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Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  6,884 Ratings  ·  261 Reviews
When Trauma and Recovery was first published in 1992, it was hailed as a groundbreaking work. In the intervening years, Herman’s volume has changed the way we think about and treat traumatic events and trauma victims. In a new afterword, Herman chronicles the incredible response the book has elicited and explains how the issues surrounding the topic have shifted within the ...more
Paperback, 247 pages
Published May 30th 1997 by Basic Books (first published 1992)
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Shawna Mathew I'd be curious to hear what you read that seemed victim blaming. I didn't read anything near victim blaming. In fact Herman almost errs on the other…moreI'd be curious to hear what you read that seemed victim blaming. I didn't read anything near victim blaming. In fact Herman almost errs on the other side if anything. She goes to great lengths to say that people cannot remain morally neutral and must take sides and place the blame on the perpetrator. My few criticisms of Herman would be that she does label post traumatic stress a disorder (which seems slightly shaming) and she does not go far enough telling victims to take pride in their battle scars for having survived awful things. She could also go a bit farther as some authors have done and say that, "It's not genetic." I think the entire spirit of the book is non victim blaming though.(less)
Ankita Mittal You can purchase an ebook version from amazon.

Community Reviews

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Apr 25, 2014 jo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mental health professionals, teachers, counselors, helpers of all stripes
i just taught this for the first time. for some reason, this time around the book had a tremendously disruptive impact on me. it was, simply put, like going through a trauma experience. the last part, about the three stages of recovery, gave me palpable relief, as if i were going through recovery myself as i read the book with the class.

reading it with a group made a huge difference. at least some of the students experienced some level of traumatization. it was important to debrief at the end. s
I first fanboy squealed on page 11, when Judith Lewis Herman created a connection between mental illness and feminism, two of my favorite topics. In the first third of Trauma and Recovery, Herman discusses the history of trauma and how trauma relates to many other concepts, such as politics and warfare. In contemporary society people insulate and isolate the topic of mental illness with alarming speed, so delving into its pervasiveness in all areas of life brought its magnitude back into focus. ...more
Nov 22, 2010 Tinea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, but esp. survivors/people who think they are crazy bc the world makes them jumpy
Recommended to Tinea by: homework from my therapist
I can't do this book justice with a review. Feminist, short, and packed with information about what PTSD is, how it comes about, and how to heal it. Applied philosophy resulting in the sort of "holy shit!" moments that had me dragging friends out on long walks around lakes and organizing two-person slumber parties just so I'd have a chance to share some of these lessons learned. To adequately summarize this info, I'd basically need to copy the whole book here, so just go out and read it. This bo ...more
Dec 29, 2008 Lightreads rated it it was amazing
Ah-ha, there it is. I've been looking for this book for about five years now. Not this book, I mean, but a book that frames a discussion of post trauma pathologies with feminist discourse without being . . . what's the word I'm looking for? Annoying. This book does that. It's fascinating, actually, starting in with the history of trauma's emergence into public consciousness in connection with successive political movements (secular humanism, postwar relief, feminism). Then on through symptomolog ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing
This was assigned reading in my first year of graduate school, and eight years later, I still refer to it. It's my professional bible. Judith Herman has written the quintessential book on trauma. She somehow has managed to convey all the complex elements of this phenomenon in less than 250 pages. She also (as far as I know) was one of the first to differentiate between single incident trauma and ongoing trauma. She writes in a style that is simple enough for anyone to read but does not sound sim ...more
Oct 27, 2015 Shira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adulthood, ptsd
This book, for me, was a horrible read. Horribly accurate. Yet hopeful as well.

Horrible to see that I am not so different after all -I see myself in every comment she makes on adults who survived long-term trauma as children.
Horrible to see that my experience is not so different.
Yet hopeful to see that there are ways of solving the problem, living 'normally' -just that ignoring it is not one of those ways.
Most irritating.
Especially after burn-out has twice stopped me from working enough to d
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I read this for work purposes and found it a helpful and thought-provoking resource, a book I’ll likely want to refer to again in the future. First published in 1992, this was apparently a ground-breaking work, but while there’s been plenty of research into trauma since then (if you can recommend a good follow-up to this one, please let me know!), it has stood the test of time so far. Certainly it rings true to my experience.

As you would expect from the title, the primary focus of the book is on
Apr 07, 2010 Marshall rated it it was ok
This is a book about trauma and the therapeutic process of recovery. The author was very clear from the beginning that it is written from a feminist point of view, which explains some of the absurd warping of common sense. For example, she claims that society gives women very little permission to talk about their feelings, which is actually a gender reversal--it's far less acceptable for men to talk about their feelings. She even claims that talking about feelings constitutes the scientific meth ...more
Erin Drake
Mar 21, 2010 Erin Drake rated it really liked it
It is easy to see why Judith Herman’s visionary book Trauma and Recovery is considered a classic in the field of psychology. In her work, Herman describes the conditions that create posttraumatic stress and then details a path of recovery. She explores the many manifestations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder within the human mind, body and spirit then identifies the interwoven and overlapping stages of trauma recovery with clarity and purpose. Most notably, Herman describes the difficulty of t ...more
Nov 12, 2010 Elle rated it really liked it
Don't let the rating lead you to believe that this book is not essential and extremely helpful reading on trauma and the challenges it poses to individuals in healing. The reasons I did not rate it higher was the pathologizing use of diagnostic categories, an emphasis on the healing relationship that tended to the therapist 4x more than the survivor (16 pages to 4 respectively, but arguably because of the intended audience and the expertise of the author), and the distorting separation of the st ...more
Joseph Harriott
Mar 09, 2010 Joseph Harriott rated it it was amazing
Excellent. If you just read one book on the rise of the psychoanalytic world view, just read this one. The first chapter is a devastating critique of how Freud, understandably, abandoned the women that taught him the talking cure, and invented the Oedipus complex to explain away their disturbing stories of sexual abuse. Herman also explains how 1950s American women, freed from domestic drudgery to have time to discuss and question some of their abusive experiences, and then the returning Vietnam ...more
Betsy Ashton
May 11, 2012 Betsy Ashton rated it it was amazing
Dr. Herman opens the door to trauma and its causes in easy to understand, non-medical language. From child abuse to rape to combat trauma, she discusses each type of trauma in turn, points out the differences between them, and goes into depth about the types of treatment that lead to recovery.

Beginning in the early years of psychiatry when women who were abused were called hysterics. Until the mid and late sixties, psychiatrists didn't have the vocabulary to lead patients to talk about childhood
I read this a LONG time ago during the 90's when my therapist gave it to me. She was the best therapist ever- I probably suffered from I love my therapist can she please be my mommy syndrome with her. She always gave me excellent material to read and mull over. This was one of those books and I forgot the title of this. I only just now was able to find it after inputting a ton of random searches on google looking for it. I'm so glad because I want to do a re reading of this! I will also give the ...more
Sep 21, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
This book was recommended to me by my therapist. I understand why she wanted me to take on this book, but listening to it (I had checked out the audiobook version) took an entire three weeks. The subject matter is not easy. Complex PTSD is not something that leads to simple solutions for care. But this book tackles the difficulties head-on from a feminist perspective. I appreciated the historical framing with hysteria and shell-shock. The frank discussion of sub-par treatment options was useful ...more
Kateryna Martynenko
May 08, 2016 Kateryna Martynenko rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Ключова книга, яка має прочитати кожен, хто пережив чи досі переживає психологічну травму, а також пост-травматичний стресовий розлад. Ця книга надзвичайно детально описує різні етапи впливу травми на функціонування особистості, шляхи до відновлення на кожному з цих етапів. Дуже добре представлена передісторія вивчення травми у світі та історичний контекст, у якому відбувалося зрушення та поступове визнання травми як явища. Окрім того глибоко аналізуються 2 виміри психологічної травми - травма в ...more
James Curcio
Aug 24, 2014 James Curcio rated it really liked it
I'm about halfway through at the moment. This is incredibly well researched and should be required reading on the subject. There are a few issues I would raise that very well could be seen as the mere result of the book being 20 years out of date -- such as the ongoing subtext that 'war PTSD' is a man's affliction while domestic abuse is the woman's version of the same -- although on the one hand it is made clear that these are often the same underlying issue, that is after all the premise of th ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Christina rated it it was amazing
I can't think of anything to say about this that hasn't already been said. This is THE trauma book; I had to read it as background for a course in trauma work with adults, and the syllabus says explicitly that we will be referring to it all semester. I'm quite sure mine is not the only trauma class that relies so heavily on this book.
I spent the previous school year interning on the same floor as the VoV (Victims of Violence) program Judith Herman runs, although on a different service. CHA socia
May 13, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Herman's book is amazing, a landmark in psychological studies, and a must-read now, more than ever, if we wish to understand and help everyone from victims of domestic violence to the incredible numbers of war veterans who have returned as sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorders. No other author I have read pegs the complexity of psychological trauma -- and recovery -- with such depth or clarity in such a brief space. I can't recommend this book highly enough. From her intro:

The ordinary re
Alison Robinson
Dec 08, 2013 Alison Robinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: counseling-books
I recommend this book for anyone in a helping profession (psychology, counseling, teaching, pastoring, mentoring, health care, etc.). Be prepared as a reader to read of some of the more horrific sides of human existence and the sufferings that daily occur on our planet, and even in our own neighborhoods and families. I am a counselor and see the effects of trauma on a daily basis in clients. This book provides great information and insight into the experience of survivors of trauma and the journ ...more
Apr 29, 2008 courtney rated it it was amazing
you'd think i would have had enough of this stuff by now... but herman presents trauma and the study of trauma within a historical context -- as hysteria, shell-shock, or rape and other forms of sexual abuse. she seeks to connect experience, finding common ground for trauma survivors to stand on, thus conquering (at least in part) the debilitating isolation that so many people (veterans, rape-survivors, etc.) experience. something that she says in the first chapter -- which, honestly, is as far ...more
Carolyn Zaikowski
Feb 25, 2010 Carolyn Zaikowski rated it it was amazing
If I could pick one book to make everybody read, it would be this one. This is one of the most important books I've ever read. Now considered a classic of trauma psychology, it was written by the feminist psychiatrist Judith Herman. It is eloquently written and researched, accessible to both beginners of trauma studies and long-time academics. Herman not only gives an in-depth, nuanced overview of how trauma works at the level of individual experience, but she takes trauma to the political realm ...more
Mar 07, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Recommended to me by one friend, then I borrowed it from another, and immediately lent it to someone else as soon as I'd finished it. This is a great book! The author outlines clear, easy to understand psychology. It's geared towards those who are training to become mental-health professionals, but without any jargon.
To me, it seems like the best type of self-help book because, for a non-mental health professional, it tells you how to be your own counselor to a degree (or to best handle a loved
Sep 19, 2016 Lauraadriana rated it it was amazing
If you work with survivors of trauma, this is REQUIRED reading. If you are a feminist this book is required READING. If you want to understand trauma, this book will give you what you want amd more. The absolute WORD, on trauma and healing.
Dec 22, 2007 K rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Professionals working with trauma survivors
Shelves: professionallit
I found this book extremely helpful. It wasn't an easy read, but it contains some good information on trauma survivors and approaches to working with them. It's not a structured, step-by-step treatment manual, but rather a text which provides a good road map while allowing room for clinicians to find their own way of structuring the therapeutic relationship with the appropriate goals in mind. I was grateful for this text, because trauma makes me feel so overwhelmed as a clinician -- this person ...more
Sep 17, 2007 Quinn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: therapy-trauma
Definately more of an academic read, this book explores the link between post traumatic stress in soldiers and in victims of sexual and domestic violence. Its an incredibly insightful look at post traumatic stress and recovery. It also features an interesting disscussion about Freud's discovery of "the talking cure" for women who had survived sexual violence. He had much sucess with this at first. However, he was so taken aback by the sheer numbers of women victims of sexual assault that he coul ...more
Sep 07, 2012 Carolina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-school
This is a fantastic (in the sense of well-done and highly readable, but probably not in the sense of cheerful) accounting and analysis of the history of trauma studies and caregiving. It is a field with a lot of interesting history and Herman gives a really gripping, detailed but lively, and lucid account of that history and places it in an analytical framework that (for me at least) really sheds a lot of light on how we tend to think about trauma and how it might be useful to expand our thought ...more
Jessica Tobin
Aug 29, 2016 Jessica Tobin rated it it was amazing
This is a book that should be read by all!!
Alex Daniel
May 12, 2015 Alex Daniel rated it really liked it
For anyone interested in trauma or post-traumatic stress, this book is a must-read. If you are a student of clinical psychology, interested in abused populations, this book is a must-read. If you are a practicing clinician, this book is a must read.

TRAUMA AND RECOVERY may as well be the definitive text on the subject. Or, at least for now. Originally released in the '90s, the book has held up terrifically to new research in the field. Herman's writing is very clear and striking, and she often st
Mar 27, 2016 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really remarkable book; so glad I read it; wish I'd read it sooner. Very intelligent, insightful and helpful. My criticisms of it aren't especially substantive, but nonetheless, there were two things that drove me nuts about this book:

1. Everyone Herman wants to discuss is introduced as "the [identity descriptor] [name]," as in "the combat veteran Jane Doe" or "the abuse survivor John Roe" or "the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud." The the there is not necessary--you can just write "Combat veteran Jac
Nov 04, 2014 Maria rated it it was amazing
How could I ever review this book well? My review will lack, I guess ;)

When I started reading this book I was doing research on the influence of fairy tales in the process of recovering from trauma. And although Herman doesn't talk about fairy tales (apart from a very brief mentioning of folktales in the introduction), there was no academic 'use' for me reading "Trauma and Recovery". I did read on, because it was on the one hand very interesting and insightful. I'm not a victim of trauma, but I
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Judith Lewis Herman is an author, psychiatrist, researcher, and teacher whose work has dealt with understanding and treating the effects of traumatic stress and incest.
More about Judith Lewis Herman...

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“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom.

But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.

She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”
“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” 134 likes
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