A Book Review by Tim Bruson PhD
Few books on psychotherapeutic topics have given me as much intellectual and emotional satisfaction as Bill O'Hanlon's new book, Quick Steps to Resolving Trauma. With surprising thoroughness and compelling clarity, he presents a four step process that helps therapists understand this pervasive problem. Unlike many therapist books, it is written in a way, which non-therapists can both easily fathom and benefit. I was pleasantly shocked that the book was only 123 pages and could quickly be consumed in one sitting.
As he explains in the introduction, this book was inspired by a televised comment made by an "expert" right after 9/11. The person said that trauma, victims "will never get over this." The engendered an immediate emotional response from O'Hanlon, who had experienced trauma in his childhood, recovered, and has committed his career to serving others as a successful therapist, writer, and workshop presenter. In this book he provides a most enjoyable approach, which includes re-integration and inclusion, refocusing on a future in which more positive possibilities are realized, breaking up the destructive hold caused by current patterns of behavior, thinking, and feeling, and the necessity of reconnecting with oneself and others. (Note that this is my description of the steps. O'Hanlon's wording is slightly different.)
This practical down-to-earth book reads much like a novel. That is because the author is in many ways so effectively telling a story. It is one of hope, which clearly shows that a person does not need to remain a prisoner of their unresolved trauma. Moreover, one theme that he points out in the introductory chapter and then reiterates in the final one is that positive outcomes can come from traumatic experiences. Yes, he says that not only can the victim of trauma recover, it is even possible to become a more loving, whole, and productive human being.
O'Hanlon's approaches are presented with sufficient explanatory clarity using enough theory to make it believable – and appealing to the more demanding therapeutic audience – while showing his witty personality as he talks in a way that any client or casual reader can appreciate. In short, this book has more intellectual meat than most larger, more academic endeavors, while communicating in a way that allows the concepts to rapidly sink in. Readers will find that Resolving Trauma is sure to have a long lasting impact on their lives and how therapy is practiced.
What readily comes across is not just O'Hanlon's wisdom and vast experience. I was also extremely impressed by his compassion, passion, and congruence. The wealth of numerous dialog-like vignettes found throughout the book show that his methods emanate from a sincere respect and the profound connection that he has with his clients. This alone should inspire any clinical reader – as therapy should be more about the compassion that the therapist has for clients rather than objective and scientific methodologies taught by most universities. Secondly, his passion comes out in each and every page. This is not merely related to the ire inspired by the post-9/11 "expert's" statement. His solution-oriented, client-centered passion shows not only in this book, but in everything that he writes. Lastly, this book is congruent with who Bill O'Hanlon is. He is not only person and clinician who experienced trauma as a child and devoted his life to helping others. He is a person who sincerely believes that in each and every one of us there exits a spark of possibility that a better version will emerge. With that in mind, I must point out that my only misgiving about this book is that its title sells it short. This book is about much more than trauma. It is about how anyone can find wholeness in their lives. While only a small minority of us has experienced the level of disturbing trauma, which could be diagnosed as a disorder, most of us have experienced events or disappointments that have left us feeling somewhat less integrated than we would like. This is where the real value of this book lies. Bill O'Hanlon's four step approach can be beneficial to everyone who seeks to repair any lingering feelings of dissatisfaction or disharmony in their lives.
Needless, to say this is a book, which I highly recommend to anyone who is serious about improving their abilities as a therapist, coach, consultant, teacher, or otherwise involved in human or organizational transformation. I would extend this to just about anyone who needs a well thought out – yet brief – pick-me-up. This is a viral quality book that I will immediately mention to both colleagues and non-clinical friends.