The general perception of counseling is that one who struggles with mental illness or substance misuse needs to go talk out their problems and in so doing, everything will be better. While talk therapy is still very much alive and well and effective for many situations, in the last two years, we have found that clinical counseling many times goes beyond “just talking about our problems” and a need for much deeper addressing of mental illness. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a new way of understanding that we don’t communicate our depression, anxiety, trauma, substance misuse, and psychosis just through words, but that it comes out in our actions, our lack of actions, our relationships, and even in our body’s chemistry. Therefore, we are missing how we can use actions, relationships, and even physical healing to improve our mental health.
“For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.”Bessel van der Kolk
This book has become a gold standard of understanding the nonverbal impact that can come up in counseling and alternative, some times more deep clinical counseling for our clients. For situations of rape, domestic violence, depression, natural disasters, and severe depression and anxiety, a deeper therapeutic intervention may be needed because the mental illness symptoms are too much that even talking about the problems can be too much. Further, as was discovered in the research, some of these techniques for clients are more effective and quicker for accomplishing recovery.
While this book is not religious, I think for Christian counselors, the idea of integration with our physical selves should be fully understood. We already are attempting to integrate spirituality with psychology and socialization. In fact, a concept that has been gaining more and more traction is bio-psycho-social-spiritual counseling, where we look at the physical well being of a client with their dentist, primary care provider, or pain doctor while treating their mental health recovery and ensuring they are going to church and plugged in to community events.
It should be unexpected that I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend if you have not already read the book, that you do so soon.