Judith Herman is an American psychiatrist, researcher, teacher, and author who has focused on the understanding and treatment of incest and traumatic stress. She is best known for her contributions to the understanding of trauma and its victims, as set out in her second book, Trauma and Recovery. There she distinguishes between single-incident traumas – one-off events – which she termed Type I traumas, and complex or repeated traumas (Type II).Type I trauma, according to the United States Veterans Administration’s Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, “accurately describes the symptoms that result when a person experiences a short-lived psychological trauma”. Type II – the concept of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) – includes “the syndrome that follows upon prolonged, repeated trauma”. Although not yet accepted by DSM-IV as a separate diagnostic category, the notion of complex traumas has been found useful in clinical practice.
Herman equally influentially set out a three-stage sequence of trauma treatment and recovery. The first involved regaining a sense of safety, whether through a therapeutic relationship, medication, relaxation exercises or a combination of all three. The second phase involved active work upon the trauma, fostered by that secure base, and employing any of a range of psychological techniques. The final stage was represented by an advance to a new post-traumatic life, possibly broadened by the experience of surviving the trauma and all it involved.
Herman is Professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School and Director of Training at the Victims of Violence Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Women’s Mental Health Collective.
She was the recipient of the 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the 2000 Woman in Science Award from the American Medical Women’s Association. In 2003 she was named a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
Books For Sale – Judith Herman: