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

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  11,169 ratings  ·  491 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
Paperback, 247 pages
Published May 30th 1997 by Basic Books (first published June 11th 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 s…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)

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Oct 16, 2007 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
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an EXCELLENT book - I'd place it up there with van der Kolk's The Body Keeps The Score and Bancroft's Why Does He Do That? as one of the best-written and most informative books I've read on abuse and trauma. I loved that Herman's perspective is overtly anti-oppression (speaking specifically to sexism and racism) and anti-war and she speaks compellingly to the way that trauma is perpetuated through these systems. I'll certainly be returning to this book. ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adulthood, ptsd
update on this review: 15 Sept, 12017 HE, about 2 years or so after first read: at the bottom...

So I guess I'm in Stage 3, now !!! :-)

Original review, circa. 2010:5
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
Nov 12, 2010 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
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
Dec 29, 2008 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 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
Eleanor Cowan
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Early in her career, Dr. Judith Herman, an American psychiatrist, author, teacher, and researcher, began to make a link between political and individual violence. While she also studied the overwhelming feelings of terror and helplessness resulting from traumatic accidents, natural disasters, and more, Herman also began to link political trauma to personal trauma.

Herman contends that in a patriarchal world - which means an unequal world - some causes of PTSD, such as violent, unhampered aggress
Erin Drake
Mar 21, 2010 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
Aug 09, 2010 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 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
Feb 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was a challenging read. I had so many thoughts and reactions to it. After reading the first few pages, I immediately wanted there to be a connection made to the history of enslaving Africans in America. I found myself constantly webbing that narrative into this text. I was disappointed at the end of the text because I realized that the only thought given to chattel slavery and it's lasting impact was a reference to police brutality in California. Chattel slavery was the most traumatizi ...more
As some friends know, to help keep me occupied during the pandemic, I've been doing a year-long reading project to try to understand more about authoritarianism. Some subtopics within the project that particularly interest me are: connections between the mindset of domestic abusers and authoritarianism; how intimacy relates to authoritarianism; and the kinds of damage that authoritarianism does - that is, the question of why authoritarianism is a bad thing.

This book on trauma, by an expert in th
Very thorough and conscientious. The reference point in trauma.
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 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
This is a classic. I don't dispute that. But it read as outdated, and had a very male perpetrator/female survivor narrative about it. Some of it was fabulous, but most of it wasn't. I give it a meh and a glad I read it anyway. ...more
Uma Dwivedi
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
this book was really good! insightful about the structures of trauma and recovery. there wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking or mind blowing here, but it was a good solid primer
Alex Barnawell
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellently organized, this is THE BEST book on trauma that I have ever read. Filled with spicy meatballs of truth, Butler holds no punches to connect the society we live in, including those in her own profession, as part of the inherent problem of why so many find themselves subjugated, abused, and disenfranchised. I loved her focus on the abuse of women and children as a functioning part of the current world order. My only critique is that its written clearly from a white feminist gaze, and do ...more
Sep 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So it took me about a year and a half to read this book. Not because it's bad - it's excellent. Not because it's technical - it's extremely accessible. But this book is immensely painful and I sometimes needed several days to recover from 3 pages.

This is an incredibly detailed, compassionate, and raw deep-dive into trauma. Dr Herman was the first to propose the existence of complex ptsd as separate from "regular" ptsd, and in the book narrows in particularly on the vulnerability of children and
Aug 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
dnf at 25%. this book had some…valuable insights at times, i guess? but for the most part it seemed to me (a person who has endured a number of traumas) that herman was thinking of traumatized people less as people and more as, like, case studies, i guess—which is to say: the tone was entirely too clinical.
Hazel West
For the most part the information in this book is solid but I had a few problems. One was that this wasn't really what I needed for the research I was doing (into PTSD). There is information about that in this book, but not as much as others that specifically discuss that subject. This is also written to therapists for the most part, which is not what a novel writer looks for unless they are writing a character who is a therapist, so I would not recommend this book to writers.

The other issue I h
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
Betsy Ashton
Apr 07, 2012 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
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 13, 2007 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 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
Sooho Lee
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I dare say that this is one of the most important books I've read this year – maybe ever. The matriarch of trauma theory and studies, Judith Herman is incredible – simply incredible – in her clarity, depth, and empathy. She is one of those rare writers that presents ideas so concisely yet with so much – indeed, it's hard enough to find such skill amongst seasoned writers, much less amongst psychologists! This makes Trauma and Recovery extremely accessible, which is great news: this is an absolut ...more
Dr. Herman is brilliant and this book is fantastic. While not for the faint of heart, the book delineates the deep connection between trauma of all kinds and its psychological aftermath. Their is no distinction between war and non-state political violence to the human mind, it is all terror and all traumatic.
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star
yes yes yes (x1000). feminist. well-written. amazing book.

Incredible overview of trauma and the stages to recovery (as title suggests).
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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.

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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.”
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.” 302 likes
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