The 11 Best Books for PTSD of 2021, According to an Expert

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Trauma refers to an emotional wound. Because emotional wounds are not visible like physical wounds, the healing process can be complicated and confusing at times. Trauma can create painful symptoms and emotions, such as nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or physical pain such as headaches. Depending on the type and severity of trauma symptoms experienced, a person may benefit from multiple recovery techniques.

Books can be a very helpful tool on the road to recovery. They give us stories to relate to, and a format in which to document and record our experiences and insights to help promote more in-depth discussions during therapy sessions

Here are the best books for PTSD, according to a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

Our Top Picks
The two authors combine stories and positive psychology concepts to increase hope and teach positive coping skills.
Written for military veterans, it teaches how to achieve growth instead of post-traumatic stress following war experiences.
For those who benefit from a religious perspective, Lysa Terkuerst teaches readers how to heal when they don't receive remorse.
Dr. Arielle Schwartz expertly pairs education, activities, and therapy techniques to create an in-depth and thorough workbook.
Ideal if you'd prefer not to write, this holistic-based guidebook incorporates yoga, mindfulness, and EMDR therapy techniques.
Jackson Mackenzie discusses various types of personality disorder traits that lead to toxic relationships and teaches how to heal.
Written specifically for men, this workbook is a great option for those who are struggling with the idea of going to therapy.
Author Joshua Mantz discusses his near-death experience and teaches readers how to find purpose in the pain.
Following a prisoner through her near death experience in a concentration camp, it depicts how she was freed from her own mind.
Filled with effective techniques in an individualized format, the workbook explores various attachment issues and how to cope.

Transformed by Trauma

Transformed by Trauma: Stories of Posttraumatic Growth
Pros
  • Science-backed techniques

  • Well researched

  • Informative and hopeful

Cons
  • Long length at 292 pages

  • Not individualized

  • No specific exercises given

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that trauma will make a person weaker and damaged for life. Authors Dr. Tedeschi and Dr. Moore have devoted their lives and careers to teaching people how to turn their pain into purpose and growth. They combine stories and positive psychology concepts to increase hope and positive coping skills. 

Expert Advice

“When looking for the best resources related to PTSD recovery, it is imperative that you do some homework to ensure that the material has empirical research, utilizes evidence-based techniques, and supports the mind and body connection. 

Therefore, optimal resources used to navigate resolving the effects of trauma incorporate nervous system regulation in order to seek and establish safety and connection in the mind and body.”—Angela Walker, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC, ACS, Trauma Therapist at Sozo Wellness

Pros
  • Tailored to veterans

  • Helpful for family members of veterans

  • Science-backed techniques

Cons
  • Population-specific

  • Single type of trauma addressed

  • Does not replace therapy

Struggle Well focuses on teaching combat veterans specifically how to achieve post-traumatic growth instead of post-traumatic stress following war and military experiences. This book specifically targets the unique traumas and experiences of military veterans.

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget

Pros
  • Important topic addressed

  • Easy-to-read format

  • Spiritually based

Cons
  • Some may not benefit from religious focus

  • Topic specific

  • Not individualized

For those who benefit from a religious perspective, Lysa Terkuerst uses her theological training to discuss different aspects of forgiveness when the person who caused the pain is not sorry or willing to acknowledge the wrongdoing. Lysa teaches readers how to heal and move on with life despite a wrongdoer's lack of remorse or acknowledgment.

The Complex PTSD Workbook

Pros
  • Effective techniques

  • Expertly-written and educational

  • In-depth healing activities offered

Cons
  • May be overwhelming for beginners

  • Best used with therapy

  • Workbook style requires time and focus

Dr. Arielle Schwartz expertly pairs education, activities, and therapy techniques to create an in-depth and thorough workbook. Complex trauma can involve a complicated recovery process, and this book helps make sense of all the layers and possible confusion. 

The Post-Traumatic Growth Guidebook

Pros
  • Effective techniques

  • Holistic lifestyle approach

  • Easy-to-read format

Cons
  • Does not address specific traumas

  • Does not replace benefits of therapy

  • Not a workbook

A guidebook is very different from a workbook in the fact that following a guidebook does not involve all the prompted writing that a workbook requires. This guidebook takes a holistic approach by incorporating yoga and mindfulness, somatic psychology, and EMDR therapy techniques. 

Pros
  • Topic affects many

  • Informative

  • Well-written

Cons
  • Long length at 304 pages

  • Not individualized

Abusive relationships can create some of the most confusing trauma and, therefore, complex healing journeys. Bestselling author Jackson Mackenzie discusses different types of personality disorder traits that can lead to toxic relationships and how to heal from them.

Behavioral Activation for PTSD

Pros
  • Science-backed techniques

  • Good for beginners

  • Informative and motivating

Cons
  • Gender-specific

  • Specific trauma type addressed

  • Works best with therapy

Written as almost a beginner’s guide to PTSD recovery, Behavioral Action for PTSD pairs education with actionable steps to begin the healing process. Written specifically for men, this workbook is a great option for those who are struggling with the idea of going to therapy.

The Beauty of a Darker Soul

Pros
  • Very inspirational

  • Helpful for war veterans

  • Well written, entertaining read

Cons
  • Not a replacement for therapy

  • Not individualized

  • Single story, not evidence-based

Not all traumas involve near-death experiences, but some most certainly do. Shot by a sniper in Baghdad, author Joshua Mantz was dead for 15 minutes before being brought back to life.

Written as an inspirational narrative, this book is meant to help find purpose in the pain and implores readers to never lose sight of hope. 

The Choice: Embrace the Possible

Pros
  • Deeply moving story

  • Inspirational and hopeful

  • Very well written

Cons
  • Some scenes may be triggering

  • Long length at 320 pages

  • Doesn't include science-backed healing techniques

Sometimes we begin healing when we can identify with another person’s story. Endorsed by Oprah, The Choice follows a young Jewish prisoner through her experience and near death in a concentration camp, the experience of PTSD symptoms and flashbacks that followed, and how she freed herself from the prison of her own mind.

The Attachment Theory Workbook

Pros
  • Effective techniques

  • Topic useful for many

  • Educational and individualized format

Cons
  • Trauma not addressed directly

  • Best used with therapy

  • Workbook style requires writing

In psychology, attachment theories explore the way we either attach or struggle to attach to others. While supportive people can be a foundationally healing aspect to trauma recovery, the trauma can keep us from being able to healthily attach to others, heightening the pain.

Marriage and family therapist Annie Chen explores these attachment issues. 

The Addiction Recovery Workbook

Pros
  • Individualized workbook

  • Effective techniques

Cons
  • Does not replace therapy or sober support

  • Requires time and focus to complete

  • Audience-specific

Addiction to substances or other self-destructive behaviors is often fueled by past trauma. Achieving and maintaining sobriety is the first step to giving ourselves the space and sound-mindedness needed to address and properly treat any underlying traumas.

Final Verdict

Transformed by Trauma is a good place to start as it uses science-backed Positive Psychology techniques. The Complex PTSD Workbook is a very helpful option for those who need more in-depth concepts, education, and writing exercises. Both can be used in conjunction with talk therapy.

What to Look for in a Book for PTSD 

Evidenced-based techniques

It’s important to find a self-help book that relies on science and evidence-based techniques to ensure the most success possible from following a book’s guidance. The more progress a person feels like they are making, the more likely they are to continue moving forward in their journey of healing. 

Targets specific needs

There are different ways that people can experience trauma, and a book that speaks to your specific experience is the most helpful. Trauma caused by violence or war is very different from childhood trauma.

Fits your current lifestyle

Trauma recovery requires time, energy, and focus. However, in real life, things can get very busy. Do what you can. If you only have 15 minutes a day to read, that’s better than nothing. If you have more time and space to focus on your recovery specifically, choose more in-depth resources.

Why Trust Verywell Mind? 

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over 15 years of experience working with clients who struggle with mental health issues, Mary K. Tatum understands the importance of finding quality resources and techniques that work for each person. Not everyone will have the same kind of healing journey, therefore having lots of options to choose from is vitally important in creating an emotionally healthy lifestyle.

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  1. American Psychological Association. Trauma.