BBP Blog

Book Review

Vignettes of suffering and their solutions

24th December 2016


Kaye Bewley


Suggested Title:           

Vignettes of suffering and their solutions


Publication Title:         

5 Survivors – Personal Stories of Healing

from PTSD and Traumatic


Publication Author:    

Tracy Stecker, PhD



Hazelden Trade


Year of publication:    



Paperback and Kindle


Review word count:   

469 words


Aimed at therapists and clients alike, this book focuses on five sufferers recounting their experiences of trauma.  Its introduction offers an apology from Stecker who goes to great lengths to point out she is a researcher, not a writer, but wrote a book anyway.  After listing a number of responses that PTSD sufferers experience, Stecker states she was honoured these people trusted her to tell their difficult stories and felt it provided a “tremendous opportunity” to hand this knowledge to others.  As a result, at the outset, the book makes the reader wary of the quality of its contents. 

Nevertheless, the five individual stories are faithfully recounted, offering vignettes of a sufferer of childhood sexual abuse, a survivor of a catastrophic environmental disaster and the experiences of three war veterans. Reading through the stories, much of the intimate detail could have been omitted without losing focus.  However, the PTSD aspect is sometimes lost for the author’s need to fill pages with unnecessary details of past events other than the traumatic experience.  At times, throughout the text, it appears the client has been allowed to ramble on unabated and the author has been unwilling to leave anything out just in case a key is lost.  She also allows the client to impart the knowledge that Stecker has given them in order to show how much they have learned.  While noble in practice, this is a pity in theory. 

The author is an educated professional who specialises in this particular area of therapy.  When Stecker does provide nuggets of specialist insight for the client’s trauma, her writing shines through real-life scenarios in plain-speak.  Although Stecker only highlights the issues that client’s face while experiencing PTSD, she doesn’t actually detail what tools were used to assist the client with their issues nor how she helped them back to a sense of normality for them.  She acknowledges the symptoms of hyper-arousal symptoms, re-experiencing, avoidance behaviour and intrusive thoughts and these are extremely helpful, realistic and knowledgeable.  However, each client’s story could have been presented in half the amount of words, while focussing on one or two issues for each while presenting Stecker’s recommendations to close each case.  As identities were changed, this should have presented no issue and if this stance had been taken, the author could have included double, or even triple, the clientele with the benefit of her extensive knowledge given as an authoritative guidance tool. 

If you like to read client’s diaries that offer interesting and intimate details of their experiences of trauma, with signposts from a professional pointing out where the trauma is being experienced, then this is the book for you.  However, if you’re looking for a book to give you detailed explanations on how to cope with a client with PTSD, then I would suggest another book.

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