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

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  57,445 ratings  ·  4,894 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, 464 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 un…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)
Angie hi, Michelle, this is probably too late, but here goes. I read this book just before I began therapy for something awful that had happened to me in th…morehi, Michelle, this is probably too late, but here goes. I read this book just before I began therapy for something awful that had happened to me in the past and, to be honest, it was life changing. It is quite academic, in as much as it deals with lots of neurological facts, but it is really well written and explains things very well. It can be a self-help book if you need to understand how your body processes trauma, and in doing so it helps you understand how to deal with it all. I think what makes it easy to read is the fact that the author seems to be very compassionate and articulate. (less)

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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
Alok Vaid-Menon
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: trauma
As someone who suffers from chronic pain I’ve found it difficult to find resources about the connection between trauma + physical pain. This is because the mind-body connection are (I think intentionally) underdeveloped in Western medicine which so often rehearses the body outside of context.

Van der Kolk shows how trauma can shape every aspect of our psychology + physiology: making us attracted to dangerous/painful situations, affecting our perception of time + space, dispossessing us of the ab
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
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This is a remarkable book. There are a lot of people I would recommend this book to, but it is about trauma and so the author discusses trauma and describes traumatic events – and the more I thought about who I might recommend it to, the less I felt able to. I’m not sure I really can ‘recommend’ you read this – but then, I might be more squeamish than other people are with books on these topics. And dear god, there are people out there who do the most awful things to one another.

In one of Steve
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
J.S. Lee
Sep 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
As a survivor of sexual abuse and trauma, I found this book triggering and lacking the enlightenment I expected, given the reviews. I felt the author showed more compassion for the soldiers who raped and murdered than the rape victims, and the ways in which he discussed the two left me feeling the women weren't as well humanized. Speaking about this with another trauma survivor, she shared that the author was removed from his own trauma center for creating a hostile work environment for women em ...more
Gretchen Rubin
In the space of two weeks, two people recommended this book to me. A fascinating look at the body and trauma, very wide-ranging.
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.)

Elyse  Walters
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
read by the author: Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.

Kolk is one of the world’s experts on trauma. He spent three decades working with survivors.

This book is packed filled with science, research, experience, and human stories that are phenomenally informative and intense!!!!

Kolk exposes how trauma physically affects changes in the brain and body causing anxiety, rage, depression, the inability to concentrate, problems remembering, flashbacks, trusting, and forming relationships.

He examine
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dr. van der Kolk's study of trauma treatment is the most respected book lately published on the subject of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Following in the footsteps of Babette Rothschild and Peter Levine, van der Kolk takes as his focus the physical aspects of psychological injury - suggesting that work with the body is the clearest and most effective approach to healing. He is not a fan of the pharmacological. Drugs, while useful in tamping down the flood of fearsome emotional response, do litt
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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).
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
Rachel A.  Dawson
This book took me more than a year to work through, and I’m glad I took my time with it. The sheer number of flags on these pages will tell you how meaningful this one was for me... as a rape and sexual abuse survivor who is still battling the long term effects of PTSD, this one hit home so hard.

It gave me hope, it helped me understand deeper levels to what I’ve lived/am living through, it taught me so much about how the body holds pain and past experiences, it broke my heart as I read of stori
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
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.
Laura Tremaine
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Don’t let the word “trauma” keep you away from this one, we’ve all had emotional and physical pain that has affected our bodies more than we realize, and I took so much from reading about how these things could manifest over time.
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
Martha Love
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: healing, first-read, 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
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
Nov 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Some parts of this book were very triggering. I do not recommend it as a first choice for someone who has Complex PTSD.
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
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This book absolutely rocked my world! I started reading it shortly after beginning to process my own trauma and it has been super validating. It is very readable and accessible. I learned so much about trauma and how it impacts the brain and body. I think anyone can benefit from reading this book, whether or not you identify as a survivor of trauma. A lot of it is stuff I’ve been learning about in therapy for the last year and a half— honestly just basic emotional intelligence that most of us we ...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
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this book was interesting (though sometimes repetitive) and was fascinated to learn about bodily manifestations of trauma. Though some things I am less convinced of (some of the methods seemed questionable/pseudoscientific/new agey), other methods seemed to be paths worth exploring. Hopefully trauma research will head in a positive direction.

However, I have to give my political theorist's critique which is that sometimes, van der Kolk rightly notes the political connotations what he is
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
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
Oct 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got to page 13 after a war Vietnam vet disclosed horrific crimes he had committed with seemingly no author acknowledgement towards the victims and the individual seeming to never have to face any consequences for his actions (still a practicing lawyer??!??!) despite disclosing this.

Other commenters note this and add that there are a many veuristic description of female victim survivors experiences

I am done with non fiction male narrators taking an "objective neutral stance" in situations lik
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​Bessel van der Kolk MD spends his career studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences, and has translated emerging findings from neuroscience and attachment research to develop and study a range of treatments for traumatic stress in children and adults.

In 1984, he set up one of the first clinical/research centers in the US dedicated to study and treatment of traumatic stress in

Articles featuring this book

As we wrap up our 2018 Reading Challenge, we decided to ask our Goodreads coworkers a simple yet tough question: What were the...
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“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)” 279 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.” 208 likes
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