Book Review: Unshame- healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy by Carolyn Spring



Everyone has it


No-one wants to talk about it


But the less we talk about it


The more we have of it
Brene Brown



The author, Carolyn Spring, writes about her 9 years experience of psychotherapy. She focuses on her insights into her shame. Carolyn experienced extreme traumatic abuse during her childhood and has used her recovery and the knowledge she has acquired during and since this to support others. She tours with her training seminars supporting therapists, like myself and has researched, created and designed  ‘psycho-educational tools’, books and on-line resources which help survivors of abuse.

In Unshame Carolyn neatly condenses years of therapy into discrete learning experiences, ranging from managing her dissociation to learning to trust present day experience.


Carolyn’s clarity of thought comes through in her writing. As a therapist I have often struggled to fully understand how to help overcome shame. Having read Unshame I see that the functions of shame; to avoid connecting with others, avoid feeling worthy of help and keeping emotionally isolated are all quite disabling for any survivor, making  recovery from shame very difficult to even contemplate let alone begin.

In her book Carolyn cleverly incorporates psychotherapeutic concepts, such as attachment, boundaries, pros and cons of physical contact, directive or non-directive work and what behavioural boundaries to apply. For the psychotherapist reader this can help consolidate or challenge their personal choice regarding working with clients suffering Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This may put some readers off, but I felt it really useful to hear how Carolyn experienced different counsellors and their approach to her dissociating. Carolyn writes of  her journey understanding her DID; it being an all consuming experience, of which she would have no recall, to one that she is aware of and can take control. For Carolyn it feels invaluable that she had a counsellor be her witness to explore dissociation with her.

I expect for the reader, if a survivor of trauma, Carolyn’s ability and courage to describe her emotions, confusion, and apparent contrary thinking will help them to recognise this in themselves, perhaps providing hope and faith in their desire and ability to recover. The ability to move from black and white thinking; accepting the greyness and uncertainty of life can be hard for anyone.

Throughout Unshame I can see the importance for Carolyn to have permission to feel, act and think the way she did, at no time was her way of being  ‘wrong’. The importance of recognising it as unhelpful ‘now’ but useful ‘then’ was a constant theme. It is also made clear that shame and symptoms of DID are not anything to do with her ‘not being right’ but a necessary and neurological consequence of trauma, fear and lack of attuned attachment.

Carolyn briefly refers to grounding techniques and the different zones of arousal, green (no arousal, able to be logical), amber (the nervous system getting aroused, emotional and less clarity of thought) to red (aroused, likely to dissociate, or freeze). These ideas are described in greater detail in her teaching videos and seminars.( Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors/PODS )

Also in the book Carolyn covers forgiveness, self compassion and vulnerability. It is humbling being allowed to witness her thinking and movement towards these states.


This book is suitable for professionals and survivors of trauma; those with DID.

As a psychotherapist I benefited most from reading how Carolyn grappled with her thoughts, and the insights that arose. I did a lot of reflecting regarding the therapy I offer my clients, reaffirming that trusting process is both important for therapist and client. It is not a book which adds to knowledge that is already available, such as the work of Babette Rothschild in particular, but it does demonstrate it working in practice.

I cannot write from the clients or survivor’s perspective. I feel all peoples experiences will be different. One message to take home is as a survivor you have not done anything wrong. Nothing, absolutely nothing.


Unshame- healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy  By Carolyn Spring.  Carolyn Spring Publishing (2019)

Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors/PODS

Carolyn Spring

The Body Remembers- The psycho-physiology of trauma and trauma treatment By Babette Rothschild.  W.W Norton and Company LTD (2000)

The Body Remembers volume 2 -Revolutionising trauma treatment By Babette Rothschild.  W.W Norton and Company LTD (2017)

Mindfulness for Beginners-Short Course

Mindfulness-A short Course

Mindfulness is  learning to be more present in the here and now. Or conversely it is about recognising when we are caught up in our head, thoughts, perceptions or in our emotions and feelings.

When we recognise where our attention is we begin to notice the impact this has on our decision making.


Mindfulness for Beginners

The first course ran in June 2019 and the participants each had different reasons for attending; those who came knowing mindfulness was meant to be good for anxiety, and those who had been told it would be good for them and those who were just curious.

The flexible nature of the course allowed each session to evolve depending on the questions that arose, and the reactions to peoples’ experiences of meditating.

In Session One it was acknowledged that very few people had meditated before, thought of doing so was in itself a little anxiety creating. But the first step into mindfulness almost happened before we knew it. On arriving and settling onto our chairs we were encouraged to just pause and notice the thoughts and business in our heads. We were then encouraged to let these go, knowing we had chosen be in this room with these people.  Session one offered insights into Mindfulness as it has developed in the Western world and also how it is part of Buddhism.  There was an activity which encouraged us to notice how we respond to senses, thoughts and perceptions.

The second session was a little bit more personal. The participants had been encouraged to try meditating at home and so we could ask about the ‘apps’ available and be honest about how hard it was to find time to meditate. We were then taught a little about the biology of anxiety and that it is a normal response to danger. It was useful to notice how thoughts can cause the same anxiety response as real danger.

Also in this second meeting we were encouraged to reflect on familiar habits we might have when we feel anxious or emotional. For example some people will get angry, or want to blame others whilst others can have the opposite response and feel they can never do anything right and become silent and withdrawn. There was a longer meditation. 

We could make suggestions as to what to cover in the last week and people wanted to understand more about why we as humans get stressed and anxious. We learnt how thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and emotions are all inter-linked. It was also helpful to understand that our brain motivates us in different ways and sometimes we over-ride this because we think other things are more important. We work hard to get recognition and money to buy pleasurable things but this might be at the expense of being with friends and family who provide us with safety, comfort and security.

I thoroughly enjoyed leading this course and sharing my knowledge of Mindfulness.

We were provided with handouts and reference material, and told how this course is a good start before embarking on the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.

Useful resources


  • Wherever you go there you are by Jon Kabat-Zin (2004)
  • Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world By Mark Williams and Danny Penman (2011)

For anyone interested in the science behind mindfulness-

  • The practical neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain, happiness, love and wisdom. By Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius (2009)






Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): An 8 week course in Brighouse

Emma Dunn-MBSR Course Tutor

I live and work in Rastrick and am excited to bring this well established, evidenced based mindfulness programme to Brighouse.

I was a participant in an MBSR 8 week course in early 2016, not quite sure what to expect, but hoping this course would satisfy my appetite for meditation. I convinced myself it was about learning enough mindfulness to help my clients; I work as a psychotherapist. However it has proven to be just the beginning of a journey into mindfulness and meditation.

In May 2016 I was then excited to be able to proceed to complete a Mindfulness Instructor Course and late in 2016 started studying with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) at Bangor University to complete my training to become a teacher of MBSR.

The training of Mindfulness teachers is now under the administration of the Mindfulness network

There is a voluntary code of practice, to which teachers are expected to adhere.

What is MBSR

MBSR is part of a group of evidenced based treatments that use aspects of the Buddhist philosophy, in particular  meditation to help us understand how we react to things, and to be more present in our lives, not lost in thought.

In the early 1970’s Buddhist monks were invited to have their brains scanned and the results showed differences in their brain structure compared to people who did not meditate. The differences where a stark contrast to the brains of those who are anxious and over reactive to thoughts and experience. The science of meditation began to grow.  An American doctor, who also meditated, Jon Kabat-Zinn began treatment groups for patients who did not seem to be improving with conventional medicine. He began with heart patients, those with skin conditions and chronic pain. His work is well documented in his book Full Catastrophe Living.

Researchers at Oxford University heard of this work and having completed the 8 week MBSR under Jon Kabat-Zinn themselves they then created their MBCT treatment programme which is adopted by NICE as a treatment for the prevention of relapse in depression. Many new programmes are being developed and researched to help with specific emotional issues for example for those with cancer, or addiction.

MBSR Treatment Programme

The programme content and learning is the same wherever you do the course. I will provide my personal experience and group members can share their own stories so each programme will be slightly different. There are lessons and meditations that are always in every MBSR course. There is also mindful movement, similar to yoga.

The programme is 8 weeks long and includes a day of silent meditation. There are meditation practices in each session that may be up to 40 minutes long. Participants are given homework, this is always to do a meditation but may also include work related to a particular lesson. This is often a piece of reflection.

The course progresses through each session so it is important that all classes are attended. The day of silence helps to consolidate a meditation practice and may follow a theme that the participants can chose. There is no extra cost and you will need to provide your own food and drinks.

Participants are encouraged to share and this is often done in pairs. Sharing can have a profound effect, just knowing you are not suffering alone, or even that everyone struggles with ‘meditation’… such as how to do it…and what is meant to happen during meditation. Confidentiality is important this is agreed at the beginning of the course.

Who is MBSR for?


Mindfulness is for anyone. The course content is directed at understanding and relieving stress, stress is in everyone’s life to some extent. Some stresses are helpful and often described as motivating. However  if you are under stress or have anxiety and it is impacting on your life and relationships MBSR is especially for you.

If you are starting to meditate, you are curious about mindfulness or someone suggested it to you this 8 week programme help you establish a routine, gain insights into your own habits and interpretations of the world and increase your sense of well being.

What next

If you wish to apply for the next course information will be available through Mindfulness at Insightfulness on Facebook

Or contact me at

Or use the form at the bottom of my Mindfulness page

I can also run the course for organisations, schools or other work places.