Judith Herman’s “Trauma and Recovery” is a go-to book for understanding chronic or complex trauma. Her book focuses on the repeated traumas that some people go through including war, captivity, and childhood trauma to name a few. Written in the 90s, her work still stands as powerful information in understanding how these types of trauma affect the survivor in a much more impactful way than a single-incident trauma. Herman explores challenges with self-regulation, relationships, and identity.
Her book is divided into 2 parts; the first on the history of understanding trauma and the second on the stages of recovery. I found myself struggling to get through the first chapter on history. The subsequent chapters explore captivity, child abuse, and the need for a separate diagnosis. Herman proposed a set of criteria for her “Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Sadly, in 2019, we still do not have an official separate diagnosis despite Herman, Van Der Kolk, and others who have advocated. As a therapist, the second half of the book was much more interesting to me as it unpacked the different stages of recovery for a survivor.
“Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning.”
Overall, I enjoyed this book but it took a long time for me to get through. It’s quite heavy material and presented in a way that I could only soak up a few pages at a time. I found it to be informative and lined up with the other author’s in the field of trauma I am drawn to.
Read this book if:
- You work in the field of trauma
Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books.