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Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society [Hardcover]

Bessel A. van der Kolk MD , Alexander C. McFarlane MD , Lars Weisaeth
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 3, 1996 1572300884 978-1572300880 1
This bestselling classic presents seminal theory and research on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Together, the leading editors and contributors comprehensively examine how trauma affects an individual's biology, conceptions of the world, and psychological functioning. Key topics include why certain people cope successfully with traumatic experiences while others do not, the neurobiological processes underlying PTSD symptomatology, enduring questions surrounding traumatic memories and dissociation, and the core components of effective interventions. A highly influential work that laid the foundation for many of the field's continuing advances, this volume remains an immensely informative and thought-provoking clinical reference and text.

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Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society + The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma + In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
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Editorial Reviews


"A valuable text on trauma and its treatment. I use the book in the courses Clinical Practice I and II. It is very informative in that it provides many perspectives regarding the possible long-term effects of trauma on children and adults. In addition, the authors' styles make the book highly accessible and useful for clinicians at all levels of practice."--Karen Kaufman, PhD, LCSW, Adjunct Faculty Member, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service
"Once in a blue moon, a book is published that bears such importance for its subject that it becomes an instant classic. Traumatic Stress is such a book...No doubt, researchers will consider Traumatic Stress as an essential resource, and no academic library serving PTSD scholars will want to be without it..." --L.S. Beall, Auburn University in Choice, December 1996

"van der Kolk, McFarlane, and Weisaeth have had the courage to investigate and write about the most controversial areas in modern psychiatric research. Their intelligent, careful, and wide ranging collection of essays adheres to a high standard of scientific rigor and in doing so shows a deep sympathy with the human face of suffering. The study of psychological trauma raises profound intellectual, ethical, and political questions, and this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to participate in the discussion." --Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., Harvard University

"This is a book of great scope and lucid intelligence that integrates the work of many pioneers and captures the keen spirit of inquiry that animates this rapidly developing field. As a comprehensive summary of our current state of knowledge and a guide to the next generation of clinicians and researchers, Traumatic Stress will be the gold standard reference for many years to come." --Judith L. Herman, MD, Harvard Medical School

"Encyclopedic in its scope, Traumatic Stress provides a detailed review and critical analysis of the vast literature generated by the renewed interest in psychological trauma during the past two decades. Although not as yet woven into a final, fully illuminative tapestry, the individual threads of the psychological, biological, developmental, cultural, and historical aspects of emotionally traumatic experiences are clearly spun throughout the text. As such, they stand as guides to deeper clinical understanding and further research for all who wish to follow them. The volume is an important contribution to the field and should become a basic work of reference for the growing legion of mental health professionals concerned with the role of traumatic stress in the production of human illness." --John C. Nemiah, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, Harvard Medical School

"An impressive and important book. van der Kolk and McFarlane bring both science and sensitivity to this edited volume on PTSD. From children to the elderly, from psychoanalysis to psychopharmacology, from the individual to society at large, the clinical material is all here. An international list of contributors provide a rich collection of chapters covering all aspects of PTSD. Both comprehensive and integrative, Traumatic Stress will reshape the way that we understand trauma." --Frank W. Putnam, MD, NIMH

"I have used this book as a text in two graduate social work courses: 'Crisis Intervention and Trauma Treatment' and 'Clinical Practice 2.' Several chapters stand out as particularly valuable in addressing elements of trauma of concern to all mental health workers. The book provides clear coverage of such critical topics as biological and cultural aspects of trauma, problems of dissociation and information processing, general treatment principles, and specific treatment approaches. The text is well organized and well written, and provides an excellent foundation for the study of trauma."--Robert Chazin, DSW, Fordham University

"It is impossible to capture the richness, breadth of perspective, and sheer clinical wisdom that van der Kolk and his colleagues bring to this volume."--Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic
(Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 2006-11-03)

"Should be required for all of us who work with trauma victims. It is a scholarly synthesis of research advances combined with humanitarian sensitivity and clinical pragmatism."--General Hospital Psychiatry
(General Hospital Psychiatry 2006-11-03)

"Like a small number of classic volumes in the field of traumatic stress...this book is remarkable for including not only [the] scientific and medical viewpoint, but also the sociopolitical context in which trauma, its study, and its treatment occur....An invaluable contribution to the field of traumatic stress studies, and psychology in general. We highly recommend this book to researchers, clinicians, students, and all of those committed to understanding and taking responsibility for the effects of trauma on the individual and society."--Contemporary Psychology
(Contemporary Psychology 2006-11-03)

About the Author

Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D., is Director of the Trauma Center at Human Resources Institute in Boston Massachusetts, a center for the treatment and study of traumatized children and adults. He is an Associate Professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the past President of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies. He has done extensive research on developmental and biological aspects of the human adaptation to trauma, including studying the nature of traumatic memories. He was co-principal investigator for the DSM-IV Field Trial for PTSD. He is the author of two previous books on the human response to trauma: PTSD: Psychological and Biological Sequelae (1984) and Psychological Trauma, (APA Press, 1987).

Lars Weisaeth, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Disaster Psychiatry at the University of Oslo, Norway, and frequent consultant to the United Nations and other international organizations regarding approaches to treating traumatized civilians and soldiers.

Alexander C. McFarlane is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in South Australia. His research in the field of trauma is wide ranging and began following a large bushfire disaster which affected his community in 1983. His clinical work is with victims of a variety of traumas, including accidents, disasters, torture, and war.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 596 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; 1 edition (May 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572300884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572300880
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
164 of 165 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars State of the art in Traumatic sSress May 14, 1997
By A Customer
Van der Kolk, McFarlane and Weisarth are world leaders on the nature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this volume they bring together a wide range of authors to present the historical development of and current approaches to the treatment of the ongoing effects of traumatic experience. There are 25 chapters which address the historical developments, acute reactions to and adaptation to trauma, the mechanisms of memory, social and cultural issues and, most importantly, treatment. Recent developments in treatment are critically reviewed, including reference to the popular Eye Movement Desensitisation, but Thought Field Therapy is too new to be included.
This is not a book for those looking for `quick fix' solutions or a `how to' manual for the treatment of trauma. Rather it provides serious theoretical and research perspectives that might underpin professional practice. In this sense it is a fair representation of the state of knowledge on PTSD, a concept which provides a window for viewing and treating the effects of exposure to trauma.
Having explored the current state of clinical knowledge however, the editors acknowledge that there are `aspects of the experience of trauma that cannot be captured in medical and scientific models' and argue that `in reality people are left to grapple with the human dimensions of traumatic experience'. They conclude that `beneath the tidiness of emotional distancing and scientific classification lie the human vitality and energy to struggle against, and to create meaning out of, what appears to be random cruelty and fate'. The reader is left to ponder what the role of the researcher and clinician is in challenging the conditions and social contexts of the tragedy and violence that we observe daily in our world.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Viewpoint From One Who Has PTSD December 1, 2010
In my efforts to better understand myself and my diagnoses, I bought this book because I wanted something more than just "take a pill" or "years of psycho-therapy." I wanted to understand why my PTSD is "chronic," why it has changed my life so dramatically, and how I can get back on my feet. Being mentally ill has brought a variety of reactions and sayings, one of which is "just pull yourself by your boot straps." I always wondered why I couldn't do that, until I figured out that not only do I not have boot straps, I don't even have the boots! No other person's boots will fit, so I decided to make my own by gathering all the information I can and incorporating positive changes into my life to bring about a sense of "normalcy." This book has gone a very long way in helping me to understand the processing of, or rather failure to process, traumatic events. It also completely helped me understand why I've struggled with night-time and the insomnia that wouldn't respond to "sleep hygiene" practices.

I am still reading the book, so this review is in light of what I've read so far. I will try to remember to add/finish the review upon completion of reading the book.

The text is written in a more technical/clinical fashion than layman, so people who do not have any background in psychology or medicine will likely find this book to be very difficult to read and/or understand. For those who suffer from PTSD, love someone with PTSD, or work with someone who has PTSD, this book may bring about more understanding and open the door for good and deep conversation. I hope, for myself as well as for others, that the vast amount of information in this book will provide tools to help manage a very complicated "problem," whose roots are likely deep and tangled.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly clinically relevant January 9, 2006
As a 2nd year psychiatry resident, I only recently discovered this text, however, am finding it incredibly helpful in understanding my patients. Although there are currently no plans for an updated edition (per the publisher as of November 2005), the material is still very relevant as far as the developmental effects of traumatic stress. I would highly recommend this to anyone who works with patients with PTSD.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for Intl field work with trauma April 14, 2000
By A Customer
I recently worked with Kosovar refugees in Montenegro during the war in Kosovo and found this book to be invaluable in my efforts to determine what has been shown to work in the field and how to conceptualize the staging of interventions needed within a cultural context. I highly recommend this book to anyone working with trauma that results from ethno-political warfare.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Resource August 25, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I work with persons suffering combat PTSD. I have found this to be, by far, the best book on treatment. The authors have a depth of understanding that goes far beyond those of most other authors. No simplistic solutions, here. Not a "just change the way you think about it" approach, and not a "just put on the goggles and re-experience it until it doesn't bother you anymore" approach ... not when the crucial events are such as seeing others' bodies torn apart by efficient weapons, or losing people one has come to love. Much wisdom in this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
As a clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist in private practice, I work with many individuals who have a history of trauma and/or have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk is one of the most experienced and respected professionals in this field. In this book he has edited a cross-section of articles that he considers the best in this field.

Topics covered include background issues and history, acute reactions, adaptations to trauma, memory: mechanisms and processes, developmental, social and cultural issues and treatment. I believe that this book should be essential reading for anyone working with adults who have a history of trauma in their background. Not only is the information fascinating, but it is pragmatic and can be utilized in the treatment setting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book for counseling students.
Published 13 days ago by Dora Eaton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read. Many examples of symptoms of trauma physically as well as psychologically.
Published 4 months ago by melody
5.0 out of 5 stars Trauma Informed Care
I teach about the effects of stress and trauma on a person's thinking and behavior. I reread this book constantly as it is full of evidence. I am in the mental health field. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Beverly Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of the literature and the historical development of...
Excellent review of the literature and the historical development of definitions of trauma
Published 6 months ago by Ebun Adelona
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Every Minute of Reading
Best book out there on traumatic stress. Extremely well edited. Current research with a client centered view.
Published 8 months ago by Valley Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Traumatic Stress
I learned a tremendous amount about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by reading this text. I was not aware of how trauma is held in a particular part of the body. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Anna
5.0 out of 5 stars Good info
I purchased this book to help me as I write about my experiences with acute PTSD developed as a result of workplace bullying. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dale L Coppock
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Important book
This is an extremely well written book on a very difficult topic and shows deep understanding of the issues. Should be read by everyone who is working in the field.
Published 15 months ago by Kindle Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A little hard to read
Rather technical but interesting. It has given me a lot of good information but you just have to wade through it to get to it.
Published 16 months ago by Deborah Haas
5.0 out of 5 stars Great text book
This is a winner! Love this as a text book for my Trauma in Counseling course. My students said they could not put it down.
Published 17 months ago by MARSHA SAGE, Ed.D, LPC, ACS
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More About the Author

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. is a renowned trauma expert, who has revolutionized the way we understand the impact of trauma on childhood brain development and emotion regulation. Most people are traumatized in the context of intimate relationships, and therefore learning how to trust, reconnect, and feel empowered in relationships is essential for healing from trauma.

His work integrates mind, brain, body, and social connections to understand and treat trauma. He actively treats survivors of war, rape, child abuse and neglect, and is fascinated by the life force that allows people to surmount the most challenging assaults and injuries,

Both a clinician and a researcher, he was part of the team that did the first neuroimaging study of how PTSD changes the brain. The results of that study made it inevitable to look for new ways of approaching the treatment of traumatic stress.

He also received the first grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the capacity of yoga to deal with PTSD (showing that yoga can be more effective than medications, and also changes the brain to better functioning), confirming the idea that learning to regulate your own physiology, being able to tolerate your physical sensations, and learning to regulate your breathing can be powerful steps towards health and self-leadership.

NIMH also funded his first scientific study of EMDR that showed that EMDR can be extremely helpful. This opens up interesting questions about why this is so, and leads to the healing effects of sleep and dreams.

Van der Kolk also received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the effects of theater programs to reduce violence in inner city schools.

Another major interest is in neurofeedback, the capacity of the brain to learn to regulate itself which ushers in the whole new area of exploration: applied neuroscience.

Dr. van der Kolk is author of several books and one hundred and fifty scientific articles. He regularly teaches around the world Europe, Japan, Brazil, Australia, China, Argentina, South Africa etc.

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