It is already clear that COVID-19 has become one of those generational “before and after” moments. Yet, on a more personal level, COVID-19 has probably inspired many of us to contemplate how we want our lives to look as we move forward beyond the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, there are lessons to be learned and opportunities for personal growth and fundamental changes as we emerge from this nightmare. Below are some ideas that might give voice to thoughts and feelings you may be experiencing, which you want to hold on to when this is finally over.
1. Embrace Simplicity
Social distancing has become somewhat paradoxical. We experience difficulties daily. And yet, precisely because we have fewer options at the moment, many of us are spending more quality time with our families. We’re talking long walks. And we’re calling or “Zooming” with our loved ones. We’re reading, thinking, and reflecting more than before the pandemic.
2. Confront Challenges Head-On
As COVID-19 spread throughout the country and we found ourselves in lockdown, many had the same thought: I can’t do this! I can’t stay home all day. I can’t keep my family entertained. I can’t wear a mask for the grocery store. And now you have done what you thought you couldn’t do!
Little by little, we’ve learned to manage uncertainty and control the things we can control. And to let go of that which is beyond our power to change.
3. Post-Traumatic Growth
The Kintsugi Model
Kintsugi is a traditional Japanese art form where artisans fill the cracks in broken pottery with gold or silver. The objective is to transform damaged pieces into something more beautiful than the pottery was when it was brand new. Post-traumatic growth is akin to kintsugi of the psyche.
Developed in the 1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D., and Lawrence Calhoun, Ph.D., post-traumatic growth theory posits that individuals can emerge from trauma or adversity more beautiful than before, due to their personal growth. While comforting at any time, this possibility is particularly appealing amid a pandemic that’s upending lives everywhere.
“Growing from trauma isn’t unusual,” says Tedeschi, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and chair of the Boulder Crest Institute for Posttraumatic Growth in Bluemont, Virginia. “Studies support the notion that people can experience a transformation—a challenge to their core beliefs that causes them to become different than they were before.”
And COVID-19 may have just the right ingredients to foster such growth. “We’re still in the middle of this situation, and we don’t know yet what might happen—but there will be serious challenges to people’s lives,” Tedeschi says. “While those effects may be devastating, for some people, this event may be a shock to their core belief system. When that’s the case, it has the potential to result in significant positive changes.”
Resilience and post-traumatic growth are not the same things, however. People who bounce back quickly from a setback aren’t the ones likely to experience positive growth, Tedeschi explains. Instead, people who experience post-traumatic growth are those who endure some cognitive and emotional struggle and then emerge changed on the other side.
Planting Seeds for Transformational Change
Psychologists can neither prescribe nor create post-traumatic growth, Tedeschi says. But they can facilitate it. “We see it as a natural tendency that we can watch for and encourage, without trying to make people feel pressured or that they’re failures if they don’t achieve this growth,” Tedeschi explains.
According to Tedeschi, one way to help clients see the possibilities for growth is to be an “expert companion” during their struggle. “That’s someone who accompanies the client in his trauma, listens carefully to his story, and learns from him about what has happened in his life. By being that kind of expert, people start to open up and look at the possibilities in their lives more thoroughly.”
At the same time, post-traumatic growth can’t be rushed, and it often takes a long time to come to fruition. It is an organic process. “As a clinician, you can plant the seeds that may germinate later,” Tedeschi says.
When we finally emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, clinicians and their clients working together may enable some of those seeds to begin to sprout.
Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education including online speech therapy, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy.