As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has nearly recovered from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, books on my shelf about trauma are bread and butter, a dime a dozen. Everyone tries to write about trauma in that one way that will resonate with everyone and provide that one manual, one solution, to help the world overcome what was never intended to happen.
These books generally fall into two distinct categories without much overlap: the experts breaking down the principles for the suffering, and the suffering writing their stories for other sufferers.
While these works hold their place in the library of any recovering individual, Trauma Recovery — Sessions with Dr. Matt takes a different kind of spot on my bookshelf, and per my recommendation, should on the shelves of others walking out their own story. Subtitled “Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD,” this over 500-page book is perhaps the most comprehensive, vulnerable and unique work on PTSD and its effects that I’ve ever seen or had the pleasure of reading.
Part multi-author memoir, part case study, part psychological text, and part comfort-in-book-form, this work combines the narratives and perspectives of real-life trauma survivors with the therapy work, with the help of Dr. Matt Jaremko, that is taking them from point A to point B. Seasoned professor, clinical psychologist and survivor himself, Dr. Jaremko, or “Dr. Matt” as the book coins him, presents a truly human representation of the recovery process, offering an empathetic, vulnerable and empowering truth to the survivors in his group as well as readers.
The power of story is heavily utilized in this groundbreaking take on therapy, built heavily on the narratives of real victims. Enfolded within and between these narratives are the principles that Dr. Matt would use within the group and individual sessions, as well as what I would call “learning points,” when the principles are broken down for the reader to apply to their own process of recovery.
The principles themselves do not dictate the structure and flow of the book as is usually the case. Instead, it is the narratives that provide the flow, portraying a lot of information in a highly relatable format that resonates with readers while offering options for Dr. Matt and his co-author, and fellow survivor, Beth Fehlbaum, room to expand.
Based on the narrative alone, this work would be impactful, but Dr. Matt draws on 35 years of experience in the clinical field to make this book more than a guide and companion for the victim and survivor, but also a manual and primer for the practicing clinician.
Backed by a rather impressive bibliography and the weaving of principles into practical application, the work is as substantial as many textbooks. It offers itself as a guidebook for both survivor and clinician on how to overcome common hurdles in therapy for PTSD, emphasizing the differences faced by the survivor of abuse versus the survivor of war. These narratives serve to further exemplify the delicate differences and also point out the beautiful similarities between a single group of people with the same diagnosis but not the same wounds.
As an objective reader of this text, I would find it well-written, seamlessly communicated, poignant, vulnerable and complex. Without any prior knowledge of PTSD, its symptoms and its sources, I would be educated, but more than that, I would feel more compassionate, more sensitive and more open to those who struggle from this often debilitating illness. I would desire to do something about the stigma that still surrounds them, and I would probably wonder if there were people in my own life who struggled, and I didn’t know about it.
However, as I mentioned, I am not objective in the slightest, and I feel uniquely enabled to comment on the usefulness of this book for both a survivor and someone committed to helping others overcome and thrive. From this perspective, I can vouch for not only how well-written and well-communicated the principles are, but that this is truly a companion to the newbie in therapy as well as a vital resource to the veteran.
Therapy for PTSD can often feel like a journey without a map, and in many ways, that’s exactly what it is; however, Trauma Recovery — Sessions with Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD offers a realistic, imperfect and entirely human guidebook for those who need a hand in the journey, whether they are just starting or are miles down the road. Regardless of the stage in the process, I give this the highest recommendation and encourage you to hold it closely as you journey towards wholeness and healing.
Trauma Recovery — Sessions with Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD
Ayni Books, December 2018
Paperback, 512 pages