Judith Lewis Herman (born 1942) is a psychiatrist, researcher, teacher, and author, whose ground-breaking work on the understanding and treatment of incest and traumatic stress has been widely influential.
Herman is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School and Director of Training at the Victims of Violence Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Women’s Mental Health Collective, now in Somerville, Massachusetts.
She was the recipient of the 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the 2000 Woman in Science Award from the American Medical Women's Association. In 2003 she was named a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.She is the author of two books, Father-Daughter Incest, first published in 1981, and Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror, first published in 1992
Perhaps her most distinctive contribution to the understanding of trauma and its victims is the concept of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), which extends the diagnostic category post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a diagnosis that, according to the United States Veterans Administration's Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, "accurately describes the symptoms that result when a person experiences a short-lived trauma"  — to include "the syndrome that follows upon prolonged, repeated trauma."
It was in Herman's second book Trauma and Recovery, considered a classic and ground-breaking work that she coined the term complex post-traumatic stress disorder." In it she defines this concept not only in terms of prolonged trauma, but in terms of what she calls "subjection to totalitarian control." Examples of this concept include:
...hostages, prisoners of war, concentration-camp survivors, and survivors of some religious cults. Examples also include those subjected to totalitarian systems in sexual and domestic life, including survivors of domestic battering, childhood physical or sexual abuse, and organized sexual exploitation.
Trauma and Recovery was praised as a landmark book by Gloria Steinem, the New York Times Book Review, the Boston Globe, the Women's Review of Books; Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. of Harvard Medical School; Lenore Walker, Ed.D., Director of the Domestic Violence Institute; Laura Davis, coauthor of The Courage to Heal, and more. Herman was interviewed by Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, for his ongoing series Conversations with History at the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley.
- Herman, Judith Lewis (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror, (Previous ed.: 1992), Basic Books. ISBN 0465087302.
- Herman, Judith Lewis (2000). Father-Daughter Incest, (Previous ed.: 1981), Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674002709.
This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.
Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Dr. Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School and Director of Training at the Victims of Violence Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her fields of research are the psychology of women, child abuse and domestic violence, and post-traumatic disorders. A pioneer in the study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the sexual abuse of women and children, her numerous publications include Trauma and Recovery and Father-Daughter Incest.
- Background ... influence of parents ... the moral example of her mother ... mentored by Laurence Wylie ... cooperative, observation-based learning ... the women's movement ... consciousness raising ... the civil rights movement
- Seeing Face to Face ... the case of incest ... psychological insight and political understanding ... women's new consciousness ... from the particular to the universal ... the simplicity of radical ideas
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ... diagnosis ... despair and helplessness ... dissociation and the double reality ... hope and recovery ... complex solutions to complex cases ... incest and its relationship to patriarchy ... connecting to others ... transcending trauma
- Lessons Learned ... the importance of history and politics ... the really interesting questions
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