Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2021


This mixed methods study investigated the experience of positive psychological transformation, including its catalysts, dynamics, supportive factors, and outcomes. The first phase of the study was a 13-item survey (N=130) that revealed trends and associations in participants’ experiences of transformation. The most significant correlation was between “expressing myself” and change stabilization (p < .01). Forty-four percent of participants reported trauma or emotional distress as the main catalyst of their transformation. Each of the other three main catalysts (dissonance, adaptation, and inspiration) drew approximately 18% of responses. Connecting with nature (71%), introspection (65%), solitude (63%) and empathy (61%) were commonly reported supportive factors. Common changes related to participants’ way of interacting with others (77%), perception (75%), and emotional patterns (70%). The process of transformation differed substantially depending on multiple factors including the catalyst and demographic categories. Additionally, the survey revealed a trend of moving away from organized religion toward a sense of being spiritual but not religious. The second phase of the study consisted of interviews with a portion of the participants who reported trauma as the main catalyst of their transformation (n = 26) and was focused on the experience of posttraumatic growth. Thematic analysis revealed that transformation is typically initiated by a series of traumatic events and that the process of transformation can involve impaired well-being/functioning before elevated well-being/functioning. The results of thematic analysis were consistent with existing data on posttraumatic growth.