Book Review: Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide to Enhancing Recovery by Jamie Marich, PhD

In her first job, as a young addictions counselor, author Jamie Marich was told “not to complicate matters” by addressing the history of trauma that she was beginning to observe in her clients. This book, both inspiring and useful to professionals, sponsors and people in recovery, is a response to her persistent questioning of the “one size fits all” approach often favored in twelve-step recovery programs. “Rigid adherence of the disease model of addiction and near-fundamentalist adherence to Twelve-Step philosophies can hurt more clients than they can help,” says Marich. Although she incorporates the twelve-step approach in addictions treatment, where she feels it is rigid and risks causing harm, she offers an adjunct model. This model includes building a safe container in the therapeutic relationship, providing self-soothing tools like breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, and when the client has sufficient sobriety, addressing the trauma in a body-oriented modality like the bilateral stimulation inherent in EMDR.

In particular, Marich advocates a trauma-sensitive approach to steps four and five. She finds the self-assessment of taking a moral inventory in step four and then admitting our wrongs when applied without trauma-sensitivity in step five can further injure an individual in recovery with a history of trauma who is already carrying a heavy sense of shame. Most victims of sexual trauma blame themselves, taking on responsibility for their abuse. Steps four and five can further perpetuate feelings of unworthiness, and, as Marich points out in a case study, this can be the place when working the steps that well-intentioned individuals consistently relapse. When you believe you are responsible for the abuse, the moral inventory is too painful to bear.

Marich provides an easy user’s overview of the psycho-neuro-biology involved in trauma. In the chapter called “Trauma 101,” she makes it clear that emotional wounds need to be treated and that when left untreated, just like a physical wound, they only get worse. We self-medicate to diminish the pain.

There is much to recommend this book for those in recovery and for professionals working in the addictions field. The narrative is rich with stories about clients in recovery, written from the passionate point of view of one who knows the territory and has become a leader in the field. Marich includes relevant research, theory, case studies, along with numerous mind-body resources, and exercises and self-inquiry questions for both individuals in recovery and the professionals who serve them.

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To order a copy of this wonderful book please visit: http://www.traumatwelve.com/

For a LifeForce Yoga healing practice for trauma I recommend the Yoga Nidra CD.  You can hear a sample and purchase your copy here.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide to Enhancing Recovery by Jamie Marich, PhD”

  1. Diane Cameron says:

    When I read Amy’s review of this book I felt a deep “Oh” and “at last”. So glad to see this book and this topic and open discussion of trauma and 12 steps. Its the heartbreak of watching people relapse and so often under that is some form of trauma.

    Then reading Vickie’s comment I had one of those moments of someone telling my story. All so true..my struggles with low self esteem, working so hard to prove myself, fear of the not good enough. Thank you so much!

  2. Jamie Marich says:

    Thank you for your kind words!!! Please check out our website too at http://www.TraumaTwelve.com There are a lot of free yoga-related and trauma-related resources there that you can pass along to people who may benefit. Blessings, Jamie Marich (author)

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