Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Clinical Psychology, PhD



Faculty Advisor

Susan Orsillo


The role of personal growth in psychological functioning has been emphasized throughout the history of psychology (e.g., Erikson, 1950; Ryff, 1989a; 1989b). Recently, Robitschek and colleagues (2012) proposed that personal growth initiative (PGI) is a developed skill set that supports intentional and active engagement in growth processes. Although PGI has previously been found to be positively associated with measures of psychological well-being and negatively associated with indices of psychological distress, to date this research has been limited by the frequent use of cross-sectional designs and non-clinical (primarily student) samples. Further, the importance of valuing personal growth (VPG), posited to be a key component of PGI, has gone unstudied. These personal growth variables are particularly relevant to explore in a clinical population, since they may be important predictors of response to psychotherapy, they may be malleable, and as such, appropriate targets for therapy. This study examined PGI and VPG longitudinally in a clinical population, in order to determine their relationship with psychological distress and well-being. The current study also examined whether treatment response was predicted by PGI and VPG, whether PGI and VPG change as a function of treatment, and if so, whether the cultivation of personal growth variables predicted response to treatment. Two hundred and sixty nine patients in an acute psychiatric setting filled out measures of PGI, VPG, and psychological functioning at admission and discharge from treatment in a partial hospitalization program. Both PGI and VPG were significantly and negatively associated with depression and significantly and positively associated with psychological well-being at baseline. Baseline personal growth variables did not predict changes in depression, well-being or clinical global improvement at treatment discharge. Personal growth variables significantly increased from baseline to post-treatment, and changes in personal growth variables over the course of treatment were correlated with changes in depression and well-being, as well as clinical global improvement. Moreover, changes in PGI and VPG significantly predicted changes in depression and well-being over and above the previously established predictors of treatment credibility and expectancy (Webb, Kertz, Bigda-Peyton, & Björgvinsson, 2013). Results from this study expand our understanding of the construct of personal growth and potentially inform interventions aimed at enhancing psychological functioning. The results of this study suggest that personal growth is a relevant construct to explore in the context of psychotherapy, and that valuing personal growth is an important part of this construct. Findings provide implications for personal growth as a potential mechanism to enhance psychological functioning. Future directions should include assessing personal growth variables at multiple time points over the course of treatment in order to examine mediation, as well as following treatment discharge. Replicating findings and examining personal growth variables in different clinical contexts should be researched as well.

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