Monday, August 22, 2011

Healing Journeys by Linda Daniels

Healing Journeys:  How Trauma Survivors Learn to Live Again by Linda Daniels Psy.D. is an invaluable resource for both the professional and general community trying to work through issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Drawing on both her professional and personal experience, Daniels shares her story of escaping from the One World Trade Center on 9-11, her working with other survivors, and her work with trauma in whatever form it takes.  Daniels urges her patients and the reader to

Tell your story over and over.  Tell your story verbally, in a journal or in whatever form is most comfortable to you.  But TELL YOUR STORY!  Often, a detail, like an image or a thought to which your body and mind may be responding, evades you in the initial telling, but becomes evident as you retell your experience.  (22)

There are many stories from other people, several who also survived the same event a Daniels while others experienced a death of a loved one, witnessed a violent act, and more.  In this, the author shows that there are various causes of trauma while also revealing how different forms of therapy that can be used.  She emphasizes the necessity of honoring the process in recognizing that the pace at which each person recovers is unique.  In this she also reminds the reader that recovery does not mean “healing” and that there are some things which occur in a person’s life which are never truly forgotten.

Each chapter ends with some form of responsive exercise, whether a simple checklist or open-ended questions with blank space for a written response.  She is also ever mindful of the danger of re-traumatizing a person.  For the survivor struggling with suicidal thoughts/ideation, she offers simple advice:  Just as there are countless traumatic events, there are countless reasons that a person may consider suicide rather than continue living in the aftermath of trauma (78).  When encouraging a written exploration, she keeps the story rooted in the present by suggestion the phrases “at that time” and “when it happened” to create some distance from the traumatic past.

With additional resources—including a list of books and supportive organizations—this is a book that offers compassion and practicality.  I especially appreciated these resources.  And while I appreciated the variety of stories, I occasionally found them more a distraction than a benefit.  Perhaps a “less is more” approach would have worked better for me.  

An edited version of the above review appeared in the Wellness & Writing Connections newsletter.  

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