Books for Therapists on Working with Veterans & Military Members

The military is a powerful institution in many countries, but frequently, the individuals trained by the military aren’t prepared to handle the emotional charge of what they encounter in battlefields; this is one of the reasons why so many soldiers come back to war with severe trauma and PTSD, not being able to cope with what they lived. In that sense, mental health practitioners have a great power to help these men and women heal and integrate themselves into society. The books below are about this emotional and worrying theme.

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“On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” by Grossman

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Modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming the instinctive aversion of killing. The psychological cost for soldiers, as witnessed by the increase in post-traumatic stress, is devastating. The psychological cost for the rest of us is even more so: contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army’s conditioning techniques and, according to this book, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young. On Killing is hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects the soldier, and of the societal implications of escalating violence, resulting is a work that is sure to be relevant for decades to come.

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“Achill in Vietnam. Kampftrauma und Persönlichkeitsverlust” von Shay (Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character)

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In this moving, dazzlingly creative book, Dr. Shay examines the psychological devastation of war by comparing the soldiers of Homer’s Iliad with Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. A classic of war literature that has as much relevance as ever in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is a “transcendent literary adventure” (The New York Times) and “clearly one of the most original and most important scholarly works to have emerged from the Vietnam War” (Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried).

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