Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel van der Kolk (born 8 July 1943) is a psychiatrist, author, researcher and educator based in Boston, USA. Since the 1970s his research has been in the area of post-traumatic stress. He is the author of The New York Times best seller, The Body Keeps the Score.[1] Van der Kolk served as a past president for the International Society for Traumatic stress Studies and former co-director of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. He is a professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and president of the Trauma Research Foundation in Brookline, Massachusetts.[2]

Bessel van der Kolk
Known forPosttraumatic stress disorder research

Van der Kolk has published over 150 peer reviewed scientific articles.[3] His books include Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (1984), Psychological Trauma (1987), Traumatic Stress (1996, with Alexander C. McFarlane and Lars Weisæth) and The Body Keeps the Score[4] (2014).

Early lifeEdit

Van der Kolk was born in the Netherlands. He studied a pre-medical curriculum with a political science major at the University of Hawaii in 1965. He gained his M.D. at the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, in 1970, and completed his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School in 1974.[5] After his training, he worked as a director of Boston State Hospital, followed by becoming a staff psychiatrist at the Boston VA Outpatient Clinic where he acquired his interest in studying traumatic stress.


Van der Kolk started the Trauma Center in 1982 when he was working as a junior faculty member at Harvard Medical School. Since then, the Trauma Center has conducted numerous trainings and clinical trials.[6] He did extensive studies on the nature of traumatic memory,[7] and he took a leading role in the first studies on the psychopharmacological treatments of PTSD.[8] He conducted some of the first studies on the biological substrates of PTSD[9] and on stress induced analgesia.[10] He was involved in the first neuroimaging studies of PTSD[11] and of Dissociative Identity Disorder[12] and he received the first grants from the National Institutes of Health to study EMDR[13] and yoga.[14] He has a particular interest in developmental psychopathology, studying how trauma has a differential effect, depending on developmental stage and the security of the attachment system,[15] and he coined the term Developmental Trauma Disorder for the complex range of psychological and biological reactions to trauma over the course of human development.[16] In 1999 he initiated the creation of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which, since then, has grown in to a Network of 150 sites specializing in treating traumatized children and their families around the US.[17] He has advocated innovative treatments for traumatic stress in children and adults, such as trauma-sensitive yoga, embodied therapies, neurofeedback, and psychedelic therapies.[18]

Since 1989, he has been course director of the annual Boston International Trauma Conference which brings together leading scientists and clinicians specializing in trauma, developmental psychopathology, attachment studies, body-oriented therapies, theater and expressive arts.[19]

In 2017, van der Kolk was terminated from the parent organization of the Trauma Center, Justice Resource Institute, due to allegations of creating a hostile environment that allowed the then Executive Director of the Trauma Center to engage in abusive practices.[20] Van der Kolk stated that the termination was an attempt by the Justice Resource Institute to mitigate its own legal responsibility for the alleged misconduct. The executive team of the Trauma Center unanimously protested this termination, and all senior members of the Trauma Center resigned. [21] Van der Kolk filed a lawsuit against the Justice Resource Institute for several counts of action including misrepresentation and defamation.[22] The suit was settled quickly out of court.[21] In 2020, the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute permanently closed.

In May of 2018, van der Kolk used the funds won in his settlement with the Justice Resource Institute to found the 501c3 nonprofit, The Trauma Research Foundation.[23][21]

Van der Kolk teaches within the United States and internationally, having taught all over Europe as well as in China, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, Turkey and South Africa.[5]


  • Van der Kolk, B. A., ed. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Psychological and Biological Sequelae. Washington DC: American Psychiatric, 1984.
  • Van der Kolk, B. A., Psychological Trauma. Washington DC: American Psychiatric, 1987.
  • Van der Kolk, B. A., McFarlane, Alexander C., Weisæth, L (editors): Traumatic Stress: the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society. New York: Guilford, 1996
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Viking, 2014. ISBN 9780670785933. Hardcover. 464 pages. English (translated into 32 different languages)


  1. ^ "The New York Times Best Sellers". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  2. ^ "Meet Our Board". TRAUMA RESEARCH FOUNDATION. Archived from the original on 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  3. ^ "Information and Products by Faculty: Bessel van der Kolk". Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  4. ^ Revanche, Jonno (14 September 2017). "Photography saved me. Staring down a lens, I re-ordered painful memories". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-14 – via
  5. ^ a b "Curriculum Vitae of Bessel van der Kolk M.D." Bessel Van Der Kolk. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Training and Education Program". Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  7. ^ van der Kolk, BA; van der Hart, O (1989). "Pierre Janet and the breakdown of adaptation in Psychological Trauma". Am J Psychiatry. 146: 1330–1342.
  8. ^ van der Kolk, BA; Dreyfuss, D; Berkowitz, R; Saxe, G; Shera, D; Michaels, M (1994). "Fluoxetine in Post Traumatic Stress". J Clin Psychiat: 517–522.
  9. ^ van der Kolk, BA; Greenberg, M; Boyd, H; Krystal, J (1985). "Inescapable shock, neurotransmitters, and addiction to trauma: toward a psychobiology of post traumatic stress". Biol Psychiatry. 20: 314–325.
  10. ^ van der Kolk, BA; Greenberg, MS; Orr, S; Pittman, RK (1989). "Pain Perception and endogenous opioids in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder". Psychopharm Bull. 25: 117–121.
  11. ^ Rauch, S; van der Kolk, BA; Fisler, R; Alpert, N; Orr, S; Savage, C; Jenike, M; Pitman, R (1996). "A symptom provocation study using Positron Emission Tomography and Script Driven Imagery". Arch Gen Psychiatry. 53: 380–387.
  12. ^ Saxe, GN; Vasile, RG; Hill, TC; Bloomingdale, K; van der Kolk, BA (1992). "Temporal lobe changes in Multiple Personality Disorders demonstrated by rCBF and SPECT imaging". J Ment Nerv Dis.
  13. ^ Levin, P; Lazrove, S; van der Kolk, BA (1999). "What psychological testing and neuroimaging tell us about the treatment of PTSD by EMDR". J Anxiety Disord. 13: 159–172.
  14. ^ van der Kolk, BA; Stone, L; West, J; Rhodes, A; Emerson, D; Spinazzola, J (2014). "Yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial". J Clin Psychiatry. 75 (6): 559–565.
  15. ^ van der Kolk, BA; Pelcovitz, D; Roth, S; Mandel, F; McFarlane, AC; Herman, J (1996). "Dissociation, somatization and affect dysregulation: the complexity of adaptation to trauma". J Psychiatry. 153: 83–93.
  16. ^ "What Developmental Trauma Disorder Looks Like in Kids". Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  17. ^ "Who We Are". Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  18. ^ Interlandi, Jeneen (22 May 2014). "A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-14 – via
  19. ^ "Trauma Research Foundation 'Our Mission'". Retrieved 2019-06-22.
  20. ^ Reporter, Liz Kowalczyk-. "Allegations of employee mistreatment roil renowned Brookline trauma center". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  21. ^ a b c "Behind The Globe". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  22. ^ "Famed trauma therapist responds to allegations of bullying: 'It's an outrageous story'". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  23. ^ "Trauma Research Foundation 'Our Mission'". Retrieved 2019-06-22.

External linksEdit