The Body Keeps the Score - Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

The Body Keeps the Score

By Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

  • Release Date: 2014-09-25
  • Genre: Psychology
Score: 4.5
From 670 Ratings


#1 New York Times bestseller

“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.” —Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies

A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing in this New York Times bestseller

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.


  • Insightful use of science for trauma

    By Sleepingarby
    I found the connection of the mind-body in dealing with trauma and the various methods proposed very intriguing.
  • For all trauma survivors

    By Hands Off My Data
    PERSONAL RATING DIRECTED AT TRAUMA SURVIVORS As a survivor who has only had issues during times of family drama brought on by either my parents or siblings, I thought I had the past taken care of years ago with therapy in my twenties. I was surprised when the darkness returned and again took control of my life in my mid-fifties, bringing all of its friends. In search for the how and the why of its return and new therapies to replace talk therapy, I purchased an almost useless mental health book, only useful in that it offhandedly mentioned The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Van der Kolk’s medical studies, and unique therapies for trauma, PTSD, and the many comorbid disorders that accompany trauma. I was curious. I purchased the audio book and after two hours of listening, I purchased the book. After a day including two additional hours, I purchased my daughter the audiobook, and purchased the book for her husband (three deployments, two of which were in Afghanistan). I gave both of them trigger warnings, although I have had only “so that is why!” reactions. Dr. Van der Kolk has spent his life in complete curiosity surrounding PTSD, studying trauma causing PTSD and its lifelong effects on a person’s mind and body. He walks you step by step through different traumas and gives patients’ firsthand experiences of its effects. In the second section, he discusses different therapies, studies, with firsthand experiences from patients who have undergone various treatments. As he mentioned those treatment I began taking notes and looking for therapists who used some of the therapies. You don’t have to take notes if you have the book. He has every quote, study, or book he has mentioned or quoted text from broken down by chapters in Notes. The Notes section is after Resources and Further Reading and before Index at the back of the book. I have just begun the path to heal the trauma, and am hopeful it will be my last time dealing with “those” memories. I have become empowered with knowledge. I see the fifty-plus year old invisible trail of destruction that has lead, rarely trailing my life. Post-trauma years physical damage has included back, neck, and shoulder pain, migraines, abdominal issues, etc. The mental health alphabet includes Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, OCD, etc., which act as self protection, need to finally take a much needed rest. The Body Keeps the Score has taught me this. The trail is now visible, and I am making changes and asking for help to become whole and heal that inner child. She can now become a healthy part of me no longer needing her army, her only protectors early in life, but who never got the message telling them to stand down - the danger was gone.
  • The Body Keeps the Score

    By Noway777
    Something to ponder to help better our children, family and society.
  • Once Praised, Now Criticized (& Allegations Fly)

    By FurlUnfurl
    When I first read about C-PTSD, I read Dr. Judith Herman’s “Trauma and Recovery” (as she’d recognized and named the condition first, in 1988, and published her book in 1992). I then read “The Body Keeps the Score” because of the buzz. What I found was that Dr. Herman’s work showed the history of PTSD, how she came to recognize this ‘new’ type of trauma, which parts of the brain were affected, and some ideas about how to treat it, depending on where the trauma came from. In 1997, it was reprinted with current information, noting that not much had changed since 1992. Another edition came out in 2022. All three were called “the foundational text for understanding trauma survivors.” In 2014, after two editions of “Trauma and Recovery” had come out and much research had been done on C-PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk published “The Body Keeps the Score.” His credentials were three decades of work with trauma survivors at his private office, the Trauma Center at JRI. No insurance was accepted there, so it was only available to the upper-middle-class and beyond. Though anyone can be repeatedly traumatized, it is less likely that people with more money experience it in many aspects of their lives on a regular basis throughout the majority of their lives. Note: his previous books, published in 1984, 1987, and 1996 focus solely on PTSD. TBKTS is the first to mention C-PTSD. I gave this book one star for the easier-to-understand descriptions of neurology and how trauma affects our brains and bodies on both an infinitesimal and a total-body scale. However, there it ended its usefulness to me and to most people living with C-PTSD. Dr. van der Kolk introduced various recovery methods, including EMDR, biofeedback, play, yoga, etc. As therapeutic devices, economic accessibility is low, though the treatments themselves may be extremely helpful. I have Medicaid that pays for every specialist and type of care I’ve ever needed. No one has ever referred me to these treatments — likely because they won’t take any insurance or they don’t want to deal with Medicaid. Either way, the lack of attention paid to the average person with C-PTSD was concerning. Several years later, I heard that much of his past was … questionable: he defended repressed memory theory; used psychomotor therapy, which is not widely practiced nor supported by clinical studies; discourages talk-therapy, which allows a trauma victim to tell and claim their story/stories and to have structured support while they do so until it’s mostly a normalized memory of an unfortunate event, rather than able to trigger and cause fear responses; was mentored by the infamous fraud, Bruno Bettleheim; was cagey when describing what records he had and had kept and to what degree of security relating to “Dissociation and the Fragmentary Nature of Traumatic Memories: Overview and Exploratory Study” which is published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Volume 8, Number 4, 1995; was ultimately kicked out of the Trauma Center by its parent org, the Justice Resource Institute, due to charges of creating a hostile work environment to women and then claimed the JRI did so to steal $2.5 million in donations to the Trauma Center—long story short: he sued the JRI, they settled out of court, and he founded another trauma center with that money. Meanwhile, the original Trauma Center at JRI closed for good in 2020. So while his book may have been useful, especially to those who never heard about Dr. Herman, whose shoulders Dr. van der Kolk stood on to make his mark nearly 30 years later, some of his methods, the source of his tutelage, his inaccessibility to those who think/thought they needed him most, and being permanently barred from the JRI for creating a hostile work environment does not merit more than one star for an intelligent but simple explanation of trauma’s effects on the brain and body (not all of which are factual, but I’m done grandstanding). There are so many better books recommended below, including Herman’s. Please give them a chance. This man doesn’t need your attention or your money.
  • Great content but weird vibes

    By Ig- Billionairepartyy
    Great book but was thrown off with some statements, like a two year old girl flirting…babies don’t flirt and that’s super weird to even think.
  • Body Keeps the Score

    By mysassenach
    Great read. So important to understand the effects of trauma, on the individual and society at large.
  • Actionable and insightful work on alleviating trauma

    By Zitheryl12
    Incredibly insightful look into the human condition and the processes involved in creating, sustaining, and finally liberating one’s self from trauma. If you or anyone you know has experienced trauma (we all know someone whether we KNOW of their abuse or not) this book will help you to understand the behaviors, thought processes, and affects of abused and neglected individuals. It will give you the insight to be more compassionate not only to others but how to extend that compassion to one’s self. A critical component of healing. I cannot recommend this book more.
  • Good info but long winded

    By crappy user interface
    Really good, really long winded could/should be more abbreviated book. Not so much hyperbole, his language is in Kay end terms, just could have been edited for content better.
  • For a better understanding of trauma…

    By Bsaulsbe
    This book is so insightful, so informative…my only regret is not knowing about it sooner in life. A must read for most people!
  • Absolutely incredible and informative

    By •________________•
    I have been through a lot of trauma and I cannot express how much clarity this book has given me. I found myself rereading a lot of pages, sharing them, and interpreting how this fits my life so well. I will be buying the actual book. I’ve talked about it nonstop. It’s incredible to see another perspective and science behind trauma. Mental health is so stigmatized. Trauma has a truly incapacitating effect on my life. I’m in awe of how educational and magnifying this book is.