Today I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect, thinking about the many important women who, both directly and indirectly, have informed and enriched my work. In graduate school, I was immensely pleased to learn of the many important women whose intelligence, conscientiousness, and diligent research contributed to the field of psychology. The work these women have done has shaped the current attitudes and treatments around mental health overall.
JUDITH HERMAN: PSYCHIATRIST, PROFESSOR, RESEARCHER, AND AUTHOR
Judith Herman’s insights on trauma have informed the work of those of us working in trauma therapy. She is perhaps best known for her research that led to the creation of a distinct diagnosis, that of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD. Herman was one of the first to separate what she called ‘single- incident trauma’ from repeated or complex trauma. Herman noted how prolonged abuse, neglect, or exposure to danger, starting from an early age, can result in uniquely problematic symptomology. To the already critical symptoms of PTSD, Herman added these signifiers to the CPTSD diagnosis:
- Emotional Disregulation, or an inability to control one’s emotions;
- Disassociation, or detaching from one’s body in order to avoid pain
- Negative self-perception, such as pervasive guilt or shame
- Difficulty building and sustaining relationships
TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: THE AFTERMATH OF VIOLENCE– FROM DOMESTIC ABUSE TO POLITICAL TERROR
Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, was considered groundbreaking work when it was published in 1992. Her book brought a new level of understanding to problems usually considered individually. Drawing from her research in domestic violence as well as on the vast literature of combat veterans and survivors of political terror, Judith Herman demonstrated the parallels between private terrors such as sexual abuse and public traumas such as war and combat.
Herman’s work puts individual experience in a broader political frame, reasoning that psychological trauma can be understood only in a social context. Herman’s extensive research on trauma have informed effective treatment modalities used in individual and group therapy today.
Click here to learn more about Judith Herman’s many accomplishments.