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  • Britt Myers

Understanding Posttraumatic Growth: A Q&A With the Boulder Crest Foundation

June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of posttraumatic stress and the pathways to recovery. In this special Q&A, we delve into the work of the Boulder Crest Foundation, an organization dedicated to transforming the lives of veterans through innovative programs that promote Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). 

Experiencing trauma can have a profound impact on an individual's life, leading to the development of post-traumatic stress (PTS) which can challenge one's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. However, within the shadows of PTS lies an equally powerful phenomenon: posttraumatic growth. 

Josh Goldberg, CEO of Boulder Crest Foundation

Mission Roll Call spoke with Josh Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer at the Boulder Crest Foundation, to explore the complex interplay between these two trauma outcomes, identifying how individuals cope with their past experiences and transform them into catalysts for positive change and personal growth. Continue reading to see how the Boulder Crest Foundation is pioneering new ways, and building upon long-standing concepts, to support our heroes and their loved ones. MRC: Thank you for being part of this conversation, Josh. Tell us about the Boulder Crest Foundation and your approach to posttraumatic growth.

The short version of posttraumatic growth is the idea that what doesn’t kill us can make us wiser and can make us stronger. Posttraumatic growth may seem like a new idea but it’s actually the oldest idea on earth – the idea that in our lives, we will go through great difficulties, and those difficulties will reveal parts of ourselves we won’t know in any other way. Because of those experiences, we can live a more meaningful, authentic, and purposeful life. 

The overriding focus for any kind of effort for people who are struggling tends to be, ‘Let’s help these people feel less bad. They’re in pain, let’s give them some measure of relief.’ To us, you essentially sedate or anesthetize people to life. You take them out of the act of living and put them in survival mode. 

Our view of suicide is that the opposite of suicide is a life worth living, and a life worth living is filled with purpose and hope, connection and service, and growth. Everything we do at Boulder Crest is built on the idea of teaching and training men and women who are struggling to transform that struggle into strength and achieve posttraumatic growth in their lives. 

MRC: Why do you think that message resonates so much with those you serve?

Ken Falke, Founder of Boulder Crest Foundation

How things are isn’t how they have to be. It’s a philosophy and it’s a very practical and pragmatic focus that emanates from our founder, Ken Falke, and his prior work in training people in counter-IED work. In some respects, we’re training people to disarm the struggles that exist inside of us and to live great lives. In Ken’s language, we’re helping people to be as productive at home as they were on the battlefield. That’s based on the lineage of people who’ve served for thousands of years. It’s the idea that there are people in our society who possess wisdom about life that other folks don’t have and it’s incumbent on them to share it. 

We have a quote in each of our gardens at Boulder Crest that says, ‘We must remember that one man (or woman) is much the same as another and that he (or she) is best who is trained in the severest school.’ And that’s what we believe. 

Participants walk through Boulder Crest's gardens.

People who are exposed to the stuff that the people we serve are exposed to, understand the fragility of life. They understand what matters. They understand the importance of being grateful. They understand the importance of relationships. Those are the true gifts of life that most of the rest of us don’t always fully understand. 

MRC: How do you incorporate the concept of posttraumatic growth into your programs?

Posttraumatic growth is incorporated in a really explicit way in everything we do. Our flagship program at Boulder Crest is called Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) and that’s for members of the military and veteran community who are struggling, male and female. It’s a 90-day program that starts with seven days on the ground. It begins by introducing people to the notion of posttraumatic growth through a series of educational and experiential indoor/outdoor modules to teach them these ideas and allow them to put them into practice. 

The goal is to make peace with their past, learn to live in the present, and plan for a great future, and to do that in a peer-based environment with fellow veterans and service members as well as instructors who are also veterans and first responders. 

MRC: Warrior PATHH is one of your flagship programs, but you also have another exceptional program called Struggle Well. What can you share about that?

Struggle Well is all about how we bring those notions into the military world in a way that catalyzes people to think differently about themselves, their struggles, and their life in the hopes that they might not need a program like Warrior PATHH. There are two goals of Struggle Well: the first is to normalize struggle.

Struggle is a real part of life, it has an impact. When it has those impacts, it tends to feel like we’re the only person who’s ever been through it and that we’re irrevocably broken. The second is to democratize the ability for people to struggle well. This is all about giving people the skills, training, and practices that allow them to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life in a healthy and constructive fashion.

A veteran speaks to a group at Boulder Crest Foundation.

MRC: How do you incorporate families and loved ones into your programming?

Boulder Crest partners with Songwritingwith:Soldiers on our Couples PATHH program, which is designed to bring Warrior PATHH graduates back with their spouses and loved ones, so they can have a shared experience. It’s super important to realize that struggle is contagious in a family. If you’re trying to lift one person up, you have to make sure you’re lifting up the entire family or else you probably won’t succeed. 

Our original programming is Family Rest & Reconnection. At the heart of posttraumatic growth is the idea of trust and connection and giving families a chance to reconnect, rest, and recharge in a safe and peaceful setting, allowing them to foster or rebuild the trust and connection that’s the hallmark of any great relationship. It’s the fuel and foundation for growth to occur in people’s lives. There is programming for individuals, for couples, and for families.

MRC: As an organization, Mission Roll Call is committed to reframing the narrative around the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder and prefers to use the term post-traumatic stress. Do you think posttraumatic growth is the next logical step in the conversation to help educate and demonstrate the hope that can follow trauma?

It’s interesting because a number of years ago, I was part of a leadership program and interviewed with one of President George W. Bush’s top staffers, and he said, ‘We thought we did a great job trying to drop the d (in disorder), and you did one better and added a ‘g.’  I do think this is the next part of that journey. 

I think whether you drop the d or not, PTS and PTSD have a certain feeling and weight to them that often makes people feel like they’re destined to live diminished lives. And the thing that people lose in that situation is hope. If human beings don’t have hope, they lose agency and any sense that their actions will create change in their life. You can become nihilistic and quite cynical, jaded, and isolated. It leads to lots of bad outcomes from suicide to substance abuse issues. 

To me, it’s not an either-or. It’s about balancing this conversation. It’s reminding people that symptoms are real but so is the possibility for growth. There’s a lady I deeply admire who lost her fiance who was a first responder in an ISIS-related shooting in 2015. Her name is Mandy Pifer. And she said, ‘You have to know posttraumatic growth exists for it to happen. You have to know it’s ok for good things to happen after really bad things.’

I think there’s an aspect of permission and awareness that people cannot reach for things that they cannot see. One of my favorite parts of our programs is when we start to talk about posttraumatic growth, and the most common response from veterans is, ‘Why has nobody told me this before? All I’ve ever been told is all the ways my life is going to be damaged or diminished because of what I’ve been through.’ And I think that in and of itself says everything about the importance of telling both sides of this story. It reminds people that all is not lost and that how things are isn’t how they have to be. Growth isn’t just a possibility, it’s potentially an inevitability. 

Struggle, trauma, and difficulty are a part of all of our lives. We don’t want it and we don’t wish it on ourselves, but it still comes. It’s incumbent on us to realize it’s our choice what to do with it. 

MRC: How can veterans, military members, first responders, and their families get involved with the Boulder Crest Foundation?

Boulder Crest Foundation in Virginia.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in any of Boulder Crest's programs, you can apply through our website, We also offer opportunities for veterans and first responders to get involved as mentors and volunteers, helping to support their peers on the journey to posttraumatic growth.

For participants, the data in our programs is off the charts. People come in way above the clinical threshold for PTSD and they leave well below. They get to a place where those things don’t dominate their lives – and that’s in seven days. It doesn’t take long for people to realize, “Wow, I’ve been trapped in this prison, and the key to get out is in my pocket.’ 

MRC: Is there anything else you want to share about posttraumatic growth?

Trauma is often seen as insurmountable; a full stop in the story of our lives. But what if it can be a catalyst for forging a new path — one filled with passion, purpose, connection, growth, and service? That is posttraumatic growth.

For far too long we have focused exclusively on the negative impacts of trauma and struggle. The result is that we are left feeling permanently diminished and damaged; a victim to the worst experiences of our life. That must change. And that’s why we are starting a movement to Choose Growth.

Transform struggle into triumph.

Choose Growth shines a light on the opportunity to grow in the aftermath of trauma. Choose Growth changes the story around struggle and trauma and teaches the world to thrive post-trauma; moving the conversation from  “PTSD” to “PTG.”

I would encourage anyone reading to watch this video and share it with your friends and family. The more we share, the more we grow. Connect with others and share the message of Posttraumatic Growth far and wide.

Boulder Crest Foundation is at the forefront of transforming the lives of veterans, service members, first responders, and their loved ones through the power of PTG. By focusing on holistic and long-term healing, they offer a beacon of hope for those grappling with the challenges of struggle and trauma. 

Join Mission Roll Call as we support Boulder Crest Foundation's mission and help transform more lives. Visit this link to learn more and find out how you can get involved.

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