The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
  • Title: The Body Keeps the Score
  • Subtitle: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • Author(s): Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 2014-09-25
  • ISBN-10: 1101608307
  • ISBN-13: 9781101608302


The Body Keeps the Score” is a remarkable and eye-opening book written by renowned psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through extensive research and personal experiences, van der Kolk discusses the profound impact of trauma on the human body and mind. The book challenges conventional wisdom and sheds light on the long-lasting effects of trauma, such as abuse, neglect, and war, emphasizing that trauma is not just a result of a momentary event but a deeply rooted physiological and psychological experience. Van der Kolk explores various therapeutic approaches and shares compelling stories of individuals who have found healing through treatments like neurofeedback, EMDR, and yoga, among others. With a compassionate and empathetic tone, the author offers hope and empowers both trauma survivors and professionals to acknowledge and address the adverse effects of trauma on our lives.

This book is a groundbreaking work that provides a comprehensive understanding of the lasting impact of trauma on the human body. Van der Kolk’s expertise and years of research are evident in his writing, making it accessible to both professionals and general readers alike. His ability to integrate scientific studies, personal anecdotes, and clinical expertise creates a highly informative and engaging narrative. “The Body Keeps the Score” is not just a mere exploration of trauma; it is a call to action, urging society to recognize and prioritize the importance of addressing trauma through compassionate and evidence-based treatments. This book is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to better comprehend the intricate relationship between trauma and the body, offering both insight and hope for recovery.


Book Review

"The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk: A Compassionate Exploration of Trauma and Healing

In his groundbreaking book “The Body Keeps the Score,” Bessel van der Kolk delves into the far-reaching impact of trauma on the human body and mind. Drawing upon his extensive experience as a psychiatrist and researcher, combined with compelling real-life case studies, van der Kolk presents a comprehensive understanding of trauma and its long-lasting effects. With a compassionate and empathetic approach, the author not only sheds light on the devastating consequences of trauma but also offers hope and guidance for healing.

One of the notable aspects of this book is van der Kolk’s ability to intertwine scientific research, personal narratives, and clinical expertise to form a well-rounded exploration of trauma. He presents a multitude of examples that vividly illustrate the profound ways in which trauma manifests itself in both physical and psychological aspects of our lives. For instance, he describes the case of Sarah, a woman who experienced severe physical abuse during childhood. Despite the absence of visible scars, Sarah’s body held the traumatic memories, leading her to suffer from anxiety, dissociation, and chronic pain. Through Sarah’s story, van der Kolk emphasizes that trauma is not simply a psychological phenomenon but a physiological one as well.

Van der Kolk’s extensive research on the topic is evident throughout the book. He effectively combines findings from neurobiology, psychology, and psychiatry to explain the mechanisms of trauma and the way it affects the brain and body. The author emphasizes the role of the amygdala, which plays a crucial role in processing fear and traumatic memories, and its interaction with the prefrontal cortex, responsible for reasoning and decision-making. By presenting neuroscientific concepts in a clear and accessible manner, van der Kolk helps readers develop a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between trauma and the body.

Throughout the book, van der Kolk also explores various therapeutic approaches that have proven successful in treating trauma. These include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, yoga, meditation, and theater, among others. He shares inspiring stories of individuals who have found healing through these unconventional methods. For instance, he describes a group of teenagers in a theater production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Through their participation in the play, they experienced a release of emotions and a sense of empowerment, leading to significant improvements in their mental well-being.

Furthermore, van der Kolk highlights the importance of creating a safe environment for trauma survivors as a prerequisite for healing. He emphasizes that traditional talk therapy might not always be sufficient, as the body holds the memories and sensations associated with traumatic experiences. Therefore, therapies that engage the body and allow individuals to regain control over their physical responses are essential. Van der Kolk provides practical suggestions for professionals working with trauma survivors and encourages a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, fostering collaboration between mental health professionals, bodyworkers, and other practitioners.

The Body Keeps the Score” not only educates readers about the lasting impact of trauma but also instills a sense of hope and resilience. Van der Kolk reminds us that recovery is possible, even after years of suffering. He underscores the importance of community support, self-compassion, and the recognition that trauma does not define an individual’s worth or future. By sharing stories of triumph over trauma, van der Kolk inspires readers to believe in their own capacity for healing and growth.

In conclusion, “The Body Keeps the Score” is a thought-provoking, informative, and deeply compassionate book that illuminates the profound effects of trauma on the human body and mind. Van der Kolk’s expertise, research, and dedication to trauma healing are evident on every page. By demystifying the complex interplay between trauma and bodily responses, the author offers a path towards understanding, healing, and resilience. This book is an invaluable resource not only for trauma survivors but also for mental health professionals, researchers, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the lasting impact of trauma on our lives.


Trauma isn't just a memory; it's a song etched into your nervous system. 'The Body Keeps the Score' guides you to understand this hidden melody, offering gentle tools to harmonize your system and find peace in the aftermath of pain.

Key Ideas

The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk explores several key ideas that are central to the understanding of trauma and its effects on the body and mind. These ideas shape the author’s approach to trauma treatment and provide insight into the complexities of the human response to traumatic experiences.

  1. The Physiological Nature of Trauma Van der Kolk highlights that trauma is not solely a psychological event but has significant physiological implications as well. He explains how the body retains and processes traumatic memories, often leading to physical symptoms and health issues. By recognizing trauma as a physical experience, he emphasizes the importance of addressing the body’s response to achieve healing.

  2. Compartmentalization of Trauma Van der Kolk discusses how trauma survivors often compartmentalize their experiences, separating the emotional, physical, and cognitive aspects. This fragmentation can lead to dissociation and an inability to fully process and integrate the traumatic memories. The author emphasizes the need for therapies that facilitate the reconnection of these fragmented parts to promote healing and recovery.

  3. The Impact of Childhood Trauma Van der Kolk highlights the critical role of childhood trauma in shaping an individual’s well-being. He explores how early experiences of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events can have a lasting impact on brain development, affecting emotional regulation, cognition, and relationships throughout life. The book underscores the significance of recognizing and working through these childhood traumas to break the cycle of generational trauma.

  4. The Role of the Amygdala Van der Kolk emphasizes the crucial role played by the amygdala, the brain structure responsible for processing emotions and fear responses. He explains how trauma can dysregulate the amygdala’s functioning, leading to hypervigilance, heightened arousal, and difficulty distinguishing between past and present threats. Understanding the amygdala’s role enables trauma-focused therapies to target and recalibrate these responses for healing.

  5. Treatment Approaches The book explores various therapeutic approaches that have proved effective in trauma recovery. Van der Kolk discusses techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, yoga, and somatic experiencing, among others. These interventions specifically address the body’s physiological responses to trauma, helping individuals regain a sense of safety and control.

  6. The Importance of Community and Relationships Van der Kolk underscores the significance of social connections and supportive relationships in trauma recovery. He explains how shared experiences and a sense of belonging can play a vital role in regulating brain and body responses, promoting resilience, and buffering the adverse effects of trauma. The book emphasizes the need for community support and safe environments to foster healing.

Overall, “The Body Keeps the Score” elucidates the multifaceted impact of trauma on the body and mind. Van der Kolk’s key ideas emphasize the necessity of recognizing trauma as a physiological experience, understanding the role of childhood trauma, targeting the amygdala’s dysregulation, employing innovative treatment approaches, and fostering supportive communities. These concepts provide a holistic framework for understanding and addressing the lasting effects of trauma, offering hope and healing for both survivors and professionals working in the field.


Target Audience

The book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is targeted at a diverse audience interested in understanding trauma, its effects on the body and mind, and the possibilities for healing. This book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Mental Health Professionals “The Body Keeps the Score” provides mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors, with a comprehensive understanding of the physiological and psychological aspects of trauma. Van der Kolk’s research, case studies, and therapeutic approaches offer valuable insights and practical tools that can inform their practices and enhance their ability to help trauma survivors.

  • Trauma Survivors The book serves as a crucial resource for individuals who have experienced trauma. Van der Kolk’s compassionate approach, combined with the stories of resilience and healing, offers validation, hope, and a deeper understanding of their own experiences. It provides them with tools and insights to better navigate their own healing journey and seek appropriate treatment modalities.

  • Researchers and Academics “The Body Keeps the Score” is recommended reading for scholars in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, neurobiology, and trauma studies. Van der Kolk integrates research from various disciplines, presenting a holistic understanding of trauma and the body. His work contributes to the ongoing exploration of trauma’s effects on both physical and psychological well-being, and the potential for innovative treatments.

  • Medical Professionals The book is relevant to medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers. Van der Kolk’s insights into the physiological impacts of trauma can help medical practitioners better understand the connections between trauma and various health conditions. This knowledge can influence the way medical professionals approach patient care and the importance they place on taking trauma histories into account.

  • Individuals with an Interest in Psychology and Self-Development “The Body Keeps the Score” offers a compelling exploration of the human condition and the complexities of trauma. Readers who are interested in delving into the psychological and physiological aspects of trauma, resilience, and personal growth will find the book enlightening. It encourages self-reflection while providing insights into the power of therapy and healing practices.

In conclusion, “The Body Keeps the Score” is recommended reading for mental health professionals, trauma survivors seeking healing, researchers, medical professionals, and individuals interested in understanding trauma and its effects. Van der Kolk’s comprehensive approach, compassion, and blending of research, case studies, and therapeutic insights make this book accessible and valuable to a wide range of audiences. It helps expand our understanding of trauma, promotes empathy, and offers hope for recovery and healing.

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