Katie’s Bookshelf: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk


The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk is THE book on how trauma affects the mind and body.  Van Der Kolk is highly revered in the mental health field and has significant experience with trauma.  Being that this book is written by a Psychiatrist, one would think that it would be heavy and difficult to get through.  Not the case at all!  Very accessible and highly interesting.

He starts off with the beginnings of his experience with Vietnam Veterans and trauma.  From there he went on to work with countless others who have been traumatized.  He provides information on how trauma affects the brain and the body in the following section.  Next he describes how trauma affects children as well as attachment styles with caregivers.  The last section was my personal favorite as he goes through many treatment modalities he has found to be successful with trauma.

Interestingly enough, BVDK supports medication in some cases, but overall leans more towards other treatment modalities.  The biggest takeaway from the book is that the most successful outcomes originate from a “bottom up” mentality instead of a “top down.”  Historically, as clinicians, we were taught to help our client “talk through” their trauma and eventually their body will be healed.  More recently, researchers have found that simply talking through trauma just deadens the parts of the brain associated with that memory so the client does not feel the dysregulation anymore.  However, in a “bottom up” treatment, a clinician is assisting their client in regulating their body FIRST before any processing of the trauma occurs.  Research has found that if the client has learned to regulate or “get back into” their own body, the processing part of the trauma work will be more successful.

In the book, BVDK walks through various treatment modalities such as Yoga, EMDR, Neurofeedback, Mindfulness, and Internal Family Systems in trauma treatment.  From here, the reader can educate themselves on any of the treatments they would like to learn more about.

Lastly, BVDK and his team have proposed a “Developmental Trauma” diagnosis for children who have not specifically identified a trauma but tend to get all types of diagnoses, therefore different treatments that do not necessarily have successful outcomes.  The DSM has yet to adopt his proposal which is unfortunate.

I could not put this book down and found his information so fascinating!

Read this book if:

  • You have personally been through traumatic experience(s)
  • You know someone who has been through trauma
  • You work in the field of mental health and have an interest in trauma
  • You work in any healing field and may encounter a person effected by trauma(I’m looking at you Yoga teachers!)

Buy it here.

Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Penguin.