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Wilkinson, M. (2016). Van Der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. New York & London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books. 2014. Pp. 443. Hbk. £25.. J. Anal. Psychol., 61(2):239-244.

(2016). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 61(2):239-244

Book Reviews

Van Der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. New York & London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books. 2014. Pp. 443. Hbk. £25.

Review by:
Margaret Wilkinson

This is an unusual, semi-autobiographical book. As an accessible ‘easy read’ it will appeal to a wide range of professionals working in the mental health field wanting an introduction to current thinking about the mind-brain-body relationship. It also explores the significance of this for therapeutic work. Van der Kolk uses the semi-autobiographical form to identify and review the varied developments in his thinking about how people change, how adverse experience can damage well-being and how traumatized patients may be helped back into health. It is by an author who through his work first with veterans, then with children, adolescents and adults at the Trauma Center in Boston, has made a significant contribution to our understanding of traumatic stress and its effects on human well-being. It becomes crystal clear early on in the book that what has driven his thinking, and his embracing of novel approaches to treatment from his student days onward, has been an absolute commitment to alleviating his patients’ psychological distress. Growing up in Holland immediately after the war, playing on bomb-sites, with a family marked by trauma, trauma and its effects was something the young van der Kolk could not ignore (p. 9). In this book we have documented the making of a master clinician; at its heart is his commitment to learn from past masters but also to set aside preconceptions and to listen and learn from his patients. In this he perhaps draws an outline map of the journey that many thoughtful clinicians may find themselves making as they seek to understand the effects of trauma and its treatment as it has unfolded in the 20 century.

The book is rightly entitled ‘the body keeps the score’. I was excited to see it because I knew the importance of an earlier chapter van der Kolk had written with the same title in another significant book (1996). Jung (1946) made absolutely clear to us that, ‘Natural science combines two worlds, the physical and the psychic. Psychology does this only in so far as it is psychophysiology’ (para. 162, italics mine).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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