Every once in a while, a book comes along that fundamentally changes the way we look at the world. Bessel VanderKolk has written such a book. Having read “The Body Keeps the Score”, it will be impossible for us any longer to deny the profound extent of trauma and its impact on our lives. VanderKolk writes in the humanitarian tradition of his great Harvard mentor, Elvin Semrad, and his book is a worthy testament to the tutelage of this great man, and the beautiful maturation of his pupil. The arc of VanderKolk’s story is vast and comprehensive—but Vanderkolk is such a skillful storyteller that he keeps us riveted to the page. I simply 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.
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. These new approaches and ancient disciplines build resilience and enhance the capacity to have new empowered bodily (interoceptive) experiences that contradict the previous traumatic ones of fear, overwhelm and helplessness. They go beyond symptom relief, and connect us with our vital energy and here-and-now presence. A must read for all therapists and for those interested in a scholarly, thoughtful, tome about the powerful forces that affect us as human beings in meeting the many challenges of life including accidents, loss and abuse.
- Peter A. Levine, PhD, Author,
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, PhD
Professor Department of Psychiatry University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation
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 PhD, Founder/Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, Author, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment
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
With his comprehensive knowledge, clinical courage, and creative strategies Bessel van der Kolk leads the way in understanding the impact of trauma and helping people heal from overwhelming life experiences. 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, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain; Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
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 F. Lieberman, Ph.D.
Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health; Vice Chair, Academic Affairs, UCSF Department; Director, Child Trauma Research Program, SF General Hospital
This is an absolutely fascinating and clearly written book by one of the nation’s most experienced physicians in the field of emotional trauma. Equally suitable for primary care doctors and psychotherapists wishing to broaden their range of helpfulness, or for those trapped in their memories, “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, MD
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 a revolutionary approach to its treatment, including 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, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine New York NY
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 PhD Originator, Internal Family Systems Therapy
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 allow the brain to 'rewire' itself, 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, The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease
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 offer 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 A Path work Heart
Clear, fascinating, hard to put down, 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, and 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, M.D., Author, The Brain That Changes Itself
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 fully engage in the present.
- Jessica Stern, policy consultant on terrorism
Author of Denial: A Memoir of Terror