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

Who am I?

Throughout my life as a therapist, I have focused on couple and family relationships, including the relationship we have with ourselves. When trauma was beginning to be recognised as something most people can and do experience, when we began to realise that it isn’t just front-line combat soldiers who get traumatised, I began my journey into how trauma affects our relationships. My study of trauma and relationships has helped my work with clients and, without naming their experiences as trauma, has moved them on from re-enacting the damage caused to them or unknowingly inflicting the same on others. 

I wrote...

The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy: Everything You Need to Know about the Therapy Journey

By Karin Blak,

Book cover of The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy: Everything You Need to Know about the Therapy Journey

What is my book about?

Whether you are contemplating therapy, already in therapy, or simply interested in what it is, The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy is the book for you. 

After many years of working therapeutically with clients, I noticed common misconceptions and misguided myths that stood in the way of therapy. To help you get the most from your emotional and financial investment into therapy, I have poured my insights and experience onto these pages. I take you on the therapeutic journey from choosing the right therapist, through the ups and downs of therapy, and out the other side when therapy has finished. With personal stories and examples from my own practice as a therapist, and from being a client, this is an easily digestible book.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences

Why did I love 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.

By Peter A. Levine,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Waking the Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in 24 languages.

Nature's Lessons in Healing Trauma...

Waking the Tiger offers a new and hopeful vision of trauma. It views the human animal as a unique being, endowed with an instinctual capacity. It asks and answers an intriguing question: why are animals in the wild, though threatened routinely, rarely traumatized? By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually immune to traumatic symptoms, the mystery of human trauma is revealed.

Waking the Tiger normalizes the symptoms of trauma and the steps needed to heal them. People are often traumatized by seemingly ordinary experiences. The reader is taken on…

Book cover of Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child

Why did I love 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.

By John Bradshaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Homecoming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you outwardly successful but inwardly do you feel like a big kid? Do you aspire to be a loving parent but all too often “lose it” in hurtful ways? Do you crave intimacy but sometimes wonder if it’s worth the struggle? Or are you plagued by constant vague feelings of anxiety or depression?

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing the hidden but damaging effects of a painful childhood—carrying within you a “wounded inner child” that is crying out for attention and healing.

In this powerful book, John Bradshaw shows how we can learn to nurture…

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

Why did I love 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.

By John Bradshaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Family Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What you don't know can hurt you—
but it can also lead to self-acceptance and healing.

Family Secrets gives you the tools you need to understand your family—and yourself—in an entirely new way.

In his bestselling books and compelling PBS specials, John Bradshaw has transformed our understanding of how we are shaped by our families. Now join him on this fascinating journey of discovery, which starts with your life today and takes you back through the conflicts, the strengths, and the weaknesses of your parents’ generation—and even your grandparents’. Using a powerful technique for exploring your “family tree,” you’ll trace…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Susan Forward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toxic Parents as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bestselling author and psychologist Dr Susan Forward offers effective alternatives for achieving inner peace and freeing yourself from frustrating patterns of relationships with your parents.

Millions of lives are damaged by the legacy of parental abuse:
* Parents who ignored their children's needs or overburdened them with guilt.
* Parents who were alcoholic or addicted to drugs.
* Parents who were exploitative and cruel, or simply indifferent and inadequate.

When these children reach adulthood the damage done by their toxic parents manifests itself in depression, or difficulties with relationships, careers and decision-making. In Toxic Parents, Dr Susan Forward shows…

The Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath,

Book cover of The Bell Jar

Why did I love 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.

By Sylvia Plath,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Bell Jar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women's aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in secrets, self-actualization, and PTSD?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about secrets, self-actualization, and PTSD.

Secrets Explore 181 books about secrets
Self-Actualization Explore 161 books about self-actualization
PTSD Explore 79 books about PTSD

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Slut, The Woman Warrior, and 1984 if you like this list.