Book Review: Confessions of a Trauma Therapist

Confessions of a Trauma Therapist is a terrific, insightful memoir.

Let’s begin with the title, a sly slice of irony. Why is the therapist confessing, when it is usually the client who confesses and reveals? Why, because she herself, the brave Mary K. Armstrong, is both the therapist/confessor and the client/revealer.

As Armstrong details in this book, her life unfolded through school, marriage, and an intense yoga training, until she found her life-work as a therapist. When she found the body-centered form that drew her most, the practice known as Focusing, when her life seemed stable, that’s when the memories and flashbacks came. She was in her forties. She was as ready, perhaps, as a person can be. Even so, she doubted herself. Could she throw her concepts of her loving, eccentric family—her caring grandfather and interesting father—out the window? As a survivor who had to do the same dance of refashioning my entire view of my family, I empathize.

Armstrong indeed had the courage to not only face these violent invasive memories, but to document her struggle in her journals, which she excerpts to show us how it felt.
The book begins relatively slowly, telling us in advance that the memories will come, but building up the picture, step by step, of a life that unfolds with reflection and depth. Then when the memories come, the pace quickens and it all becomes very vivid.

The double view of surviving abuse—the perspectives of therapist and of client/survivor—reminds me of a studio with mirrors, where we may witness the dance of discovery from two angles at once.

Armstrong’s life-story is a testimony to human strength and resilience. It’s an inspiring read as we see her vulnerability but we also know she’s a prominent therapist who has helped many others in her lifetime. I recommend this book highly.

I've been in touch with Mary Armstrong and will post more, soon, about our dialogue. 


Patricia Singleton said...

I am reading Mary's book right now. I feel so much of her, at first, unacknowledged pain. I grew up with alcoholism in my family and incest. Even before Mary speaks, I sense the similiarities in our stories.

Mary K. Armstrong said...

Thanks,Jane,for your sensitivity in recognizing the courage it took me to write so honestly about my own incest. I figured that if I was going to publish,I had to fully disclose - especially the embarrassing parts. Otherwise it wasn't worth doing. From my 30+ years in helping others recover from child sexual abuse, I knew my experiences were normal for a victim of child sexual abuse. I wanted my readers to recognize themselves in my struggles and take heart that healing was possible. "If I could do it, you can too," is my message.

Jane Rowan said...

Yes, Mary, it takes guts. I like what you said, "From my years helping others... I knew my experiences were normal for a victim of child sexual abuse." It's so sad that there is a "normal" for this abnormal situation, but so very true: the doubt, shame, confusion, dissociation, rage... all sadly normal. And both of our memoirs were written the the aim of helping others to see that healing is possible.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jane and Mary, You both inspire my to get busy writing my own memoir. Thank you.

Just Be Real said...

Jane, thank you for sharing and being so very transparent and having a voice.

Jane Rowan said...

Thanks for your comment, Just Be Real. Love your screen name.