The best books about how we can all be affected by trauma and how recovery can happen

The Books I Picked & Why

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

By Peter A. Levine

Book cover of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Why this book?

This is the book that introduced me to trauma recovery and to a world of therapy where talking is just a small part. The idea that trauma sits in the body, is stored in us physically, was completely new to me. Reading Taming the Tiger opened my eyes to the trauma of my childhood I personally was carrying. 

I read Taming the Tiger at the beginning of my journey to becoming a therapist. It isn’t an academic book, but one that is very accessible and opened my eyes to actions I was unable to take at the point of trauma, the reasons why, and how this stored up energy can be released. It set the scene for my independent curiosity into working with the body to shift the damage caused by our past experiences.


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Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child

By John Bradshaw

Book cover of Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child

Why this book?

I read Homecoming before becoming a therapist and at the height of struggling with inner conflicts, the sorts that were born from a neglectful childhood. John Bradshaw taught me how to have those necessary conversations that I would have had as a child, if only I had been an adult. As a child, we haven’t got the experience, skills, or authority to point out what we need to feel protected, supported, or loved. I learnt a lot from following the exercises in Homecoming; one very important realisation was that I needed to re-parent myself and I did the best I could.

If I could have a conversation with John Bradshaw, I’d thank him for his book because without it I would probably have repeated some of the damage done to me, on my own child.


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Family Secrets: The Path from Shame to Healing

By John Bradshaw

Book cover of Family Secrets: The Path from Shame to Healing

Why this book?

We might believe that not saying the unsayable will keep family members from being affected by the awful truth. Well, nothing could be further from reality, and John Bradshaw's Family Secrets explains perfectly why keeping awful secrets can be more damaging than having truthful conversations. 

This is one of the best books recommended to clients who came to me with family trauma. A mum who was emotionally distant, unable to show love or give support, a dad who terrorized the dinner table with silence or sudden flairs of anger. Perhaps an uncle or aunt in front of whom certain subjects were never mentioned. Secrets that were kept so tight yet were on display at every family gathering.

Family Secrets clarified many questions for a lot of clients, clearing the way for therapy to go deeper.


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Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

By Susan Forward

Book cover of Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

Why this book?

Having grown up with an extremely toxic parent, I felt, and still feel, the fallout. The trauma of being silently ignored for days even when in dire need or having to care for an alcoholic parent – and worse still - from a very young age, I got used to having to fend for myself. 

Toxic Parents explained it all to me: how this treatment leaves deep scars that are difficult to heal, yet that there is hope for reparation. It took me on a journey of understanding, gave me skills to stand up when I felt I was falling down, and led me further into my curiosity of how to become an effective therapist.

This is another book on my list for clients to read, that helped them to open up during sessions about their own experiences and giving way for healing to stand a chance.


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The Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath

Book cover of The Bell Jar

Why this book?

The Bell Jar is a brilliantly written novel on the result of trauma. The book takes the reader on a closely narrated journey of how the main character experiences her life. It reveals the inner upheaval and conflicts of mental ill-health caused by trauma and made me think of my own inner world. How our beliefs can differ from moment to moment and the way these affect the experience of the world around us. 

I never recommended fiction to my clients, but if I did, this would have been one that many of my female clients would have benefitted from.


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