Often we hear things from clients like “My relationship ending was so traumatic for me,” or “When my uncle passed away, I was totally traumatized.” With the word trauma being used so loosely and for such a wide range of problems, how do we know what it actually means anymore?
According to trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, understanding how trauma affects the body can help us distinguish between true trauma, and incidents that, while distressing, aren’t really traumatic after all. In this video clip with Networker editor Rich Simon, van der Kolk explains.
As van der Kolk notes, trauma is specifically an event that overwhelms the central nervous system, altering the way we process and recall memories. “Trauma is not the story of something that happened back then,” he adds. “It’s the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside people.”
The bottom line, van der Kolk says, is talk therapy alone often isn’t enough to treat trauma. Follow the links below to read more about his recommendations for trauma treatment, as well as other mind/body strategies for helping trauma survivors recover.
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.
Bessel van der Kolk
Bessel A. Van der Kolk, M.D., is a clinician, researcher and teacher in the area of post-traumatic stress. His work integrates developmental, neurobiological, psychodynamic and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment. Dr. van der Kolk and his various collaborators have published extensively on the impact of trauma on development, such as dissociative problems, borderline personality and self-mutilation, cognitive development, memory, and the psychobiology of trauma. He has published over 150 peer reviewed scientific articles on such diverse topics as neuroimaging, self-injury, memory, neurofeedback, Developmental Trauma, yoga, theater and EMDR.
He is founder of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts and president of the Trauma Research Foundation, which promotes clinical, scientific and educational projects. His 2014 #1 New York Times best seller, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Treatment of Trauma, transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring – specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, somatically based therapies, EMDR, psychodrama, play, yoga, and other therapies.