Book Review: The Body Keeps The Score

I recently finished reading the book “The body keeps the score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. It’s an amazing book for anyone who wants to understand trauma, how it affects people, and the various ways it can be treated. While I was aware of some of the basics of how trauma affects the brain, and of some treatment modalities, this book really was a deep dive into it all, along with many stories and anecdotes of trauma survivors.

It’s a comprehensive and detailed book, well written and engaging throughout. It’s one of those books I looked forward to reading every day, as it was so jam packed with information and stories. I would recommend anyone interested in trauma or who works with survivors of trauma in any capacity to read the full book, as the information shared could help so many people! In addition, it’s useful even for people who have never experienced major trauma, but who nevertheless want to improve their mental wellbeing.

Some of the key takeaways are as follows…

  • Trauma, especially early childhood trauma, changes the way the brain reacts to everyday stimuli, and can put it in a constant state of fight or fight (which includes chronic production of stress hormones, inability to think or reason properly, and extreme reactions when triggered).
  • Psychotherapy can sometimes retraumatize patients if they talk about traumas while not feeling completely safe and supported.
  • Trauma traces are stored in the body and can cause physical symptoms and contribute to disease, including cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disease. In fact all such diseases are much higher in people with more ACEs (adverse childhood experiences).
  • There are many alternative therapies to medication and psychotherapy when it comes to healing trauma, and some people can really benefit from these alternatives, which include:
    EMDR – aka “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing” which uses eye movements to lessen the intensity of traumatic memories, and aims to store them as normal memories in the brain
    Dance/theatre – Allowing people to have agency and self confidence, and supporting community/interaction with other people
    Neurofeedback – This uses biofeedback, measuring brain waves in real time and training you to control them. Has been referred to as “meditation on steroids”.
    Yoga – A Mind-body approach, to connect the two and heal the bodily traces of trauma
    PBSP psychomotor therapy – Another mind-body approach. Uses “structures” and “microtracking” in a group setting to relive and thus create new memories, in a safe, supportive environment
    IFS therapy – IFS stands for Internal Family Systems. It recognizes that the human psyche is made up of different “parts” each with their own agendas, as well as the core “Self”. all of which need to be integrated.

It was fascinating especially, to learn about these treatments, and how some of them helped patients who had not improved with years of medication and/or psychotherapy. This is one of the most important books I have read, and I think it would be incredible if it was on the reading list of all therapists who have the vital job of supporting people through their healing.

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