Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature, and the Body

July 28, 2014

This book is the first scholarly work that attempts to fill the enormous gap in the conventional armamentarium used to treat PTSD.

Reviewed by James Lake, MD

by Leslie E. Korn; New York: Routledge; 2014
336 pages • $39.95 (paperback)

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The first 3 chapters provide concise reviews of the historical progression of theories about the causes and meanings of traumatic experiences, paradigms of disease and diagnosis, and contemporary psychological and neurobiological models of trauma. Chapter 4 is a masterful exegesis of the variety of human dissociative experiences, including valuable insights into the assessment of dissociative symptoms in the context of unique social and cultural circumstances that shape responses to trauma.

Dr Korn then explores the roles of touch, or somatic empathy. She describes polarity therapy and other traditional therapies for which touch is regarded as a central component of maintaining wellness, enhancing emotional resilience, and achieving healing. Mainstream and alternative approaches used to evaluate the type and severity of symptoms that may emerge following trauma in relationship to the many complex factors that determine a person’s unique responses to trauma are discussed. Especially compelling is Dr Korn’s discussion of culture and spiritual values and beliefs when evaluating the subjective experiences and internalized meanings that result from trauma.

The following chapters provide a concise review of nonpharmacological therapies used to treat the emotional and spiritual sequelae of trauma. Dr Korn introduces her concept of “rhythms” of recovery, or a step-wise progression from stabilization to uncovering and story-telling in the second stage, and finally to “reconnection” and recovery in the third and final stage. The roles of nutrition in general and of specific natural products in maintaining emotional resilience and treating the sequelae of trauma are examined.

In the final chapters, Dr Korn discusses the therapeutic benefits of detoxification. In its broadest sense, detoxification is a concept that acknowledges the central importance of culture in shaping “healing” responses to trauma, yet it is seldom, if ever, discussed in the mainstream medical literature. Dr Korn outlines the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels that may require cleansing or spiritual purification following trauma.

Her discussion on spirit molecules is a refreshingly objective appraisal of the risks and benefits associated with psychoactive plants. Dr Korn reviews pertinent findings on LSD, MDMA, cannabis, salvia, and other psychoactive plant materials and concludes with an open-minded yet neutral perspective about the potential risks and benefits of spirit molecules in the treatment of traumatized individuals.

Dr Korn knows whereof she writes. Her book grew out of the personal wisdom that can only come from years of dedicated work with trauma survivors. Challenging circumstances constantly demand openness to new ways of seeing trauma and call for innovative solutions when conventional therapies do not work or are not available.

This book broadens contemporary understandings of trauma beyond the current confines of academic discourse to complex real-world issues of culture and spirit. I strongly recommend this book as an essential resource and guide for clinicians and their patients who have experienced trauma.