Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


College of Nursing


Nursing Science

First Advisor

Kathleen M Scharer


Exposure to physical and psychological trauma has produced a post-millennial epoch of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after exposure to an extreme stressor or prolonged victimization. After an extensive review of treatment protocols in 2008, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) exhorted clinicians to focus on defining the concept of recovery, concentrating on symptom reduction, removal of the PTSD diagnosis, and end-state function. Although the IOM report mobilized large-scale efforts to quantify treatments and standardize delivery of treatment protocols, PTSD recovery remains a concept that has been largely unexplored. The primary aim of this study was to answer the following question: What is the basic psychosocial process that men and women undergo in recovering from PTSD? The study also fulfilled some secondary aims: (a) identifying which, if any, elements of traditional therapy contributed to recovery and (b) establishing a realistic timeline for recovery.

Charmaz's method of narrative analysis and grounded theory construction was used to generate the PTSD Recovery Model. The model was nonlinear and included six universal stages that occurred during PTSD recovery: Experiencing Trauma, Dominating Diagnosis, Seeking Solace, Surviving Symptoms, Marking Time, and Navigating Recovery. Support for the model came from research participants and experts. Participants (N=41) were predominantly white, female, and had earned college or graduate degrees. Almost half of the participants (47.5%) reported that it required five years or more for them to feel better or attain some degree of recovery after exposure to trauma. Intimate partner violence and child sexual and/or physical abuse were the most commonly reported traumatic events that had caused PTSD. Although participants stated that experienced mental health clinicians were the most helpful persons or treatment in seeking recovery, they also reported that recovery typically involved a combination of traditional and alternative therapies, often used simultaneously. Most participants who reported recovery were actively engaged in seeking beneficial therapies and saw themselves as architects of the healing process.


© 2012, Pamela Phillips