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Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide

Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide by Babette Rothschild is a reference book for clinician and client alike. Rothschild has successfully taken the enormously complex subject of trauma therapy and recovery and broken it down into smaller and much more digestible pieces. Her book highlights and emphasizes the essential elements of trauma therapy that sometimes get lost behind all of the theories and therapeutic models, helping therapists bring trauma therapy back to the basics; back to what works. Rothschild does just this in her extremely readable and informative book.

Rothschild emphasizes that the knowledge within her book is bound in theory, not fact and she continually encourages her readers to develop their own thoughts on this subject. “I feel compelled to begin with this caveat so that you do not take my (or anyone else’s) authoritative opinions as completely conclusive,” Rothschild states. This is an important part of the book’s effectiveness because it allows for lines of open communication, per se, between Rothschild’s words and the reader’s own thoughts, opinions, values and experiences with trauma therapy. It does not force nor sway the reader toward a specific theoretical alignment, but instead offers the reader foundational and functional information to help guide them through the world of trauma recovery.

The book is set up in a very readable format; sixteen short chapters that each cover a specific piece of the elements of trauma therapy. Rothschild covers topics such as traumatic memory, post-traumatic stress disorder, current methods of trauma therapy, mindfulness and meditation, effectiveness of treatment, and even prevention. This book review will outline some of what I personally see as the most effective information presented in her work.

Chapter 7 is an essentially the “golden nugget” within the book. It discusses Pierre Janet’s three-phase approach to healing trauma. Phase I is stabilization and safety. This means that there is an importance put on helping clients gain some sort of control over their symptoms. This is a primer stage, of sorts, preparing the way for the intense work that will happen in Phase II.

Phase II is the remembering and processing traumatic memories phase. Rothschild proposes that Stage II may not be necessary for some clients. The third and final stage of Janet’s theory is the integration phase. This is essentially the culmination of Phase I and II; it allows the client to reemerge into the world a healed, or mostly healed person. This is the stage where most survivors begin to be able to acknowledge all their hard work, and clinicians begin to see definitive change in client behaviors and reports of symptoms.

Rothschild’s book has excelled in achieving its goal of being a sound readable manual; seasoned clinicians, clients just beginning trauma therapy and everyone else in between will find this book helpful and informative. The book suggests that client change occurs slowly and only when much attention is paid to increasing the survivor’s quality of life on a day-to -basis.

Rothschild’s book covers most aspects of trauma recovery thoroughly. Perhaps a little more attention could have been paid to the chapter on self-care as it is a crucial part of keeping up the pace in trauma therapy. The self-care chapter does touch on a few good concepts, but going more in depth or providing the client with more examples of self-care could have been helpful.

Overall, Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide gives readers of all backgrounds an introduction into the world of trauma therapy and what clients and clinicians go through in the process of therapy. Specifically, for therapists it provides a solid information base about where to start, where to go, and where to end in trauma therapy with clients.

Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide

By Babette Rothschild

W. W. Norton and Company: April 11, 2011

Paperback, 154 pages


Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide

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Lauren McCown

APA Reference
McCown, L. (2016). Trauma Essentials: The Go-To Guide. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
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