Disaster Trauma and Place Attachment Among Hurricane Katrina Survivors

  • Rita Ann Westermann-Bolton Argosy University - Sarasota
Keywords: Disaster, trauma, loss, attachment, growth


Natural disasters are devastating events that impact entire communities, and often result in psychological distress and disorder for survivors.  This article summarizes a phenomenological study exploring the impact of disaster trauma on place attachment among Hurricane Katrina survivors.  The study utilized data from in-depth interviews with 12 participants, supplemented with photographs and journals.  Results of the study suggest that while traumatic, the disaster experience resulted in psychological growth for participants, as well as strengthened attachment to people and place.  Most participants were able to glean positive meaning from the disaster experience that eased their recovery and ultimately strengthened their resilience.  This research study points to the need for timely and effective community-based interventions focused on loss processing and meaning-making, attachment styles, and sense of place issues.  Directions for future research on these and related issues are also explored.

Author Biography

Rita Ann Westermann-Bolton, Argosy University - Sarasota

Rita A. Westermann-Bolton, MS, LMHC, LPC is a licensed professional counselor with 13 years experience providing marriage and family, individual and group therapy in a variety of settings, including community mental health and domestic violence agencies, private practice, and most recently, the military community.  As a Military & Family Life Counselor (MFLC), she supports military service members and veterans, and their families and significant others with non-medical, solution-focused intervention.

Rita holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Missouri State University.  She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education Degree in Counselor Education and Supervision from Argosy University - Sarasota.  In addition to her counseling experience, she has researched and written extensively on family violence, trauma, and life satisfaction issues.  Rita is a member of the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association.