Bessel van der Kolk

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Bessel van der Kolk
Known forPosttraumatic stress disorder research

Bessel van der Kolk (born 1943) is a Dutch psychiatrist, author and educator based in Boston, USA. Since the 1970s his research has been in the area of post-traumatic stress. Van der Kolk is professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and President of the Trauma Research Foundation in Brookline, Massachusetts

His books include Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (1984), Psychological Trauma (1987), Traumatic Stress (1996, with Alexander C. McFarlane and Lars Weisæth) and The Body Keeps the Score[1] (2014).

Early life[edit]

Van der Kolk was born in the Netherlands. He took his pre-medical with political science at the University of Hawaii in 1965. He gained his M.D. at the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, in 1970.[2]


Since the 1970s his research has been in the area of post-traumatic stress. He has studied how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences, and translated findings from pharmacology, attachment theory, neuroscience, and developmental aspects of trauma's effects on people.[3] He has developed and studied potentially effective treatments for traumatic stress in children and adults, such as trauma-sensitive yoga.[3]

Journal articles[edit]

Van der Kolk has written journal articles on the basic mental and biological parameters of PTSD (including the first published biological model for PTSD; one of the first studies to elucidate the role of committing atrocities, “moral injury”, for developing PTSD; the first PET study of PTSD; and the first neuroimaging study of dissociative disorders); psychopharmacology; memory; pervasive role of trauma in psychiatric disorders; complex PTSD, disorders of extreme stress, and developmental trauma; and innovative treatments.

Positions and employment[edit]

  • 1982–2000 Founder and Director, Trauma Center
  • 1992–1997 Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • 1997–1999 Professor, Harvard University Graduate School of Education
  • 1996–Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine
  • 2000–Research and Medical Director, Trauma Center
  • 2008–2018 Vice President of Research, Justice Resource Institute[4][5]
  • 2012–2017 Co-Director, CTTN, National Child Traumatic Stress Network

In March 2018, after being fired for mistreatment,[5] Van der Kolk and the senior management of the Trauma Center formed a new independent 501(c)(3) organization, the Trauma Research Foundation. The Foundation is organized to promote clinical, scientific and educational projects. Its purpose is to support and conduct non-partisan research, education, and informational activities dedicated to innovative clinically informed projects to develop and implement optimal methods, treatments, and modalities to help children and adults heal from traumatic experiences.


  • 1984, 1988, 1989 1st prize, Solomon Award, Harvard Dept of Psychiatry
  • 1990–1991 President, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
  • 1994 Eli Lilly Lecturer, Royal College of Psychiatrists, London
  • 1996 Cohen Chair in Child Mental Health, NY Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services
  • 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
  • 1999 Benjamin Rush Award, American Psychiatric Association
  • 2001 Ben Wiesel Visiting professor, Institute for Living, Hartford. CT
  • 2001 Visiting professor, University of Salamanca, Spain
  • 2002 Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
  • 2006 Bowlby Memorial Lecture, University of London
  • 2006 Richard Lederman Lecturer. Performing Medicine Association Aspen CO
  • 2008 McNamee visiting professor Dartmouth University
  • 2013 Reiss Davis distinguished professor, Los Angeles
  • 2014 Visiting professor, Center for Consciousness Science, University of Virginia
  • 2013 Visiting professor, University of Bahia, Brazil
  • 2017 Royal College of Psychiatry, London.


  • Van der Kolk, B. A., ed. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Psychological and Biological Sequelae. Washington DC: American Psychiatric, 1984.
  • Van der Kolk, B. A., Psychological Trauma. Washington DC: American Psychiatric, 1987.
  • Van der Kolk, B. A., McFarlane, Alexander C., Weisæth, L (editors): Traumatic Stress: the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society. New York: Guilford, 1996
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Viking, 2014. ISBN 9780670785933. Hardcover. 464 pages. English. Translated into 24 different languages.


  1. ^ Revanche, Jonno (14 September 2017). "Photography saved me. Staring down a lens, I re-ordered painful memories". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-14 – via
  2. ^ "Curriculum Vitae of Bessel van der Kolk M.D." Bessel Van Der Kolk. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Interlandi, Jeneen (22 May 2014). "A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-14 – via
  4. ^ "Famed trauma therapist responds to allegations of bullying: 'It's an outrageous story'". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  5. ^ a b Reporter, Liz Kowalczyk-. "Allegations of employee mistreatment roil renowned Brookline trauma center". Retrieved 2019-03-14.

External links[edit]