Somatic Psychology Books and Resources

somatic psychology trauma Feb 18, 2021

My book recommendations

There are lots of books about somatic psychotherapy because there are many different types of somatic psychotherapists!

There are somatic therapists that work primarily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, some focus on people who have a hard time with depression or anxiety, and others who work with organizational leaders, artists, or dancers to help them optimize their performance.

Some somatic psychotherapists incorporate the use of the creative arts in their therapeutic process, others use touch, others emphasize movement, dance, or breath. There are lots of different pathways in.

If you're interested in learning more about Somatic Psychology -- here are my top seven books written about the subject. These are some of the texts that we use in our somatic psychology training programs, and the two that are specifically highlighted here are great choices for a general audience, as well.


The Body Keeps the Score
by Bessel van der Kolk

If there is one seminal book that brought somatic psychology into the mainstream, it is this perennial New York Times bestseller by Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score.

Van der Kolk is a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of trauma. He has worked tirelessly to elucidate the neurobiological underpinnings of the body-mind connection, perhaps more than any other individual in our generation.

The book is dense with clinical material, neurobiological insights, and ample case studies of individuals who suffer from trauma.

For many people who suffer from PTSD, learning about the underlying neuropsychology of trauma, and how it impacts their bodies, can be enormously helpful, even revolutionary, and life-changing. 

There is a good reason why thousands of people around the world have read this book and continue to seek it out for its elucidation of the body-mind connection.

It is a defining and seminal book within the field of somatic psychology. It comes with my highest recommendation.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving
by Pete Walker

Note: So I should preface this book recommendation with the caveat that this is not, strictly, a book that is just about somatic psychology. It encompasses some somatic techniques, but is more a general all-purpose book about healing trauma. It utilizes an integrative approach – inclusive of somatic, cognitive, behavioral and other approaches. Nevertheless, it is a tremendously potent and powerful book for anybody who may have experienced developmental trauma in their childhood years. (Okay, with that public service announcement out of the way, here we go! Back to our regularly scheduled book recommendation… :-) )

If there is one book that could make you feel deeply understood, just through the act of reading someone else's words, it is most likely to be this book. The author writes from a deeply human and vulnerable perspective, as a survivor himself of childhood abuse and trauma.

When you read this book you have a sense that Pete Walker really gets it.

He understands the experience of the trauma survivor in a way that is uncanny, remarkable, and deeply heartfelt.

This is a book that is written in a down to earth, intelligent, but conversational tone – and hits on so many deep and profound insights page by page. For many trauma survivors, the simple experience of seeing themselves recognized on the page, can feel remarkably liberating and healing.

There are very few books that have as much of an impassioned following is this one. Indeed, there are videos of people from around the world on YouTube simply reading passages from this book out loud, both as a gift to the world, and as part of their own personal process of healing.

They read this book. Feel recognized. Grieve the childhood that they had. And the childhood they never had.

Words are magic. They have power. This is, for many, a deeply healing book – perhaps the most directly healing book of any on this topic.

by Eugene Gendlin

I think I was at a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan called "Crazy Wisdom" which had all of the books that seemed to tug at my heart and soul. Maybe you have a bookstore like this in your neck of the woods. I found this little book on the shelves by Eugene Gendlin, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago who turned into a rock star in the field of somatic psychotherapy. He wasn't a psychologist himself, but impacted the field greatly.

This little book, which seemed so imminently digestible, accessible, and readable is and should be required reading for anybody who is in the field of somatic psychotherapy. It introduces the foundational concept of the "felt sense" to the world – the intuitive body-feel we get inside when we have unresolved issues. Gendlin realized that people could be taught to develop their connection with the "felt sense" – and could learn to "think at the edge" – beyond their habitual patterning and behavior. He developed a six stage model for accessing the "felt sense" and using it to uncover novelty and guide us towards our next right action.

This is a seminal book that can be read straight through. I remember drinking it in – reading it straight through in one sitting – and feeling like I had discovered something electric and profound. My whole body went abuzz. It opened the gateway to so many things for me – and I recommend it with whole heart. 

Other great books:

Geared towards Clinicians:
Aposhyan, S. (2004). Body-mind psychotherapy: Principles, techniques, and practical applications. New York: W W Norton & Co.

Cornell, A.  (2013). Focusing in Clinical Practice: The Essence of Change. New York:  W W Norton & Co.

Levine, P.A. (2010). In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Press 

Mischke-Reeds, M. (2019). Somatic Psychotherapy Toolbox: 125 Worksheets and Exercises to Treat Trauma & Stress. New York:  PESI.
Ogden, P., & Fisher, J. (2015). The Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology. Sensorimotor psychotherapy: Interventions for trauma and attachment (D. Del Hierro & A. Del Hierro, Illustrators). New York: W W Norton & Co.

For General Public and Clinicians:

Gendlin, E. T. (1981). Focusing. New York: Bantam Books. 

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014) The Body Keeps the ScoreBrain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking.

Whatever your path, I wish you strength and courage in your journey. It’s not easy, but the sense of relief and understanding is worthwhile. If you are feeling anxious, or depressed, please seek help from a medical professional.