, As NHS Talking Therapies Does


NHS Talking Therapies has relied solely on two self-report measures in claiming a 50% recovery rate, in clients who attend more than two treatment sessions. But a study by Boals (2023) of self-report measures of posttraumatic growth (PTG) following a trauma, found that supposed beneficiaries were commonplace, 53%  believing they were exceeding pre-trauma levels of functioning. However, Boals (2023) suggests the genuine growth rate is 0-10%. [This latter figure is strangely similar to the tip of the iceberg Scott (2018) that I found recovered in 90 clients going through IAPT (NHS Talking Therapies predecessor)].  The occurrence of genuine posttraumatic growth is very rare.  Illusory PTG, occurs when an individual convinces themselves they have experienced PTG, mostly via fabricated illusions and motivated biases as a way to cope with the distress associated with the traumatic event. It seems likely this phenomenon would also occur when therapists ask clients how they have fared with the just delivered therapy in NHS Talking Therapies. The PTG self-report measures assess perceived PTG not genuine PTG. This suggests that the much publicised 50% recovery rate in NHS Talking Therapies should be treated with great caution. The recovery rate suggested by the self-report measures may also be largely illusory.

Dr Mike Scott