Suggested reading about Somatic Experiencing™ and related subjects with notes about what I have found most useful and relevant. My most recommended books are listed first in each section. I suggest reading widely as no-one has all the answers and in the words of Bruce Lee:
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”
General reading on trauma resolution
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk – An excellent overview of the neuroscience of trauma and body-mind therapy.
Focussing by Eugene Gendlin – first published in 1978, this small masterpiece describes in easy steps how to access the ‘felt sense’ in the body. Highly recommended especially for those who think they can’t access their embodied experience.
Waking the Tiger – Peter Levine’s original book in which he describes the inspiration behind his work
In an Unspoken Voice – Peter’s second book about SE which I find more helpful
Healing Trauma by Peter Levine – A short self-help book, detailing some of the techniques, though I’m not sure how easy this would be to follow if you hadn’t already done some Somatic Experiencing with a therapist.
For Adults with Attachment and Developmental Trauma
Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller – This popular book is a great introduction to understanding our attachment patterns in adult relationships.
Power of Attachment by Diane Poole Heller – I really like Diane’s approach and find her teaching on attachment to be clear and full of practical exercises to help us to become more secure in our attachment.
Nurturing Resilience by Kathy Kain and Stephen Terrell – Helping adult clients with early developmental trauma
Working with Children
Hold onto your kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate – A great common sense guide, and one I recommend to parents
Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the teenage brain by Daniel Siegel – I love this book, such a positive framing of the adolescent changes. When I read it I wanted to have another go at being a teenager!
Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford – Carla didn’t learn to read until she was twelve, yet has written a book that explains neuroscience better than I learned it in medical school. She explains the gaps in achievement for children with different learning styles and gives some ‘brain gym’ exercises.
Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline – I haven’t fully read this one yet…
Trauma Proofing your kids by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline – Also not read it yet, this one written for parents
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel – Also not read yet! Highly recommended by many people, a guide for parents.
Home Schooling – please ask if you are interested and I can share my experience of this and suggest some resources.
The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges – Easier to read than his main book ‘The Polyvagal Theory’ which created an unexpected storm of interest when it was released and has now been adopted wholeheartedly by Psychologists, Yoga teachers, trauma therapists etc
Mindsight by Daniel Siegel – A useful guide to understanding the brain. Dr Siegel has written many books, and I have been following his work for about 10 years. I find his approach a bit too ‘top down’ for my liking. Recognised as a leader in the field.
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge – A wonderful and hopeful book on neuroplasticity.
Neurobiology and Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation by Ulrich Lanius, Sandra Paulsen and Frank Corrigan. – This book is brilliant, dense, detailed and academic; not for the faint-hearted! Dr Corrigan was my mentor when I worked in Psychiatry in Scotland and inspired me to train in Somatic Experiencing. I am hugely grateful for his influence.
Other fields of body-mind therapy
Body-Centered Psychotherapy – The Hakomi Method by Ron Kurtz – Hakomi has some similarities to Somatic Experiencing and has been long established in Aotearoa. It is said to be excellent for early childhood and attachment trauma, while SE has more focus on ‘shock trauma’ ie specific events.
Trauma and the Body by Pat Ogden – Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a bit more ‘top down’ than SE in my opinion, and there is a lot of overlap. Pat initially worked with Ron Kurtz developing Hakomi before she branched out in her own direction.
Social Equity and ACE study
Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa – An excellent overview of the Adverse Childhood Experience study, explaining how adverse events impact people’s health across the life-course and what can be done to help.
The Health Gap by Michael Marmot – Essential reading from the expert in the field of inequity, summarising the differences in health outcomes whether between countries or between suburbs in the same city. Good articles and talks available online.
The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket – Explaining why greater income equality makes societies stronger and healthier.
The Deepest Well by Dr Nadine Burke-Harris – More on the ACE study from a Paediatrician who was appointed Surgeon General for California in 2019. She also has an excellent TED talk.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate – Written from experience of working on the front lines of drug addiction in Vancouver, this compassionate and insightful book gave me a deeper understanding of addiction and the underlying traumas that drive this form of ‘self medication’.
General reading – books I love!
Lost Connections by Johan Hari – I recommended this to so many people when I worked in General Practice. A reframing of how our loss of meaningful connection to people, home, work and spirituality is the basis of much of the depression and anxiety we experience.
The Essential Difference by Simon Baron-Cohen – Simon is one of the UK’s leading Autism researchers. This book describes a different spectrum – that between systematic and empathic thinkers. Reading this helped me understand why our society is the way it is.
Flourish by Martin Seligman – The most influential person in the positive psychology movement, this book provides ‘a visionary understanding of happiness and well-being’.
Radical Wholeness by Philip Shepherd. – An excellent and readable guide to embodiment and ‘whole being’.
Becoming Animal by David Abram – One of my favourite books of all time, a unique and personal view of one man’s experience of the natural world. Sublime, poetic and transformative.
Other body-mind approaches
Well, of course – Yoga, Qi Gong, Martial Arts, Mindfulness, Sufism and any approach that integrates body and mind, including traditional spiritual practice that includes physical work and meditation, prayer or contemplation.
5Rhythms dance – Best experienced in a live dance class, or on zoom with many teachers from around the world. Or you can buy some playlists and dance at home. Books : Maps to Ecstasy, Sweat your Prayers, Connections, all by Gabrielle Roth
Other conscious dance practice eg Open Floor, Movement Medicine – both arose out of 5 Rhythms, and Open Floor is more widely available in Aotearoa.
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh – the first book bringing this practice to wider Western awareness. And anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn or Jack Kornfield – both wonderful leaders in this field.
Present Moment Awareness – The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – A most important book, I found it quite dense to read but well worth slowing down and persevering with. A New Earth also by Eckhart Tolle is, I think, more accessible.
Energy Medicine by James Oschman is an excellent review of the field.
The Rainbow and the Worm by Mae-Wan Ho describes the physics of living organisms, and explores what it is that animates us.
Chakras, Energy work and Healing – Anodea Judith is the expert here: her book ‘Eastern Body, Western Mind’ neatly maps understandings from the chakra system onto Western psychology. Barbara Brennan and Ilana Rubenfeld are another two of my favourites.
Kundalini, the awakening of the Life Force Energy – Please ask if you would like to know more about Kundalini – I have many resources I can recommend from personal experience and wide reading on the subject.
In summary, there are many approaches and only one body, one physiology, one nervous system. And you are uniquely and beautifully put together, the expert in your own story and in your own care.