Complex trauma – a real and serious mental illness, but one that is not recognized by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) – is one of the most misunderstood disorders in psychology. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines complex trauma as “the exposure of children to multiple traumatic events—often invasive, interpersonal in nature—and the far-reaching, long-term effects of that exposure. These events are serious and pervasive, such as B. Abuse or profound neglect.” On their journey to recovery, survivors of complex trauma often seek reassurance, information, and hope. The following books are great resources to meet these needs.
1. What My Bones Know: A reminder of healing from complex trauma
Author: Stephanie Foo
What happens when a successful journalist is told she has complex PTSD? Stephanie Foo embarks on a journey of research, recovery and reckoning. This memoir is honest, informative, and affirming as Foo describes how complex trauma has impacted her health, relationships, and career. She lays bare the difficult path from diagnosis to cure and all of the obstacles (breaking up with therapists, trying many different therapies, navigating with incompetent family members, etc.) that trauma survivors often experience. Foo also explores how intergenerational trauma has impacted her community, family, and adult relationships, and reflects on her journey to find and accept her chosen family. In the end, her message is one of hope.
2. Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map to Recovery from Childhood Trauma
Author: Pete Walker, LMFT
Need a thoroughly researched and informative but jargon-free self-help book? Marriage and family psychotherapist Peter Walker provides this important resource as he addresses several issues such as: Walker provides case studies to illustrate important concepts, including his own personal experiences as a survivor of complex trauma, rarely found in psychotherapist books. Walker offers multiple strategies and options for recovery depending on each survivor’s individual response to trauma, and he encourages survivors to abandon any strategies that don’t work for them. If you are looking for a practical, effective, and educational self-help book, read this.
3. What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
Authors: Dr. Bruce D Perry and Oprah Winfrey
What happens when media mogul and childhood trauma survivor Oprah Winfrey and psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and trauma expert Dr. Bruce D. Perry sit down to have a conversation about complex trauma? This book. Perry explains the science, provides vivid case studies, and challenges readers to change their perceptions of trauma. Winfrey asks probing questions, reveals the implications of culture and intersectionality, and tells her own story as a trauma survivor. One of the biggest themes in this book is the need to move away from the question, “What’s wrong with you?” and ask yourself the question “What happened to you?” instead. Such a paradigm shift is not insignificant as it challenges the current symptom-obsessed culture and encourages us to instead focus on the cause, which is often trauma.
4. Trauma and Expression Therapy: The Brain, Body and Imagination in the Healing Process
Author Cathy A. Malchiodi, Ph.D.
If you’ve tried talk therapy and it’s had limited or no help, this is the book for you. Cathy A. Malchiodi, Ph.D., is a pioneering expressive arts therapist who shares decades of research, case studies, and interventions. Expressive arts therapy uses physical and sensory interventions such as movement, sound, play, art, and drama to treat trauma—rather than relying solely on talk therapy. As a trauma therapist, I was able to implement these interventions immediately because this book includes templates and access to a website where you can download and print materials. The extensive interventions include strategies for improving relationships, safety, self-regulation, resilience, and mindfulness, to name a few. A wonderful benefit of this book is that these interventions are designed for adults and children alike.
5. Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring Your Body’s Wisdom
Author Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.
Trauma lives in your body, and you may need to try strategies that specifically focus on your body in order to recover. dr Peter A. Levine expands on his theory of Somatic Experiencing (SE), a form of therapy that focuses on the mind-body connection, which he presented in his groundbreaking book Wake up the tiger. Levine provides a guide to using SE, including methods for uncovering the physiological roots of your emotions, emergency “first aid” measures for times of need, and ways to develop a physical self-awareness to “renegotiate” and move away heal trauma by “revisiting” rather than reliving it. SE is very adaptable because you don’t have to focus solely on those methods, and SE can often be combined with other recovery methods.
6. warrior of love
Author and illustrator: Nina Mutik
Need an illustrated, validating, and uplifting book about complex trauma? Are you looking for a book to read to children? The artist Nina Mutik has created a 10-page booklet suitable for adults and children. It’s simple and to the point, with amazing illustrations. Mutik takes up the difficult topics of developmental trauma and attachment and makes them accessible to a broad audience. Mutik doesn’t hide behind a word like “healing,” instead focusing on the strength of trauma survivors who have struggled to learn to love. This book is not just for survivors, as Mutik also conveys important messages to those whose loved ones are trauma survivors.
Wait, what about Bessel van der Kolk The body keeps the score? I recommend this book, but not as required reading for survivors of complex trauma. The body keeps the score focuses primarily on PTSD and single-event trauma. If your trauma stemmed from one or a small handful of specific events (such as a car accident, medical procedure, or rape), The body keeps the score could fit well. Yet those who have experienced complex trauma may feel left out.