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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  13,683 ratings  ·  1,301 reviews
A pioneering researcher and one of the world’s foremost experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for healing.
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Such experiences ine
Hardcover, 443 pages
Published September 25th 2014 by Viking (first published June 12th 2014)
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Rebecca Stayman I really found this book to be profoundly helpful. I am not a professional. I used the insights I gained from Van der Kolk's perspective to help me…moreI really found this book to be profoundly helpful. I am not a professional. I used the insights I gained from Van der Kolk's perspective to help me understand trauma and how it affects my life. I highly recommend.(less)
Megan Galloway Hi, Michelle! The Body Keeps the Score appears most useful to two separate groups of people, doctors and abuse/trauma survivors. This makes a list of…moreHi, Michelle! The Body Keeps the Score appears most useful to two separate groups of people, doctors and abuse/trauma survivors. This makes a list of discussion questions difficult to create, without understanding to which audience - or a completely different group of people - the book club is focused. Topics range from the long-term physical effects on the brain from abuse and trauma, through case studies of trauma survivors who have been misdiagnosed, given strong medications, and not really given any tools those survivors could use to release the torments, night terrors, and other emotional, psychological, and spiritual damages caused by the trauma. Oops, I see that your request was 7 months ago, but I just joined Goodreads today and I wanted you to have some response to your question. Hope you were able to develop the list you needed for the book club discussion. Blessings, Megan Erin Galloway(less)

Community Reviews

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4.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,683 ratings  ·  1,301 reviews

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Morgan Blackledge
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Body Keeps Score is my jam. It's better than that. It's like my slammajam. This is my fave book of the year so far, by a bunch.

It's a rich treasure trove of information from the frontiers of trauma research, etiology, diagnosis and treatment. It's changing the way I do therapy and it's changing the way a interpret human behavior.

And to think. I almost didn't read it.

When I entered the mental health field I had intended to specialize in Somatic Experiencing (SE) trauma therapy. But I quickl
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A compassionate, intelligent, and transformative book about trauma. As an aspiring clinical psychologist and writer, I look up to Bessel van der Kolk a lot. In The Body Keeps the Score, he infuses empirical, innovative research with hands-on clinical experience to explain trauma in a clear, authentic way. I loved his emphasis on incorporating both biology and social relationships into our understanding of trauma, as awful events affect both the body as well as the actual life of a struggling ind ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book represents everything that is groundbreakingly wonderful and and pseudoscientifically horrendous about trauma research. Individuals who suffer trauma are in need of actual help. This book contains some of the best, latest, and most effective cures for trauma sufferers, which can steer patients toward the help they need. However, van der Kolk seems wholly unable to engage in critical thinking when it comes to various treatments.

When attending courses in cognitive neuroscience and psych
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor, social worker or otherwise involved in treatment or research of mental conditions or disorders. What I am is a guy in his mid-twenties who experienced multiple instances of severe medical trauma as a child, in my case open-heart surgeries at the ages of three months, six years and eleven years.

I've spent the majority of my life (read: all of it) doing my best to repress and resist the terror, anger and sadness I felt as a result of having gone throu
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What fascinates me about trauma is what it does to you. It helps you survive whatever has tried to hurt you. It’s a survival instinct.

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
Deborah Halliday
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
In The Body Keeps the Score, psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk has demonstrated the rare ability to write a book that is appropriate for multiple audiences: the general public, undergraduate and graduate students, and current medical, social work, and counseling practitioners. Those unfamiliar with the causes and mechanisms of trauma and PTSD will learn what trauma is, how it originates, and how it affects the body, mind, and spirit. Those already familiar with trauma from the standpoint of psych ...more
Meredith Holley
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: monsters, non-fiction
This book was super okay. I think the title should be changed to, "PTSD for Treatment Professionals: An academic and anecdotal exploration of trauma treatments." So, that was not what I signed up for. I'll say, if you have PTSD, probably don't read this book because it has these very graphic descriptions of patient trauma experiences. I think therapists are the target audience for this book, and it provides an interesting overview of the treatment modalities available for PTSD and the research a ...more
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this largely because of how frequently Mac McClelland cited van der Kolk in Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. It was both a fascinating and helpful read, as well as one of the most thorough explorations of trauma and its effects that I have come across. It's written for both practitioners and laypeople, and although some of the neuroimaging studies were difficult for me to understand, van der Kolk's explanations were thorough enough that I could still follow the gist of it.

The end of
Laurie Neighbors
Gave up. The author's description of his (psychiatric, traumatized) women patients as "slender" and "gorgeous" is so annoying. (ETA: Especially considering that he is writing in the same breath about rape and incest survivors.)

Emilia Lahti
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant work. An absolute must read/listen for trauma survivors, professionals who work with them, as well as family members of those who have endured extreme adversity. One of the best books on this topic that I have come across. Warmly recommended.
Patricia Ann
Nov 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. I so looked forward to this book from Goodreads. I found it to be disconnected and disorganized, covering so many different aspects of trauma that it dealt with none of them well. The disjunctive aspect of placing Vietnam vet PTSD along with survivors of childhood abuse was confusing. Language used was at times that of a professor, at times that of a thesis, and at others of a non professional.
van der Kolk's debate with DSM V was also unnecessary to the book. A great deal of foot
Martha Love
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read, healing, body
This is such an informative book, from the desk of a long time practicing psychiatrist. In a very clear and often personal style, with both research cited of new psychological and medical discoveries as well as many accounts of his own professional cases and experiences, Bessel van der Kolk makes connections between obesity and the increasing use of antipsychotic medications. He makes an insightful and clear account of the problems and needs of working with people with Post Traumatic Stress Diso ...more
Bruce Stern
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An incredible and necessary contribution and resource for the general public and psychological and trauma-treatment professionals to the understanding of and treatment for psychological, physical and sexual trauma. (It's not only experienced by soldiers, victims of mass public violence—terrorist attacks, mass killings and shootings—or those affected by natural calamities.)
Children, especially infants and toddlers, but also older children, adolescents, teens, and adults of all ages experience tra
Jo-Ann Murphy
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
I was thrilled to win this book in the Goodreads giveaways. There was so much information, it took me longer than normal to give it a thorough reading even though it is very easy to read. I just wanted to digest it and reread as I went along.

This is an outstanding book! It talks about how trauma effects both mind and body and recovery cannot be complete through talk therapy if the memories that are trapped in the body are not addressed.

ANYONE who deals with children or people in their work shoul
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Probably at some future point I will write an actual review about this comprehensive, marvelous look at trauma on all-aged, all-situation'd people, and if I had to snip my favorite quotes out I'd eventually just plagiarize the entire book, but: WOW. Dr. van der Kolk, in digestible terms, gives the reader a vocabulary to understand the psychic/physical roots of trauma on the brain and body. It justifies the various pain I experience on a normal basis; this book is a gift and a treasure. It reassu ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
I’ve had The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. on my shelves (both analog and audio) for quite a few months. I suppose I put it off because trauma is such a heavy subject. However, I unexpectedly found the tone to be comfortable and almost conversational. Perhaps that’s the talent of audiobook narrator Sean Pratt and van der Kolk’s evident compassion.

The reason I picked up this book at this time was because I recently finished Hunger by Roxane Gay. As Gay told her story of gang r
Tory Warner
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
I don't usually write reviews, but this book is special. I have a PTSD diagnosis and also work at a rape crisis center, so this was an incredibly meaningful and impactful read both personally and professionally. I feel validated in my own experiences and symptoms, and I am more mindful of my words and actions in crisis intervention situations. Dr. van der Kolk's compassionate and accessible language makes it easy to get through the rather heavy material. Easily one of the top two books I read in ...more
Na'ama Yehuda
Great book. One of the best on the topic of Developmental Trauma, and the impact of early stress on development, growth, relating, and health. van der Kolk does an outstanding job explaining in a very accessible way some super-complicated concepts and some super-tender concepts, too. Posttraumatic activation, the ongoing realities of traumatic aftermath, the lifelong (if untreated) suffering that stress loops can create. He also brings hope through the discussion and examples of how the body--th ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Nearly finished. Couldn’t deal with his voyeuristic description of specific traumatic events. It came across as self-inflating. It’s almost as though it gave him pleasure to share how others confided their traumas to him. Not a great book if you’re easily triggered by descriptions of sexual abuse (sometimes unnecessary graphic).
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My first finished book of 2019 and it was incredible. I highly recommend reading the incredibly thorough review from my friend Thomas for a holistic picture of this book. Here, I'd like to briefly highlight my own main takeaways.

As a psychology student trainee who will give therapy in the future, psychiatrist Dr. van Der Kolk's perspective and experience as a psychiatrist was intellectually nourishing. The complexity of "treating" trauma warrants interdisciplinary approaches and this book is wor
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is an exceptional read, insightful and informative to novice as well as the professional. So many struggle with traumatic life events without the understanding and support of the people closet to them. This non support is not that their family, friends and community do not want to understand or help, but lack the education to do so. This book, in my opinion, would be a wonderful book to provide to a person struggling with PTSD(as they also struggle to understand and cope as well), thei ...more
Ann Alton
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you work with people, you need to read this book. Not only was it validating for me, as a survivor, I found the neuroscience behind the behavior of survivors enlightening and helpful. I originally picked it up for help with my work with people who have chronic pain, but it did wonders for understanding coworkers and myself.
Charles Finch
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a special, thoughtful, educational, eye-opening, and open-minded book. I'm so glad I read it.
Gabrielle Schwabauer
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
H.A. Leuschel
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an intelligent, well-written and comprehensive book about trauma. The author writes with insight and compassion and his insatiable thirst to give an up-to-date overview of all the current therapy or treatment options that can help free a person from the clutches of past trauma is apparent on every single page! 'The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains' is at the heart of his quest because 'understanding ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book on so many levels. It's one of those books that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It's one of those books that I will want to read again. . . For one thing, there is so much valuable information that I will want to reference!

I'm not going to want to lend this one out because I won't want to part with it. I've come to accept that when I lend out a book, I may never see it again. However, it's such a good book that I know in my heart that I will want to lend it out! So
This took me two (incredibly long) months to read but I made it.

Probably the single most important book I have ever read. Mind blowing in so many ways, so many things make so much more sense now. This book changed my perspective on so many things in life including my own mental health but also how I deal with work and especially the kids I see there every day.

This book is easy enough to read even if you don't have a degree in psychology but still scientific and based on actual research which v
Teo 2050

van der Kolk BA (2014) (16:16) Body Keeps the Score, The - Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Praise for The Body Keeps the Score

Prologue: Facing Trauma

Part I: The Rediscovery of Trauma

01. Lessons from Vietnam Veterans
– Trauma and the Loss of Self
– Numbing
– The Reorganization of Perception
– Stuck in Trauma
– Diagnosing Posttraumatic Stress
– A New Understanding

02. Revolutions in Understanding Mind and Brain
– Trauma Before Dawn
– Making Sense of Suffering
– Inescapable Shock
– Addic
Eugene Pustoshkin
This is a great book in many ways. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk offers an integrative biopsychosocial view of psychological trauma and its psychosomatic and neuroscientific correlates and manifestations. He explains the importance of the new developmental trauma disorder that he and his colleagues carefully studied and proved to exist. He highlights many social issues (such as abuse of psychiatry’s reliance on psychopharmacological substances which is based not on medical but on marketing logic).

Debra Barrentine
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great, in depth look at the current therapies available for trauma and PTSD patients. Kolk explores psychiatry's shortcomings (the prescription based/medical model) in treating PTSD in war veterans and survivors of childhood trauma and offers many valuable treatments for patients who do not respond well to medication. These treatments are also used in tandem with medications to provide better overall outcomes. There were many clinical vignettes woven through the presentation of research and Ko ...more
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Therapist Book Club: Highlights and Quotes 1 8 Jan 26, 2019 05:36PM  
Mental Health Boo...: Nonfiction December - The Body Keeps the Score 2 30 Dec 17, 2018 12:35PM  
Highest praise 4 41 Jul 25, 2018 04:58AM  
  • Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship
  • In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
  • Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body
  • Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy
  • Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving
  • Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
  • Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others
  • The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation
  • Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal
  • The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization
  • Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders (Adults): An Evidence-Based Guide
  • The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment
  • The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma
  • The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment And the Developing Social Brain
  • When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
  • Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide
  • The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection
  • Interpersonal Process in Therapy: An Integrative Model
Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D. has been the Medical Director of The Trauma Center in Boston for the past 30 years. He is a Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and serves as the Director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Network. He is past President of International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Though he identifies himself primarily as
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)” 122 likes
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” 66 likes
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