Dr. Kristen Brendel's Top 5 Game-Changing Books of 2018

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Welcome to my Top 5 Game-Changing Books of 2018!

The books that made this list had to meet two criteria: 1) they needed to be published this year and 2) have somehow altered my perspective on mental health, education, or healthcare. It was hard to rank these books. I loved each of them for different reasons. This order represents how useful the information is to me directly as a social work professor and clinician.

#5 Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity by Dr. Ronald Epstein

One of my favorite genres is medical memoires. I am fascinated by physicians and other healthcare providers writing about their experiences of practicing medicine. This book integrates Epstein’s professional experiences as a surgeon with mindfulness and self-care. 

I listened to this book on Audible and loved it so much, I also purchased it for the Kindle. I wanted to be able to take notes and highlighted sections of the book for future reference.

#4 The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation by Deb Dana

Extending on Steven Porges’s work on the polyvagal theory, Dana describes how the theory can be applied during therapy and with clients who have experienced trauma. The author effectively translates complicated theory about the brain and stress response to language that is accessible and pragmatic for those working in mental health. I particularly appreciated the worksheets that can be helpful to both social worker/clinician and client. 

#3 The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom: Building Resilience with Compassionate Teaching by Patricia Jennings

This book should be standard issue in every teacher education program in America. Jennings describes how stress and trauma impacts learning and offers research-based and feasible strategies for mediating trauma in the classroom. Equally important, the author addresses teacher’s own self-care, which is vitally important to help foster resilience and prevent burnout and secondary traumatic stress. 

#2 The Deepest Well: Healing the Long Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris

Shortly after this book was released, it was constantly being spoken about by my colleagues in social work and education. I loved it so much, I joined a book club because I wanted to further process the content and learn how others were applying it. (A shout-out and debt of gratitude to Stacy Colgan for both the initial recommendation and for listening to me perseverate about this book).  Burke Harris describes the complex medical issues of the children in her pediatric practice resulting from traumatic and toxic stress. She discusses protective factors (exercise, proper nutrition and sleep, mental health care, mindfulness, and healthy relationships) that help to mediate the impact of trauma in children and adults. Check out her Ted Talk

#1 Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David A. Trealeaven

This book took me by surprise! I stumbled upon it by accident when it came up at the bottom of my Amazon webpage as a recommended title. I had not heard of the author and as a professor of social work with a research, teaching, and practice interest in mindfulness, I believed I was pretty trauma-informed. I honestly felt more obligated to read this book than interested. I am so happy I did not dismiss it! Trealeaven’s work highlights the paucity of research on the effects of mindfulness with those who’ve sustained trauma. He discusses many experiences he’s had with clients in his mental health practice who experienced adverse effects during or after practicing mindfulness. Some of his clients experienced sudden adverse effects years after a dedicated practice. This resonated with me on a professional level as I have also had clients whose PTSD had been triggered during mindfulness practices. Trealeaven is not a contrarian who enjoys being critical of practices that benefit so many (which is what I feared when I initially picked up the book). Rather, he is educating professionals about how mindfulness practices trigger adverse effects by those who’ve sustain trauma and how to effectively modify practices. Similar to The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, this book should be standard issue to all those who use mindfulness-based interventions professionally.

Kristen Brendel