Patients frequently ask me for book or article recommendations on trauma and PTSD. There’s a host of self-help books and billions of blog posts out there, but there a few go-to classics that are pretty much universally recommended. Judith L. Herman’s Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence is one of them.
This is the book you’re handed when you first take a class on trauma in grad school or first start working in a PTSD clinic. Herman winds together historical and theoretical threads from what were once quite disparate worlds; a generation or two ago, combat stress and sexual trauma were seemingly separate domains of clinical and intellectual inquiry.
No book captures the whole picture, and I would never recommend something as the be-all, end-all chronicle of this tremendously complex issue. With that said, I do suspect most trauma therapists would agree that this is a good starting point for someone interested in doing their own research.
I tend to recommend books to partners and family members far more than I do to PTSD/trauma patients themselves. Usually, patients I see aren’t struggling to develop an intellectual or empathic understanding of trauma. They’re trying to deal with what happened, directly, and what it did to them. That’s an important, very personal distinction. Of course, I want people to be able to access any and all information out there, but clinical treatment is not the same as running a class or being a tutor on a given topic.