Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk
Receives the American College of Psychotherapy
2018 Anam Cara Award
“There are many who change how others think, but few with the wisdom and courage, to influence the path of an entire professional culture. Such a man is Bessel Van der Kolk.” — The American College of Psychotherapy
In the field of trauma and psychotherapy, you are probably aware of the accomplishments and contributions of, the world-renowned trauma expert, Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk. However, today, I would like to introduce you to the man I’ve come to know, both personally and professionally. Beyond his accomplishments, I would like to introduce you to “the man he is,” for this is who I would want you to know even better.
Few know that Van der Kolk gifts and wisdom, specific to the healing of trauma, were born out of his own wounding and grounded in a history of difficult experiences. Despite his statue in trauma treatment, psychiatry, and psychotherapy, his willingness to demonstrate vulnerability, authenticity, and share personal insight, has been nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Born in 1943, in The Hague, during the German occupation of the Netherlands, he was exposed to trauma as a child. As a child he had to endure the great Dutch famine as well as the ravages of World War II. His father had been a prisoner in a Nazi work camp and he lived surrounded by Holocaust survivors daily. He describes his mother as cold, withdrawn, and unhappy while his father, prone to rage, frequently abused him. On his own by his teen years, he wandered to France and, having stayed in a monastery, considered becoming a monk.
In the 1960’s Van der Kolk relocated to the United States to pursue his education and eventually became a Harvard trained Psychiatrist. By the 1970” while working with VietNam Veterans related to posttraumatic stress disorder his interest and research intensified. In the 1990’s he became a proponent of repressed-memory therapy for which he came under heavy fire and controversy.
Through the early 2000’s he was a lecturer, teacher, and professor while serving as President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and co-director of the National Child Tramatic Stress and Complex Trauma Network. He currently is the Medical Director of the Trauma Center, Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and has a private practice in Boston.
Known for being opinionated and outspoken, Van der Kolk is not a stranger to controversy. Bessel recently left a non-profit trauma center which he founded and served and has begun yet another non-profit trauma center in Boston. Amid such controversy, I have observed him in very difficult situations and witnessed his composure and demeanor to consistently be one of patience and compassion.
With over one hundred and fifty articles on trauma and three highly regarded books, he has traveled around the globe tirelessly, teaching and training thousands of providers about the healing of trauma. His most recent book, The Body Keeps the Score, been acclaimed as “ground breaking” for it’s insight, clarity, and the integration of psychophysiology, psychology, and neuroscience. As psychotherapist, I can attest to the fact that we all are richer for his contribution to our field. The wisdom and insight Bessel has brought to the art and science of healing trauma has, undeniably, changed the way clinicians will practice for years to come.
On behalf of the American College of Psychotherapy, it is my privilege and honor, to present the 2018 Anam Cara Award to Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk.
M.Div. LPC ABCP
The American College of Psychotherapy