My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not a professional psychologist or therapist; and I'm not a trained and certified counselor. But I am a Christian minister who wants to have some useful tools and aids I can employ in helping others who have experienced serious trauma and find themselves hampered, harmed or hollowed-out by the event. Therefore, when the publisher asked if I'd be interested in reviewing the 186 page workbook "Behavioral Activation for PTSD: A Workbook for men; Reduce Anxiety and Take Charge of Your Life," I jumped at the opportunity. Lisa B. Campbell, a psychologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Karie A. Kermath, a trauma survivor, have teamed up to craft an easy-to-grasp-user-friendly guide to assist men with PTSD, and find a doable path to recovery. This text is simple to read and comprehend and written with the non-technician in mind.
The reason the book focuses on men is simple. As the authors note, historically "male-dominated professions like military-service, emergency response, and emergency medicine have a higher-than-average chance of" men "being exposed to traumatic events," but they are less likely to "recognize the symptoms and seek treatment" (xi). Therefore, as I worked through this resource, I paid attention to the ways it might show itself more geared toward men in general. Though most of the material seems to be valid for women, I found the use of steps, filling out reasonably uncomplicated charts, illustrations, and the problem-solving-how-to approach worked well with my mind, and similarly would be amenable to a majority of men.
The workbook is very clear-cut. After a short forward by retired Army Chaplain, Lt. Col. Henry L. Peterson, and explanatory introduction by the authors, the first chapter starts at square one: what is PTSD and what are its symptoms. While unpacking the indications of PTSD, Campbell and Kermath succinctly explain and illustrate each, and provide a checklist to self-evaluate.
Then the authors turn to clarifying Behavioral Activation (BA), which is "a process that takes advantage of our brain's natural tendencies to respond to pleasurable experiences and to form associations" (19). They further point out that BA "is based on the idea that thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are all linked and that when you make a positive change in one of those areas, the others will also improve...activating new behaviors, which result in changing the way you think and feel" (20).They don't bandy BA about as the only approach or the best approach, but one of many that may be the most helpful for a particular individual. The rest of the chapter guides the participant through specific self-assessments and activities to give a man a better sense of BA, and how it can be applicable and advantageous.
The final, and largest, portion of "Behavioral Activation for PTSD" carefully works through four major life-areas (home, work, social and recreational, health and wellness). Each chapter unhurriedly takes a person from the basics to triggers and avoidance behaviors and on into alternative end-results. The authors do not accuse or guilt-trip, though they do challenge readers with reflective-questions. Each chapter is filled with exercises, illustrations, and action plans. The final chapter hands the reader ways to keep on track for the long-haul. These chapters are involved, but not overwhelming and busy. After completing the book, it would be easy to take what one has learned and transfer the process to other life-areas not mentioned. Once I completed a chapter I felt like I had a good handle on what I needed to do, and a track-record of already moving in the right direction.
"Behavioral Activation for PTSD" strikes me as a very handy utensil. It feels like a manual I could give to someone who has been traumatized and is seeking help, and work through it with them without needing to be a certified professional. The exercises, check-lists, evaluations, and activities, with the explanations, left me with a sense that here was a guide I could beneficially and conscionably employ and know that I'm honestly aiding a hurting person. If you're struggling with PTSD, you may find this volume to be a good fit. If you have a loved one, friend, or parishioner wrestling with the memories and misgivings of past trauma and are looking to you to help them, this workbook could be just the thing. I highly recommend "Behavioral Activation for PTSD"!
My thanks to Althea Press for asking me to review this book. And my big thanks for the free copy speedily sent to me. There was no criteria mandated from the publisher other than that I give an honest and sincere review, which I have given.
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