Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation

Reviewed by Kevin Jeffrey Goldwater

In their preface, Kathy Steele, Suzette Boon, and Onno van der Hart challenge the classic notion of ‘don’t just do something, stand there’ with a new notion: ‘don’t just do something, be there’ (X). This is precisely what they present in their book, Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation: A Practical, Integrative Approach. The demanding and often troubling work that comes with treating dissociated patients is well known, and the authors try to streamline a simpler, three step cohesive approach to treatment for these patients, focusing on the practitioner-patient relationship as the infrastructure. In exploring multiple facets that come up in different session situations, the book serves as a reference-able guide for treating dissociated patients.

The book is divided into six distinct parts, with the introduction acting as an overview of the neuropsychological dynamics of dissociated patients. Each chapter begins with a quote from a psychologist pertaining to the following content. The first parts take a focus on the interpersonal relationship between patient and practitioner, then the therapist as person. Part II delves into the specific patient, discussing assessment of the patient and the planning of their treatment. After the assessment and making of the proper decisions and about the patient’s future treatment, the book moves on to three phases previously discussed as a streamlined cohesive approach to treatment in Parts III and IV. Part V concludes with Phase 3 treatment, the integration of dissociative parts into a whole person. The book’s configuration is clean and organized, but perhaps the star attractions to this book and its content are the Core Concepts and Further Explanations featured in each chapter. Core Concepts are sprinkled through the chapters, boxed away within the text, highlighting fundamental ideas to rise above the rest of the words to identify the importance and assist the reader in getting to the meat of the chapter. The chapters then conclude with Further Explorations, which ‘intended to capitalize on the fact that as a rule, therapists are eager and lifelong learners,” serving as a space with additional ideas and questions, exercises to practice skills outlined, and suggestion for peer discussion (XIII).

Perhaps the most attractive part of this book is its presentation. The book is intensive, complicated and attempting to streamline one of the most challenging psychological treatments. Steele, Boone and Van der Hart successfully present their work in a spread out, easy to digest pieces (a la Core Concepts) surrounded by supporting evidence and theory. In doing this, the work becomes applicable, plausible and workable. While plausible, the work is presented as a standard singular path, with some but not much room to leave the track. It would not be feasible to attempt a singular path, and with that grain of salt in mind the reader can pick up the book and benefit from it. The book is aimed toward practitioners who are working privately or in an outpatient facility, because of its presentation the reader can be anyone yearning to learn more about the treatment.

Ultimately, Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation is an excellent, easy to grasp presentation of complicated theory and application. The attempt at a singular method aside, the work provides extensive immersion into not only theory and application, but practice and discussion as well. By collecting much of modern theory and research on trauma related dissociation in a single volume successfully, the may help many psychotherapists improve the lives of their charges.

 

Kevin Jeffrey Goldwater studies Applied Psychology with a minor in music at New York University and is set to graduate in May of 2019. Born in Chicago, Kevin has done immersive research on psychoanalytic theory and the role of gender in today’s media. In addition to working for SPT, he writes reviews for the International Journal of Psychotherapy.

About the Book’s Authors:

Kathy Steele, MN, CS is a practicing private psychotherapist and Clinical Director of Metropolitan Counseling Services in Atlanta, Georgia. While serving as Adjunct Faculty at Emory University, Steele has won numerous awards for her clinical and published works.

Suzette Boon, PhD is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with over thirty years of experience. While running a private practice in Maarssen in the Netherlands, Boon is the co-founder of the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation, and teaches her skills and expertise all around Europe.
Onno Van Der Hart, PhD is a psychologist, adult psychotherapist, trained family therapist and researcher. Currently serving as Emeritus Professor of Psychopathology of Chronic Traumatization at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, he is a past president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

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