Cover image for Healing invisible wounds : paths to hope and recovery in a violent world
Healing invisible wounds : paths to hope and recovery in a violent world
Mollica, Richard F.
Personal Author:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, c2006.
Physical Description:
277 p. ; 24 cm.
Striking out on a new pathway -- The trauma story -- Humiliation -- The power of self-healing -- Storytelling as a healing art -- Good dreams and bad dreams -- Social instruments of healing -- The call to health -- Society as healer.


Call Number
Material Type
Wellsville - David A. Howe Public Library 1 616.85 MOL Adult NonFiction Book

On Order



Everywhere and constantly human beings are subject to terrible violence--be it natural or manmade. It has happened in New Orleans, New York, India, Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Ivory Coast. But long after the levees have been reconstructed, after the war criminals have been brought to justice, the question remains--can people heal, and if so, how? Richard Mollica has spent more than thirty years helping victims of trauma. Now he draws from hundreds of inter­views, years of research, and his counseling experience to show us a new way of helping people overcome their pain. The key to this? People have an inherent ability to heal them­selves. And the lessons we can learn from the survivors of such trials and extreme situations can even teach us how to cope better with everyday life.

Here is a passionate, humanitarian voice of hope in a cruel and violent world, telling us all we can do more than survive--we can find strength and healing no matter what we have experienced.

Author Notes

RICHARD F. MOLLICA, MD, is a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry and director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at Massachusetts General Hospital . He holds an MAR from Yale Divinity School and is a Fulbright New Century Scholar. The recipient of many honors and awards, including the APA Human Rights Award, he lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As director and cofounder of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, Mollica has born witness to the devastating consequences of the most unspeakable acts of violence humans have conceived. Furthermore, he has seen firsthand how victims of inhumanity have found the inner strength to overcome life-altering trauma with renewed faith and have even regained humor and optimism. After a slow start, Mollica's book reaches a passionate peak as he relates his clients' experiences in the prison camps of the Khmer Rouge, as Bosnian genocide survivors, and as victims of domestic violence. When he describes self-healing techniques, including verbalizing one's own story and the importance of faith, he speaks from the wisdom of his practice not as a healer as much as a guide for those on the road to wellness. His empowering message is that the invisible wounds left by violence are not intractable, that people can and will persevere, and he offers a handful of the necessary skills. --Donna Chavez Copyright 2006 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mollica breaks with what he says is the conventional wisdom that torture victims are untreatable. In limpid prose, Mollica, director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, celebrates instead "the capacity of persons to recover from violent events and to engage in self-healing." He explains how his clinic offers traumatized refugees to America housing, emotional support, counseling in their own language and participation in therapeutic self-healing programs. Demonstrating the importance of cultural sensitivity, especially to language, and the significant healing power of attuned listening to the "trauma story," Mollica writes: "Survivors must be allowed to tell their stories their own way. We must not burden them with theories, interpretations, or opinions, especially if we have little knowledge of their cultural and political background." Relating harrowing survivor stories from Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and the World Trade Center, among others, Mollica describes the psychological effects of humiliation, cultural annihilation and sexual violence, showing how victims "suffer a divide in their conscious minds" between hope and despair. Mollica advocates moral and emotional discipline in both healer and patient. Passionately endorsing a humanitarian, holistic and culturally sensitive approach to healing, Mollica persuades with pertinent reference to contemporary neuroscience and to ancient and non-Western healing practices. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

According to a 2004 World Refugee Survey publication, seven million refugees worldwide have been warehoused in camps for more than a decade. Mollica (psychiatry, Harvard Medical Sch.) proposes a new paradigm for treating such traumatized people, drawing on research and more than 30 years of caring for victims of extreme violence in Southeast Asia, Bosnia, and elsewhere. He believes that self-healing is the key to recovery, a concept that sounds simple but involves a more complex program of reempowerment than traditional self-help. Chapters cover such topics as the dynamics of humiliation, the trauma story, the art of recovery and effective storytelling, and dreams as a component of the recovery process. Specific techniques for self-healing as demonstrated in a class for Cambodian refugees are also provided. Overall, Mollica criticizes medical arrogance, ineffective relief agencies, and activists who overemphasize the legal aspects of human rights violations. This passionately written book contains many moving stories of recovery from traumatic stress, and the therapeutic model seems humane and promising. Recommended for academic and specialized collections in mental health and counseling. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/06.] Antoinette Brinkman, MLS, Evansville, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1Striking Out on a New PathALTHOUGH WE ALL KNOW that suffering is a universal human experience, the modern world still does not know how to speak about and understand the terrible experiences that human beings inflict on each other every day. Because of the horror and disbelief associated with human-on-human violence, it is easy to slide into a cynical attitude that nothing can be done to prevent this violence or to recover from it. One reason for this is that the major harms caused by human aggression are invisible wounds. While physical scars can be identified and accounted for by medical science, psychological, spiritual, and existential injuries remain hidden.I have spent the past twenty-five years caring for people who have experienced human aggression on a societal scale, as refugees, victims of torture or terrorism, and survivors of war. My experiences reveal a new way of thinking about human aggression and the healing of the physical and emotional damage caused by violence. Major insights, which I call scientific epiphanies or revelations, occurred as I interacted with my patients. I proceeded to investigate these conclusions scientifically and, when they were proven valid, to integrate them into my clinical care. These revelations form the basis for the healing practices advocated in this book.My pathway to this work was a circuitous one. Educated in a technical high school with an engineering curriculum of physics, chemistry, and math, I discovered early on that science does not address the moral and humanistic issues of society. These matters are better addressed by the humanities and arts. Although I had never met a doctor except during routine physical examinations, in college I majored in chemistry and religion, fantasizing that in medicine I could apply my interests in science, religion, philosophy, and the arts to better the human condition. While in medical school in New Mexico, I worked in the remote Hispanic villages of northern New Mexico and the Indian reservations of Zuni and Jemez Pueblo, serving poor patients within a rich cultural and natural environment. Subsequently I undertook residency training in psychiatry while simultaneously pursuing an advanced degree in religion and philosophy. Divinity school provided the moral compass for my medical and scientific skills, as well as for my future work with survivors of extreme violence. My interests in the arts and literature have also informed my work, yielding metaphorical insights to mysteries that are beyond the abilities of science and medicine to explain.A NEW CLINICWhen I arrived at Harvard as a young doctor in the early 1980s, I knew that I wanted to provide the highest quality of medical and psychiatric care to the poorest people in my community, in spite of financial and political barriers. Looking around the Greater Boston area for those who most needed help, I found that newly arrived refugees from Southeast Asia were both extremely poor and almost t Excerpted from Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World by Richard F. Mollica All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Striking Out on a New Pathway
Chapter 2 The Trauma Story
Chapter 3 Humiliation
Chapter 4 The Power of Self-Healing
Chapter 5 Storytelling as a Healing Art
Chapter 6 Good Dreams and Bad Dreams
Chapter 7 Social Instruments of Healing
Chapter 8 The Call to Health
Chapter 9 Society as Healer

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