"My Bad Experiences Are Not the Only Things Shaping Me Anymore": Thematic Analysis of Youth Trauma Narratives

Sarah Ascienzo, Ginny Sprang, David Royse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to better understand how youth with poly-trauma histories appraise and make meaning of their traumatic experiences within the trauma narrative and processing components of Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and to explore the results of the meaning-making process. Thematic analysis was employed to explore the trauma narratives of youth ( N  = 16) ages 8 - 16 that were created during TF-CBT. Participants experienced a mean of 5.38 types of trauma that predominantly included various forms of child maltreatment. With regard to how youth appraise and interpret their traumatic experiences, four themes emerged, including I Am Not Safe, which denotes a lack of physical and psychological safety; It's My Fault, which symbolizes misattributions of responsibility; I Am Changed, which captures alterations in systems of meaning; and Why Did This Happen to Me?, which denotes the struggle to comprehend why the traumatic events occurred and their significance. With regard to the products of the meaning-making process, three themes emerged, including Now I Know, which denotes reappraisals; I Am Safe/r, which signifies increases in perceptions of safety, and I Can Do It, which includes the participant's perceptions of growth. Results from this study provide a deeper understanding of youth's experiences during these components of treatment, and illuminate the meaning-making process. Findings can help guide clinical-decision making, and highlight the importance of explicitly attending to specific components of the meaning-making process during trauma narration and processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-753
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Trauma
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021.


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