Trauma is increasingly being understood as being at the heart of much illness. The last few years in particular have seen a wealth of books and resources for those interested in exploring the healing and treatment of trauma. These are some of the resources we have found useful:
Books on trauma
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, published 2014. This is by far the best book published on trauma that we have found. The author is both a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher who has been at the forefront of this field for the last few decades. Just as importantly, he is a kind, decent and humble human being – and that shines through his writing. This book lays the ground for understanding the mind-body (somatic) basis of trauma. It also lays out the approaches to healing which have proved successful. As an added bonus, it’s very well written with lots of stories (case histories) to illuminate the theory and research. Very highly recommended!
Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine is a much shorter book (94 pages) and audio CD which takes the reader through Levine’s Twelve-Phase Healing Trauma Program. The author has worked for over 40 years in the fields of trauma and stress and is known for developing the Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) as part of a somatic approach to healing trauma. This book doesn’t spend much time on understanding the theory behind the practices although there is enough to get you started. For more background and stories, we recommend Levine’s book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma
Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy by Pat Ogden, Kekuni Minton and Clare Pain is another relatively recent book (2006) emphasising the importance of working with the body. The style is much more academic than the previous two books mentioned.
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn, published 2016. One of the most surprising and exciting recent discoveries in the life sciences is the whole field of epigenetics. This shows that stuff which happens to us and the way we think and feel about it impacts our genes. And those changes in our genes can then get passed on to future generations. This book explores how trauma can get passed down the generations and show up in our lives, and the clues which help us discover when this might be happening. The author is Director of the Family Constellation Institute in San Francisco. See this article by Mark Wolynn for a more in-depth overview of the book:
Sexual trauma resources
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis was first published in 1988 and is now in its 4th edition. Though not without flaws (read the Wikipedia article on the book!) it is still a very valuable resource for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and for their partners and family members, as it is packed full of stories from other survivors which can help to normalise what we can expect on the journey of healing. Ultimately it is an empowering book, though we’d recommend reading it alongside The Body Keeps the Score for a more complete understanding of trauma and its healing. Much of what is written here also applies to male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Back On Track – Men talking about Childhood Sexual Assault is a short documentary produced by the South Eastern Centre against Sexual Assault. This is valuable because there are not so many resources for male survivors of sexual trauma despite the large numbers of men affected. Men often find it difficult to be vulnerable or to prioritise their own emotional needs. It can be particularly valuable for men to find other men with whom they can talk openly about their pain and their experiences.
Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf is not specifically about sexual trauma, but is nevertheless very valuable because of its detailed explanations of the the vast neural network that is the female Pelvic Nerve, the connections between it and a woman’s consciousness and the impact of trauma. You can get a good idea of what’s in the book and why it’s worth reading from this article on Brainpickings.org: The Psychology of Stress, Orgasm and Creativity.