Recommended Reading: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Format: Kindle edition, 417 pages

Published: 25 September 2014 by Penguin

Genres: Psychology, self-help

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

What causes people to continually relive what they most want to forget, and what treatments could help restore them to a life with purpose and joy? Here, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk offers a new paradigm for effectively treating traumatic stress.

Neither talking nor drug therapies have proven entirely satisfactory. With stories of his own work and those of specialists around the globe, The Body Keeps the Score sheds new light on the routes away from trauma – which lie in the regulation and syncing of body and mind, using sport, drama, yoga, mindfulness, meditation and other routes to equilibrium.

This review (and by extension the book itself) contains content that may trigger people sensitive to sexual violence.

I fully recommend people who are interested in or have experienced trauma to read this book, but before I get into the good bits, I’ll acknowledge the not-so-good. I almost stopped reading this book quite early on at the start when the author blatantly ignored what his war veteran did to those women and children. The complete lack of empathy towards his victims was unnerving. That said, I understand this from a practitioner’s point of view: when a client comes in and discloses something that we find appalling, we try to provide them with unconditional positive regard. With this in mind, there could have been some acknowledgement on the author’s part about what that veteran did to those women – especially when the author spends the rest of the book talking about this population of people. I’ve heard questionable things about the author (none substantiated) but decided to let this pass owing to the sympathetic and caring tone of the rest of the book, which I’ll now go into.

I’ve seen reviews of this book calling it ‘pop psychology’, but honestly, what is all of science if not fictional until it’s existed long enough for people to come around to it? This book explores lots of things, including the root of trauma, the effects on the brain and behaviour, and finally, all the different methods of treating trauma that the author has witnessed as helpful. Obviously, the author has an agenda so it is biased in favour of getting his point across, but it’s important to bear in mind that even if a treatment only helps 50% of people — that is still a lot of lives changed, so it’s definitely worth talking about, even if it is a seemingly out-there treatment! Trauma is widespread and not talked about, and this book isn’t the first to bring this issue to light, but certainly does so in an engaging way.

Some of the treatments that this book explores includes things like trauma-informed yoga, sports, drama, mindfulness, neurofeedback, EMDR, internal family systems therapy and more. Even for those who do not have the money for costly treatment, I feel this book presents an option for all, and in an easy enough way that it can be understood by experts and lay people alike.

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