Recovering from childhood trauma is a difficult process that can be painful when we come to the realization that our childhood experiences were not always positive or secure.
Finding the right resources to guide us through this journey is crucial. That's why we have curated a list of books on childhood trauma that can provide essential insights and support.
These books can help individuals navigate their personal journeys and find healing from their childhood trauma.
Best Books on Childhood Trauma
Before diving into the list of books, we must first define what childhood trauma is. Childhood trauma comes from experiencing negative events as a child that were distressing or life-threatening. Adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, or conflict in the family can lead to the development of childhood trauma.
This can persist well into adulthood, which is where much of the healing needs to take place. If you’re looking for a general overview of childhood trauma, then these books may be just what you need. Note that these are not arranged in any specific order.
1. The Body Keeps the Score – Dr. Bessell van der Kolk
This is perhaps the most popular and prominent book on trauma written today. The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessell van der Kolk is known for presenting information that helps us understand and heal from trauma. The book is rich with the experiences of people who have survived traumatic experiences. Though not exclusively a childhood trauma book, this book can help adults understand how trauma from earlier years has impacted them and how to start the healing process.
2. Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma – Pete Walker
If you’re looking for a book that acts as a guide in your recovery from trauma, then this is the one to read. From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker helps readers recover from the residual effects of childhood trauma so that they can live rich and fulfilling lives. It presents an overview of the tasks of recovering, practical tools, and techniques for recovering from childhood trauma. This book is also excellent for those who do not have childhood PTSD but wish to understand and helped a loved one who does.
3. When Pleasing You Is Killing Me – Dr. Les Carter
Some people who have experienced childhood trauma tend to be peacekeepers during conflicts, even if it comes at a high emotional price for them. They may also feel that their characteristics of goodness, kindness, and cooperation become disadvantages in the presence of others. These traits often come from unresolved childhood trauma, specifically, from having an unbalanced relationship with parents. Dr. Les Carter uses When Pleasing You Is Killing Me to invite people with childhood trauma to relate to real-life stories of others who are trying to make sene of persistent demands from controlling people.
4. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Trauma and Adversity – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris talks about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in The Deepest Well. She discusses how ACEs can affect someone over their lifetime, specifically, how they show up later in life as physical ailments like chronic conditions, cancers, strokes, and other diseases. If you’ve gone through ACEs and want to understand how they impact you at present, then this is a great book on trauma to pick up.
5. A Practical Guide to Complex PTSD – Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Sometimes all you need is a practical guide to complex traumas, and this is exactly what Dr. Arielle Schwartz presents in her book A Practical Guide to Complex PTSD. Here you’ll find research-based strategies, tools, and other support materials for people looking to heal childhood trauma. This book teaches you the necessary skills to improve physical and mental health using practical strategies taken from the most effective therapeutic methods. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and somatic psychology.
6. What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing – Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey
Renowned brain trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey team up to have deeply personal conversations to approach trauma in different ways. In What Happened to You, Dr. Perry presents a groundbreaking shift from asking “What’s wrong with you” to “What happened to you?” The subtle difference can change our view on trauma to one that allows us to understand the past so that we may clear a path to our future. It opens the door to resilience and healing in a more powerful way.
7. The Boy Who Was Raised a Dog – Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Maia Szalavitz
The Boy Who Was Raised a Dog is all about different stories of happy and healthy adults who, as children, went through trauma. This book can serve as inspiration for those who are struggling with their childhood trauma. It presents stories of hope, survival, and triumph, which are much needed for the hardships that trauma survivors endure.
8. Mean Mothers: Overcoming The Legacy of Hurt – Peg Streep
Generational trauma can be at the root of childhood trauma, and this book dives deep into that. Peg Streep talks about how unloving mothers create daughters that are unloving themselves or hypercritical. It discusses the effects of emotionally absent or cruel mothers on one’s sense of self and relationships. Fortunately, this book also presents a narrative of hope, recounting how daughters can break away from the pattern of hurt to become whole individuals and loving mothers to the next generation.
9. It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle – Mark Wolynn
In another book on generational trauma, Mark Wolynn talks about how trauma has affected other family members from different generations and how this can be passed down through genes. If your entire family has had some experience with trauma, then this is a great book to read. You can learn that your inherited family patterns are not the end, that you can actually break free and change them to carve out a path of your own.
10. The Truth Will Set You Free: Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Adult Self – Dr. Allice Miller
The Truth Will Set You Free by Dr. Allice Miller explains that embracing the truth of our past histories is the only way to be free of pain in the present. In this book, she debunks the authoritarian parenting approach as well as practicing tough love. The consequences of such parenting styles can be bad enough that they persist well into adulthood. This shows how parents are responsible for the formation of the emotional lives of their children and that they can influence the occurrence of trauma.