The Body Keeps The Score

For me, The Body Keeps The Score is The Book of They Year - 2015!

I especially value Part Five, Paths to Recovery, eight chapters describing ways of healing from trauma and recovering your True Self.

First, here is a link to the Amazon web page for the paperback edition of The Body Keeps The Score.

Second, here is a document that summarizes the diagnostic criteria proposed for Developmental Trauma Disorder.

And third, here is  a helpful Amazon Review describing the book:

In the Healing of Trauma Bessel van der Kolk is a pioneering researcher and one of the world's foremost experts on traumatic stress. His life's work has been comprised of more than three decades with trauma survivors. This book offers a bold new paradigm for healing trauma survivors. He transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies.

Excerpt from Review:

Van der Kolk’s new book has many virtues.

Parts One and Two (102 pp) provide a substantial review of the neuropsychology of trauma’s impact on a person. It’s fun, interesting, informative reading, for professional and layperson alike. Part Three (64 pp) surveys childhood development, attachment experience, and “the hidden epidemic of developmental trauma”. Van der Kolk has for years been a leading champion of the idea that there is a type of PTSD which substantially differs from all the rest. It develops in response to chronic child abuse and/or neglect. I completely share his belief that the diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (sometimes called C-PTSD, with “C” meaning “Complex”) is overdue for formal recognition. I find his review of the struggle to legitimize DTD (Developmental Trauma Disorder) as gripping and distressing as anything else in the book. It is anguishing to know that a major problem exists, and that the psychiatric establishment simply refuses to acknowledge it. DTD/C-PTSD is no fantasy. We see and treat these people, as children and adults. They exist, and they are nothing like “ordinary” PTSD treatment clients.

Part Four (29 pp) focuses on memory. I’ve long thought that much writing on treating psychological trauma seems to miss the point: trauma memory is what causes the problem. Deal with that and the symptoms vanish. Why is this so hard to understand? Yet, it is not a common understanding at all. Explaining how trauma memory works is invariably enlightening to my clients. And experiencing what happens when we change the nature of trauma memory is revelatory to someone who’s lived with it for years, if not decades. As he does throughout the book, van der Kolk offers fine stories about clients who have experienced exactly what I’ve seen happen in my clients, making excellent use of what cognitive research tells us: people understand things best through narratives. Offer a good narrative and you convince.

Psychological trauma therapy is complex, but we are now well prepared to launch into the book’s core content - Part Five (154 pp), “Paths to Recovery”. He gets right to it: we cannot undo the trauma, but we CAN undo its effect on us, and so get our “self” back. Ch. 13 reviews existing therapies. His approach is to repair “Descartes’ Error” (see Damásio’s 1994 book of that title) by viewing mind and body as a single coherent functional unit. His topical coverage is complete and his critique of current therapies acute - not to be missed.

He then writes of the importance of language (Ch. 14). We construct our narrative mainly in words, and the words we choose are critical. But language is not enough (this anticipates his next two chapters). Our senses encompass a larger world, and it’s center is our body, where all our sensory receptors are located. Then he introduces the treatment model he’s long advocated: EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I’m trained in EMDR, and in fact van der Kolk and I had the same instructor (Gerald Puk, Ph.D.) for our advanced training . Van der Kolk tells an amusing and self-deprecating story about his advanced training experience, in which Puk was able to provide a strong corrective to his approach to clients. This is typical van der Kolk - he’s a truth-teller, even when it may put him in a poor light! And, after all, at this point he has nothing to prove to anyone.

Finding an EMDR therapist is not hard (see his “Resources” section). Nor is it hard to find a yoga instructor, and yoga is what he advises for helping a trauma victim get back into their body. Yoga is a wise choice, because it is available, already widely known, and adaptable to a wide range of individuals and capabilities.

There is much more in Part Five, and the focus is on self-empowerment. “Victim no more!” as they say. Most trauma therapists have a keen interest in seeing their clients leave therapy charged up and ready to fully embrace their life - that certainly is my own emphasis. Van der Kolk’s thoughts on self-empowerment for those in recovery from psychological trauma will be invaluable to any trauma psychotherapy client.

For psychotherapy professionals, this book will be both delightful and confirming. For everyone else, it will be a readable, gripping, highly educational tour of topics all of which are critical to a successful transition back from the impact of psychological trauma. That he gives prominent though not dominating emphasis to developmental trauma disorders is entirely appropriate. Our society has yet to grasp that child abuse and neglect is a more often chronic than not, and that its impact is largely ignored and poorly treated, if at all. This does not have to be. Get educated (this book will do that), then commit to being an advocate for children as well as for adults impacted by trauma. They all deserve the chance to be healed, and we can now do that. Van der Kolk shows us how.

And finally, you can enjoy this interview with Van Der Kolk from the New York Times Magazine: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD.




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