This book is the single most comprehensive, well-organized, and practical reference on a somatic (body-based) approach to trauma treatment I have on my bookshelf. And since I believe that the resolution of trauma is both safest and most effective when the body is involved, it is therefore the single most useful reference I have on trauma treatment period. The writing is clear, unpretentious, and appealing, and it deals authoritatively with an important emerging area of our field. This book is aimed at professional therapists, but I'm sure that much of it would be interesting and readable for many others.
I've taken Ogden's training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma and found it to be extraordinarily useful, so I'm naturally inclined to be sympathetic to her book. However, I've also had the experience of reading unsatisfying and inadequate expositions of other approaches, and I am glad to say that this is not one of them. One of the great strengths of Ogden's approach, its teachability, shows up here as well.
The first part of the book lays out a theoretical understanding of trauma based on scientific research in neurobiology and attachment. It cogently brings together topics including the three levels of information processing in the brain; modulation of physiological and affective arousal in the nervous system; attachment dynamics and neuropsychology; the inbuilt orienting and defensive responses, including fight/flight/freeze, submission, collapse, and dissociation; and relevant findings in affective neuroscience on inbuilt action systems such as nurturance, play/exploration, and sexuality.
Ogden and her colleagues do not just select a few research results that support a pre-existing point of view, but have additionally asked what some substantial bodies of knowledge imply about how we think about trauma and what interventions we can or should make. The book does not avoid areas of doubt or debate either; instead it provides balanced and clinically informed discussions of topics such as traumatic memory, the type and nature of freeze responses in trauma, or the use of touch interventions in psychotherapeutic practice. Research and theory are well-documented, and the bibliography is comprehensive.
The second part of the book lays out principles and clinical skills for treatment based on this theoretical model, and places them in a clearly defined phased treatment approach whose outlines will be familiar and comfortable for many clinicians. The skills include the moment-to-moment sensorimotor, affective, and cognitive interventions used in all phases of treatment, as well as skills, practices, and goals specific to each treatment phase.
Finally, Ogden's approach is deeply humanistic and compassionate. All the interventions and practices are grounded in a framework that emphasizes a non-violent, respectful, mindful and integrative approach to the person who has survived a trauma. In the end, I believe, nothing can be more important than this.
If I had one complaint about this book, it would that several of the skills are treated too briefly. The information is there, but in certain cases the very concentrated presentation needs considerable unpacking. I suppose this is parallel to the way that many texts might decline to train the reader in basic psychoanalytic or cognitive-behavioural skills, but since somatic intervention skills are less familiar and less well covered in the literature, it would have been nice to have more here. I am also looking forward to a book in which body psychotherapy for developmental issues (character structure) is addressed with equal lucidity and completeness, but that is genuinely another book.