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

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  17,513 ratings  ·  1,648 reviews
The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here one of the world's experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

‘Van der Kolk draws on thirty years of experience to argue powerf
Paperback, 443 pages
Published September 24th 2015 by Penguin (first published June 12th 2014)
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Sophy H I'd say it is academic in nature but it covers lots of different therapies in the second part of the book that may be helpful to you. Also there is a…moreI'd say it is academic in nature but it covers lots of different therapies in the second part of the book that may be helpful to you. Also there is a list of resources at the back. To be honest, just reading this book and discovering some of the issues behind trauma can be useful in itself. (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…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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4.58  · 
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Morgan Blackledge
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Alok Vaid-Menon
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Meredith Holley
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
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.)

Deborah Halliday
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emilia Lahti
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Patricia Ann
Nov 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Martha Love
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: healing, body, first-read
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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).
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tory Warner
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
H.A. Leuschel
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Gabrielle Schwabauer
Esther Espeland
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow this book fucked!! Was hard for me to read, and had to take it slow, but I feel so validated in my lived experience! Writing was super digestible, and all the medical sciency stuff was explained in an easy to follow way. Hearty recommendation to anyone with trauma, or for those who’s loved ones have trauma (so everyone!). I’m just like damb my entire life age 18-22 was just explained!
Charles Finch
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a special, thoughtful, educational, eye-opening, and open-minded book. I'm so glad I read it.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Therapist Book Club: Highlights and Quotes 1 21 Jan 26, 2019 05:36PM  
Mental Health Boo...: Nonfiction December - The Body Keeps the Score 2 37 Dec 17, 2018 12:35PM  
Highest praise 4 43 Jul 25, 2018 04:58AM  

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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)” 140 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.” 85 likes
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