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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma Paperback – September 8, 2015
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—Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist
“War zones may be nearer than you think, as the 25% of US citizens raised with alcoholic relatives might attest. Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk argues, moreover, that severe trauma is ‘encoded in the viscera’ and demands tailored approaches that enable people to experience deep relief from rage and helplessness. In a narrative packed with decades of findings and case studies, he traces the evolution of treatments from the ‘chemical coshes’ of the 1970s to neurofeedback, mindfulness and other nuanced techniques.”
“An astonishing amount of information on almost every aspect of trauma experience, research, interventions, and theories is brought together in this book, which . . . has a distinctly holistic feel to it. The title suggests that what will be explored is how the body retains the imprints of trauma. However, it delivers much more than this, delving into how the brain is impacted by overwhelming traumatic events, and is studded with sections on neuroscience which draw on the author’s own numerous studies as well as that of his peers. In addition, it investigates the effects of adverse childhood attachment patterns, child abuse, and chronic and long-term abuse. . . . [T]his book is a veritable goldmine of information.”
—European Journal of Psychotraumatology
“Dr. van der Kolk . . . has written a fascinating and empowering book about trauma and its effects. He uses modern neuroscience to demonstrate that trauma physically affects the brain and the body, causing anxiety, rage, and the inability to concentrate. Victims have problems remembering, trusting, and forming relationships. They have lost control. Although news reports and discussions tend to focus on war veterans, abused children, domestic violence victims, and victims of violent crime suffer as well. Using a combination of traditional therapy techniques and alternative treatments such as EMDR, yoga, neurofeedback, and theater, patients can regain control of their bodies and rewire their brains so that they can rebuild their lives. The author uses case histories to demonstrate the process. He includes a resource list, bibliography, and extensive notes. This accessible book offers hope and inspiration to those who suffer from trauma and those who care for them. It is an outstanding addition to all library collections.
—Medical Library Association, Consumer Connections
“[A] wonderful new book that everyone involved with trauma ought to read and have available. . . . [B]eautifully, compellingly and sweepingly written in its grand vision of integrating medical, psychological and mixed or alternative approaches, based on a careful reading of the client and a holistic mind-body view. . . . There are very few practitioners who could not learn from this book and become more effective, as well as inspired, by reading and studying it.”
—Henry Strick van Linschoten, European Society For Trauma And Dissociation Newsletter
“Psychological trauma can befall anyone, not just soldiers, refugees, or victims of rape. . . . This important and helpful book makes sense of suffering and offers opportunity for healing.”
“[C]omprehensive in scope. This valuable work . . . offers hope for the millions of sufferers and their families seeking meaningful treatment and relief from the ongoing pain of trauma.”
—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Dr. van der Kolk's masterpiece combines the boundless curiosity of the scientist, the erudition of the scholar, and the passion of the truth teller.”
—Judith Herman, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; author of Trauma and Recovery
“This is an absolutely fascinating and clearly written book by one of the nation’s most experienced physicians in the field of emotional trauma. The Body Keeps the Score helps us understand how life experiences play out in the function and the malfunction of our bodies, years later.”
—Vincent J. Felitti, M.D., chief of preventative medicine, emeritus, Kaiser Permanente San Diego; co-principal investigator, ACE study
“In this inspirational work which seamlessly weaves keen clinical observation, neuroscience, historical analysis, the arts, and personal narrative, Dr. van der Kolk has created an authoritative guide to the effects of trauma, and pathways to recovery. The book is full of wisdom, humanity, compassion and scientific insight, gleaned from a lifetime of clinical service, research and scholarship in the field of traumatic stress. A must read for mental health and other health care professionals, trauma survivors, their loved ones, and those who seek clinical, social, or political solutions to the cycle of trauma and violence in our society.”
—Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neuroscience; director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
“Breathtaking in its scope and breadth, The Body Keeps the Score is a seminal work by one of the preeminent pioneers in trauma research and treatment. This essential book unites the evolving neuroscience of trauma research with an emergent wave of body-oriented therapies and traditional mind/body practices that go beyond symptom relief and connect us with our vital energy and here-and-now presence.”
—Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., author of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
“In The Body Keeps the Score we share the author's courageous journey into the parallel dissociative worlds of trauma victims and the medical and psychological disciplines that are meant to provide relief. In this compelling book we learn that as our minds desperately try to leave trauma behind, our bodies keep us trapped in the past with wordless emotions and feelings. These inner disconnections cascade into ruptures in social relationships with disastrous effects on marriages, families, and friendships. Van der Kolk offers hope by describing treatments and strategies that have successfully helped his patients reconnect their thoughts with their bodies. We leave this shared journey understanding that only through fostering self-awareness and gaining an inner sense of safety will we, as a species, fully experience the richness of life.
—Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation
“This exceptional book will be a classic of modern psychiatric thought. The impact of overwhelming experience can only be truly understood when many disparate domains of knowledge, such as neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, and interpersonal neurobiology are integrated, as this work uniquely does. There is no other volume in the field of traumatic stress that has distilled these domains of science with such rich historical and clinical perspectives, and arrived at such innovative treatment approaches. The clarity of vision and breadth of wisdom of this unique but highly accessible work is remarkable. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.”
—Alexander McFarlane AO, MB BS (Hons) MD FRANZCP, director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, The University of Adelaide, South Australia.
“This book is a tour de force. Its deeply empathic, insightful, and compassionate perspective promises to further humanize the treatment of trauma victims, dramatically expand their repertoire of self-regulatory healing practices and therapeutic options, and also stimulate greater creative thinking and research on trauma and its effective treatment. The body does keep the score, and van der Kolk’s ability to demonstrate this through compelling descriptions of the work of others, his own pioneering trajectory and experience as the field evolved and him along with it, and above all, his discovery of ways to work skillfully with people by bringing mindfulness to the body (as well as to their thoughts and emotions) through yoga, movement, and theater are a wonderful and welcome breath of fresh air and possibility in the therapy world.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine emeritus, UMass Medical School; author of Full Catastrophe Living.
“This is an amazing accomplishment from the neuroscientist most responsible for the contemporary revolution in mental health toward the recognition that so many mental problems are the product of trauma. With the compelling writing of a good novelist, van der Kolk revisits his fascinating journey of discovery that has challenged established wisdom in psychiatry. Interspersed with that narrative are clear and understandable: descriptions of the neurobiology of trauma; explanations of the ineffectiveness of traditional approaches to treating trauma; and introductions to the approaches that take patients beneath their cognitive minds to heal the parts of them that remained frozen in the past. All this is illustrated vividly with dramatic case histories and substantiated with convincing research. This is a watershed book that will be remembered as tipping the scales within psychiatry and the culture at large toward the recognition of the toll traumatic events and our attempts to deny their impact take on us all.”
—Richard Schwartz, originator, Internal Family Systems Therapy
“The Body Keeps the Score is clear, fascinating, hard to put down, and filled with powerful case histories. Van der Kolk, the eminent impresario of trauma treatment, who has spent a career bringing together diverse trauma scientists and clinicians and their ideas, while making his own pivotal contributions, describes what is arguably the most important series of breakthroughs in mental health in the last thirty years. We’ve known that psychological trauma fragments the mind. Here we see not only how psychological trauma also breaks connections within the brain, but also between mind and body, and learn about the exciting new approaches that allow people with the severest forms of trauma to put all the parts back together again.”
—Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself
“Every once in a while, a book comes along that fundamentally changes the way we look at the world. Bessel van der Kolk has written such a book. The arc of van der Kolk’s story is vast and comprehensive, but he is such a skillful storyteller that he keeps us riveted to the page. I could not put this book down. It is, simply put, a great work.”
—Stephen Cope, founder and director, Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living; author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
“Bessel van der Kolk is unequaled in his ability to synthesize the stunning developments in the field of psychological trauma over the past few decades. Thanks in part to his work, psychological trauma—ranging from chronic child abuse and neglect, to war trauma and natural disasters—is now generally recognized as a major cause of individual, social and cultural breakdown. In this masterfully lucid and engaging tour de force, van der Kolk takes us —both specialists and the general public— on his personal journey and shows what he has learned from his research, from his colleagues and students, and, most importantly, from his patients. The Body Keeps the Score is, simply put, brilliant.”
—Onno van der Hart, Ph.D., Utrecht University, The Netherlands; senior author, The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization
“The Body Keeps the Score articulates new and better therapies for toxic stress based on a deep understanding of the effects of trauma on brain development and attachment systems. This volume provides a moving summary of what is currently known about the effects of trauma on individuals and societies, and introduces the healing potential of both age old and novel approaches to help traumatized children and adults to fully engage in the present.”
—Jessica Stern, policy consultant on terrorism; author of Denial: A Memoir of Terror
“A book about understanding the impact of trauma by one of the true pioneers in the field. It is a rare book that integrates cutting edge neuroscience with wisdom and understanding about the experience and meaning of trauma, for people who have suffered from it. Like its author, this book is wise and compassionate, occasionally quite provocative, and always interesting.”
—Glenn N. Saxe, M.D., Arnold Simon Professor and chairman, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; director, NYU Child Study Center, New York University School of Medicine
“A fascinating exploration of a wide range of therapeutic treatments shows readers how to take charge of the healing process, gain a sense of safety, and find their way out of the morass of suffering.”
—Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., originator of EMDR therapy, senior research fellow, Emeritus Mental Research Institute, author of Getting Past Your Past
“As an attachment researcher I know that infants are psychobiological beings. They are as much the body as they are of the brain. Without language or symbols infants use every one of their biological systems to make meaning of their self in relation to the world of things and people. Van der Kolk shows that those very same systems continue to operate at every age, and that traumatic experiences, especially chronic toxic experience during early development, produce psychic devastation. With this understanding he provides insight and guidance for survivors, researchers and clinicians alike. Bessel van der Kolk may focus on the body and trauma, but what a mind he must have to have written this book.”
—Ed Tronick, distinguished professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston, author of Neurobehavior and Social Emotional Development of Infants and Young Children
“The Body Keeps the Score eloquently articulates how overwhelming experiences affect the development of brain, mind, and body awareness, all of which are closely intertwined. The resulting derailments have a profound impact on the capacity for love and work. This rich integration of clinical case examples with ground breaking scientific studies provides us with a new understanding of trauma, which inevitably leads to the exploration of novel therapeutic approaches that "rewire" the brain, and help traumatized people to (re)-engage in the present. This book will provide traumatized individuals with a guide to healing and permanently change how psychologists and psychiatrists think about trauma and recovery.”
—Ruth A. Lanius, M.D., Ph.D., Harris-Woodman chair in Psyche and Soma, professor of psychiatry, and director PTSD research at the University of Western Ontario; author of The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease
“When it comes to understanding the impact of trauma and being able to continue to grow despite overwhelming life experiences, Bessel van der Kolk leads the way in his comprehensive knowledge, clinical courage, and creative strategies to help us heal. The Body Keeps the Score is a cutting-edge offering for the general reader to comprehend the complex effects of trauma, and a guide to a wide array of scientifically informed approaches to not only reduce suffering, but to move beyond mere survival—and to thrive.”
—Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., clinical professor, UCLA School of Medicine, author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain; Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation; and The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are
“In this magnificent book, Bessel van der Kolk takes the reader on a captivating journey that is chock full of riveting stories of patients and their struggles interpreted through history, research, and neuroscience made accessible in the words of a gifted storyteller. We are privy to the author’s own courageous efforts to understand and treat trauma over the past 40 years, the results of which have broken new ground and challenged the status quo of psychiatry and psychotherapy. The Body Keeps the Score leaves us with both a profound appreciation for and a felt sense of, the debilitating effects of trauma, along with hope for the future through fascinating descriptions of novel approaches to treatment. This outstanding volume is absolutely essential reading not only for therapists but for all who seek to understand, prevent, or treat the immense suffering caused by trauma.”
—Pat Ogden Ph.D., Founder/Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute; author of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment
“This is masterpiece of powerful understanding and brave heartedness, one of the most intelligent and helpful works on trauma I have ever read. Dr. van der Kolk offers a brilliant synthesis of clinical cases, neuroscience, powerful tools and caring humanity, offering a whole new level of healing for the traumas carried by so many.”
—Jack Kornfied, author of A Path with Heart
“The Body Keeps the Score is masterful in bringing together science and humanism to clearly explain how trauma affects the whole person. Bessel van der Kolk brings deep understanding to the pain and chaos of the trauma experience. The treatment approaches he recommends heal the body and the mind, restoring hope and the possibility of joy. One reads this book with profound gratitude for its wisdom.”
—Alicia Lieberman, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Psychology UCSF, Director of the Child Trauma Research Project, San Francisco General Hospital; author of The Emotional Life of the Toddler
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Publishing Group; Reprint edition (September 8, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143127748
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143127741
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 13.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.1 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #14 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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As a retired veteran, I was intrigued on the topic; especially in light of so many teammates who are struggling, and a suicide rate that is off the charts. I was eager to learn more and hopefully be better armed to talk with friends. That said, so much of the life trauma discussed in this book was regarding children who had been abused. Some of the sections were really HEAVY.
In the end, I felt like I had a better appreciation for a range of things:
- A better understanding of how rampant Psychological Trauma is, and the wide range of events that can cause it.
- A better understanding of the treatments available as well as the history and progress for treating psychological trauma.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in helping people who struggle and are interested in a deeper understanding of the causes, the struggles and treatments.
Top reviews from other countries
It is a lifetime of knowledge (and it is clear that it had taken a very long time to write) from a practising clinician who, as far as I can tell, is THE most well-informed person on the subject, all in one book.
It can be applied to you. Therapy like this would cost thousands, and that is even if you have the good fortune to find a therapist who knows anything about it.
It is perfectly written and laid out, starting with explanations about the problem and ending with explanations of how to recover.
At first it was hard to read because I was only just coming to terms with having childhood trauma, and was still feeling very upset about it. However the great thing about a book is that you can take as long as you like to finish it. As I read more I understood more and more and began to feel more and more free, understood, and positive. There is SO MUCH information in here, and it is all extremely useful and interesting. I often read one sentence several times because it made such an impact on me, and after some pages (most of them!) I would think for ten minutes until I read more.
This is the most helpful book I have read on the subject, and I have read a lot. It has taken me a long time to read, but recovery takes a long time. I think that if you have not been traumatised and are just reading it for interest that you would read it quickly, as it is such a great book. I feel like it has transformed me.
When you experience trauma your brain protects you, it literally creates a new personality on top of the one you were born with and transforms you. It increases your senses, it makes you more intelligent, but it changes your brain chemistry and that's the big problem. If your chemistry changes then you're not going to benefit in normal everyday situations because your flight, fight and freeze part of your brain is now on over drive, your hypothalamus is now stuck in hyper drive and your prefrontal cortex becomes neglected and undeveloped and in a contradicting to making you more intelligent now makes you less able to learn by constantly injecting stress hormones into your blood stream.
A lot is crammed into this book, over 30 years of research into trauma and I agree with the author, trauma is so important and so relevant in our society. Most people experience some form of trauma throughout their lives, but it seems the younger and more undeveloped you are the more profound the effect is later on in life. It literally passes down from generation to generation and we still don't discuss or treat trauma as a norm. If everyone was more knowledgeable about trauma and how it affects us then I think our medical advice and how we treat people would be far different from what it is today.
I find it easy to notice when someone has experienced trauma. It affects their persona, but there are visual and acoustic clues as well. It helps to know if someone has trauma because you have to adapt to their reasoning and thinking which can often be off kilter.
This book is brilliant for psychologists and people who want to learn more about themselves and trauma. It has a diverse knowledge or different applications which are proven to work. Obviously CBT is the most common, but two more I find very interesting and fascinating for trauma treatment is EMDR and Yoga. Both I think are brilliant and I was aware of before the book, but this book shows just what impact it has on masses.
I genuinely feel like when it comes to psychology and nutritional sciences, the USA is years ahead of everyone else especially the UK. I really hope a lot of this work makes it over here sooner rather than later.
Knowing more about trauma means we can help heal our society, prevent abuse and even enrich ourselves.
I am training to be a play therapist and I would recommend this for any child development or neuroscience enthusiast. It has thrown light in my own personal journey and I felt like parts of this book were written for me... absolutely brilliant and proves that we all have the capacity to heal.
vdK explains that there are different subtypes of trauma and various treatment techniques work better with some types of trauma than others. Instead of labelling and trying to treat symptoms, he attempts to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. He tells of his efforts to join the campaign to completely reorient the categories set out in the DSM (the reference manual of the psychatric industry in the USA) which just describes symptoms or manifestations rather than the real causes of people's dysfunction.
At almost 400 pages of small print this is a long, but exciting, read which shows there are alternatives to the conventional pharmacological-first approach. I found this book to be a real page turner, reading it late into the night. vdK also provides many resources and references for further reading. Essential for everyone, even functioning humans, to understand why you or people around you may not behave as you want or expect.