Book Review: Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Adults (2nd ed.)

Book Review
Book Review
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Section Editors: Serena Wadhwa & Omewha Beaton

Book Review

Ford, J. D., & Courtois, C. A. (2020).

Treating complex traumatic stress disorders in adults (2nd ed.)

The Guilford Press, 646 Pages. ISBN-13: 978-1462543625 ISBN-10: 1462543626, $47

This second edition of Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Adults, edited by Julian Ford and Christine Courtois, is a comprehensive and authoritative volume on the assessment and treatment of individuals with complex trauma histories. This edition reflects the many advances in research and clinical practice in the decade since the first edition, with over 75% new material. The volume is filled with experts in the trauma world, each sharing recent insights in their area of expertise. Bookending this collection are Judith Herman and Bessel van der Kolk. Judith Herman sets the stage with a Foreword that provides an overview of the development of our understanding of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), a concept she first proposed over a quarter-century ago. Bessel van der Kolk closes the volume with an Afterword that summarizes the neurological and physiological effects of complex trauma on an individual. He points to the varied perspectives and specialties that are needed in assessing and treating this disorder. He ends the Afterword by noting some of the challenges faced by researchers and practitioners in light of the fact that complex trauma is not yet acknowledged as a formal diagnosis within the mental health field.

The volume is organized into four Parts: an Overview, Evidence-Supported Individual Treatment Modalities and Models, Group/Conjoint Therapy Models, and Emerging Psychotherapy Models. There are a total of 26 chapters, each authored by a well-known expert(s) on the chapter topic.

While every Part and its constitutive chapters is valuable, the entire Overview is requisite reading. Within this section, Ford and Courtois are joined by other leading experts in providing foundations for the remainder of the book. In the first chapter of this section, which is essential reading, Ford and Courtois define complex trauma and then provide examples of ways in which individual, community, and historical settings contribute to its development. They provide an extensive explanation of disturbances of self-organization (DSO), which is a core construct of CPTSD. They end this first chapter with treatment guidelines and considerations in adapting PTSD therapies for CPTSD. The remaining chapters in the overview section cover neurobiology, best practices in psychotherapy for adults, the therapeutic alliance (including attention to evidence-based psychotherapy relationships!), assessment of complex trauma sequelae, assessing and treating complex dissociative disorders, cultural humility, and vicarious traumatization. Each chapter contains a wealth of information, with the opportunity to dive even deeper by reading from each author’s cited references.

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