Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is not only one of the main figures in the treatment of trauma and traumatic stress, he was one of the architects of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. Before the return of soldiers from the Vietnam War, PTSD was often seen as cowardice, battle fatigue, or shell shock.
When the then young Dr. van der Kolk began treating returning soldiers at a VA hospital with pharmacological interventions, he quickly realized these drugs - as powerful as they were - could not touch the trauma these men (and some women) were experiencing.
For nearly a decade (late 1970s and into the 1980s), PTSD was seen primarily as a battle related disorder (a fact that allowed the military, until quite recently, to discharge the victims of sexual assault within the ranks with a diagnosis of a personality disorder). However, due to Dr. van der Kolk, Dr, Judith Herman, and others, the diagnosis began to be applied to ANY form of trauma that presents the survivor with witnessing or experiencing a threat of severe bodily harm and/or death.
If it were not for Dr. van der Kolk and others in his generation of psychiatrists and psychologists, there would not be a sexual trauma field and I would not be doing the work I am doing.
A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
copyright 2014: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
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Bessel van der Kolk, MD is a world renowned researcher and clinician in the field of traumatic stress. His innovative work to integrate mind, brain, body, and social connections in the healing of trauma has had a profound impact on the care and treatment of trauma victims all over the world. Dr. van der Kolk’s research includes brain imaging studies on trauma’s impact on childhood development and the effects of therapies such as yoga, neurofeedback, EMDR, theater and movement on traumatic stress. Dr. van der Kolk, a professor in the department of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Boston and the director of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), established by Congress to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities. Dr. van der Kolk’s newest book, The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma (Viking, 2014)—a New York Times Best Seller—offers a sweeping and revolutionary new understanding of the causes and consequences of trauma and how to heal the traumatized brain.
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