Clinicians working with survivors of sexual trauma often benefit from specialized training or resources. It is also important that therapists work through their own histories to avoid counter-transference. Therapists who work with survivors have recommended the following books as helpful for clients or for therapists looking to improve their work with this population.
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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.
The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and a map of the healing journey to every woman who was sexually abused as a child—and to those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible.
Weaving together personal experience with professional knowledge, the authors provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, and support throughout the healing process. Readers will feel recognized and encouraged by hundreds of moving first-person stories drawn from interviews and the authors’ extensive work with survivors, both nationally and internationally.
Trauma can turn your world upside down; afterward, nothing may look safe or familiar. And, if you are a woman, studies show that you are twice as likely than your male counterparts to suffer from the effects of a traumatic event sometime during your life. Whether the trauma is physical, sexual, or emotional, these events can overwhelm you, destroying your sense of being in control and altering your attachments to others. If left unaddressed, the resulting psychological trauma can lead you to a wide range of destructive symptoms like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, phobias, personality disorders, flashbacks, emotional numbing, and nightmares. This book offers proven-effective, step-by-step exercises you can use to work through and minimize the consequences of a traumatic event.
Life, Reinvented brings both inspiration and practical tools to survivors of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse and their friends, family members, and spouses. Combining recent research, years of clinical experience, and first-hand accounts of healing, Erin Carpenter offers a unique viewpoint on recovery from trauma. Life, Reinvented is a truly complete guide to healing. Beginning with the myths and facts about sexual trauma, Erin introduces common symptoms and describes what happens in the brain when trauma occurs. Erin explains in a novel way how trauma-related symptoms are actually signs of healing. Practical tools and easy strategies help survivors manage symptoms, find their strengths, and move toward recovery. Also included is crucial information and direction for loved ones of survivors. Friends, family members, and spouses will find support, validation, and tools to both help the survivor in their lives and recover from their own vicarious trauma. Accessible and beautifully written, Life, Reinvented is an important contribution to the literature about sexual trauma.
Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation by Dan B. Allender
First published in 1989, Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart has helped hundreds of thousands of people come to terms with sexual abuse in their past. Now, more than twenty-five years later, Allender has written a brand-new book on the subject that takes into account recent discoveries about the lasting physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual ramifications of sexual abuse.
With great compassion Allender offers hope for victims of rape, date rape, incest, molestation, sexting, sexual bullying, unwanted advances, pornography, and more, exposing the raw wounds that are left behind and clearing the path toward wholeness and healing. Never minimizing victims’ pain or offering pat spiritual answers that don’t truly address the problem, he instead calls evil evil and lights the way to renewed joy. Counselors, pastors, and friends of those who have suffered sexual harm will find in this book the deep spiritual guidance they need to effectively minister to the sexually broken around them. Victims themselves will find here a sympathetic friend to walk alongside them on the road to healing.
The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by
Sexual abuse knows no religious or social boundaries. The Wounded Heart is an intensely personal and specific look at this form of abuse. Dr. Allender explores the secret lament of the soul damaged by sexual abuse and lays hold of the hope buried there by the One whose unstained image we all bear. Includes information about false memory issues.
Survivors of sexual trauma often struggle with sexual issues as they heal. These books may be useful for clients who want to focus on healthy sexuality in the aftermath of assaults.
Originally published two decades ago, The Sexual Healing Journey is a highly respected resource for understanding and healing the intimate sexual problems caused by sex abuse. In this third edition, renowned author, psychotherapist, and certified sex therapist, Wendy Maltz, keeps this classic recovery book fresh with a new preface, revised materials, and an updated, expanded resource section. Compassionate and enduring, this guide presents a comprehensive program for healing that combines expert clinical advice with innovative exercises, steadfast techniques, and deeply moving stories of individuals who have overcome the challenges of sexual abuse to reclaim sex as safe, loving and enjoyable.
Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by
The first encouraging, sex-positive guide for all women survivors of sexual assault ― heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, coupled, and single ― who want to reclaim their sex lives. While most books on the topic broach sexuality only to reassure women that it is all right to say “no” to unwanted sex, Healing Sex encourages women to learn how to say “yes” ― to their own desires and on their own terms. This mind-body approach to healing from sexual trauma was created by Staci Haines, who has been educating in the area of sexual abuse, sex education, and somatic healing for over 15 years. Her techniques are ideal for anyone looking for a new way to heal from trauma, beyond traditional talk therapy.
If you know of another book that belongs on this list let us know here or tell us about it in the comments. Make sure you’re also following The Therapist’s Bookshelf on Facebook and Instagram.
Many therapists enjoy recommending books to their clients to supplement the work they are doing together. We also use books to help ourselves grow as people and practitioners. Remember though that books are never a replacement for real human connection or for therapy when it’s needed. If you find yourself needing a therapist, a great place to start is Psychology Today. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.