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Center for Trauma, Crisis and Growth










Traumatic life events cause pain and suffering and may prompt psychological distress, depression, apathy, and anxiety attacks, but they also may lead to a deeper appreciation of life, spiritual development, and a change in the fundamental outlook on the world and oneself.

Main Goals

The Impact of Trauma on Personality Development

Researchers at the Trauma and Crisis Research Center develop and verify effective psychotherapy techniques and psychological support for people, who have experienced traumatic events such as disasters, tragic accidents, terminal or serious illness, or a loss of a loved one. Initially, the team will focus on the following project funded by a grant from the National Science Centre (NCN): “The search for meaning and sense of life and personal growth following a trauma: a prospective study”.

Applied Research

The researchers plan to undertake applied research, mainly in the development and empirical verification of effective psychotherapy techniques, as well as psychological help for individuals who have experienced trauma or a life crisis.

The first study of this type, focused on the application of narrative techniques in group therapy for parents of youth suffering from mental disorders, has already been conducted in cooperation with Dr. hab. Hanna Kubiak, from the Adam Mickiewicz University, and Niepubliczna Poradnia Psychologiczno - Pedagogiczna (Psychological and Pedagogical Clinic), operating under the auspieces of SWPS University in Poznań.

New Research Methods

Another important goal of the Center is to develop new research methods that will provide a better ecological accuracy in research on trauma and life crises than currently used descriptive methods (questionnaires/surveys).

For the past several months the team has been diligently working on the development and improvement of methodology that would combine the qualitative and quantitative approach, including some elements of narrative psychology, interpretative phenomenological analysis, the scope of beliefs related to oneself and the world, dynamics of change related to the narrative identity and fundamental beliefs. First results of this project were presented at the 2nd Conference of the Qualitative Psychology (Katowice, September 2015), and “The Value and the Meaning of Life” conference (Poznań, September 2015).

Research Team

Mariuz Zięba


Mariusz Zięba

psychologist, Head of the Center for Trauma, Crisis and Growth



Magdalena Kowalska




Katarzyna Wiecheć


Current Projects

The search for meaning following a trauma

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mariusz Zięba
Full name of the project: The search for meaning and sense of life and personal growth following trauma: a prospective study
Grant amount: PLN 1,209,650 (Funding scheme: SONATA BIS 3, National Science Centre)

The study will provide new information on how different ways of understanding and talking about painful experiences impact personality development.

The research goal of the study is to better understand the role of narration in the process of personality development after experiencing a trauma, including mainly the posttraumatic growth, as well as the development and/or reconstruction of one’s meaning and sense of life.

This area of study is extremely important in the era, when an increasing number of people are at risk of experiencing all kinds of trauma, such as catastrophes, accidents, and painful personal losses. For this project, the researchers will conduct prospective studies that will allow to collect data on the sense of life in a global perspective, its change due to an experienced trauma, and most of all the factors conducive to such change.

The results of the study will provide new theoretical knowledge of great significance, which could be applied in practice, especially in the development of new therapy methods for persons who have experienced trauma.

The Center comprises researchers, who combine their passion for research with the need to provide effective help to people experiencing trauma and life crises. I believe that our research will result in new and useful knowledge on how to effectively support people in the post-traumatic adaptation.

Dr. Mariusz Zięba, Head of the Center for Trauma, Crisis and Growth

Planned Projects

Personality development after experiencing critical life events

Principal Investigator: Dr. Izabela Kaźmierczak

The goal of the project is to identify and understand the mechanism underlying personality development (positive disintegration), following a critical life event. In this context, the researcher will analyze determinants, the role, and the process of narrative interpretation of the significance assigned to the event.

Participants of the study include individuals who have sought psychotherapy after they experienced a life crisis and failed to cope with it on their own (in the state of negative disintegration). The project assumes that psychotherapy focused on including the critical life event in one’s life story, and assigning meaning to the event in a larger context is conducive to a meaningful interpretation of the critical life event, hence it is conducive to personality development. The project is based on the assumption that “intensification” of the transition from the negative to positive disintegration, allows to observe the whole mechanism within the time range assigned for the project.

The role of doctors’ psychological flexibility in the process of coping with patient’s death

Principal Investigator: Dr. Katarzyna Markowska-Regulska

The goal of the project is to examine how medical professionals cope with death of their patients, and what is the role of psychological flexibility in this process. The researchers will also analyze the role of previous traumatic experiences, mostly related to passing of their loved ones.

Medical profession requires a long-term deep professional engagement and responsibility for human life. Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel face highly stressful situations, including painful experiences of watching their patients suffer and die.

Physiological flexibility is a fundamental notion in the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), where the main therapeutic goal is to expand clients’ psychological flexibility. This is done by combining therapeutic strategies based on mindfulness and acceptance with strategies of direct behavior modification. According to ACT, psychological flexibility is a capability to fully experience the “here and now” and to continue or change one’s behavior depending on whether it supports the attainment of goals aligned with personal values (Hayes et al, 1999). Psychological flexibility is an ability to act effectively according to one’s own beliefs and expectations, regardless of appearing thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. The level of psychological flexibility probably has a significant impact on the ability to perform professional medical duties, especially in difficult situations, such as a loss of a patient.

Narration in an individual’s spiritual growth post trauma

Principal Investigator: Marta Boczkowska

According to Tedeschi and Calhoun (2006, 2013), spiritual growth is defined as a result of one’s deep cognitive engagement in the post-traumatic interpretation of self-understanding and the understanding of the world. The goal of the project is to analyze the role and the qualities of narration in this process.


SWPS University
gen. T. Kutrzeby 10, 61-719 Poznań
e-mail: mzieba@swps.edu.pl