Posttraumatic growth during unemployment: A qualitative examination of distress and positive transformation

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Lea Waters
Gabriel Strauss


This qualitative study explored the presence of growth, distress, deliberate rumination (a type of positive rumination as opposed to intrusive rumination) and dialectical thinking in a sample of unemployed people. Semi-structured interviews with 22 unemployed people were analyzed using deductive thematic analysis. Fryer’s (1992) agency-restriction theory and Jahoda’s (1988) latent deprivation theory were used to examine distress, whereas Tedeschi and Calhoun’s (2004a) posttraumatic growth theory and Latack and Dozier’s career growth model (1986) were used to analyze growth. As a result of dealing with the challenges of unemployment, participants became connected with their inner strengths, experienced gratitude for their supportive relationships, felt compassion for other unemployed people and became open to new career pathways. Deliberate rumination and dialectical thinking appeared to promote posttraumatic growth. This study applied a positive psychology approach to unemployment and examined the relevance of posttraumatic growth within the context of job loss. The paper suggests ways in which unemployment counseling can adopt the dual aims of ameliorating distress and fostering growth.

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Author Biographies

Lea Waters, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Professor Lea Waters

Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology

Director, Centre for Positive Psychology

Melbourne Graduate School of Education

University of Melbourne, 3010

Gabriel Strauss, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Honours Student