Therapy Books

Waking The Tiger by Peter A. Levine

By Sharon Zucker

Book cover for Waking the Tiger by Peter A Levine. A guide on understanding and working with trauma for counsellors

Waking The Tiger introduces Peter Levine’s concept of trauma. It illustrates what happens inside our brain and body when experiencing traumatic events and how post-traumatic symptoms tend to manifest. This understanding provides us with a foundation for tangible methods of working therapeutically with trauma that Levine goes on to present.

Levine has the ability to simplify very complicated issues, making this book a perfect training text. I found it invaluable during my own training years, as well as at the beginning of my career and probably why I often hear it referred to as a must read.

As a new counsellor, I certainly found it difficult to grasp a consistent and coherent definition of trauma because as Levine states there really isn’t one. However, I have found that much of the literature shares one understanding: trauma comes from a perceived life threatening experience and that there are typical brain and bodily reactions that occur as a result of this threat.

Icon showing profile of a head with a part broken off to illustrate the impact of trauma on our counselling clients

Levine writes, “The premise of this book is that trauma is part of a natural physiological process that simply has not been allowed to be completed.” 

My understanding of this is that the energy that is created during a traumatic situation cannot be appropriately released and because of that the cycle will continue to loop until brought to completion. 

It is therefore our role as counsellors to help the client to release this energy and complete their natural recovery process.

Birds flying from a winter tree on a misty morning

Levine is the founder of Somatic Experiencing Therapy - an approach which focuses on reconnecting to, and releasing trauma from, the body - and is considered an expert in the field of trauma. 

This book is for both people who have experienced traumatic life events and mental health professionals who work with trauma and PTSD. It is filled with interesting case studies to help illustrate his ideas and exercises that help the reader to develop a greater somatic awareness of themselves.

I have watched Levine speak and his gentle approach conveys both deep empathy and empowerment. He has a true compassion for the human experience and a belief in our capacity to manage and resolve trauma. 

These traits transcend the pages of this book. In fact, years later, I still refer to Waking the Tiger for guidance and inspiration and continue to find the information and suggested activities beneficial. Most importantly, his potent and gentle tone reminds me of that safe place we create to hold our clients while they tell us their most difficult stories.

This is one of the many, many reasons that I would strongly recommend this excellent book.

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