Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Children's Books for Therapy

After attending an inspiring training on play therapy last week, I have really been reexamining how I and my team conduct therapy with our clients. In the "high-energy" setting of daytreatment, it is easy to get focused primarily managing behaviors, attempting to scratch the surface of the paperwork pile, and essentially just try to get through the day without someone getting punched out or seriously physically injured. It seems like this focus increases in the winter months when the therapists are feeling the seasonal affect changes as well as the kids. It's not a great time.

After listening to Paris Goodyear-Brown's stories, techniques and tips on how to help clients succeed in treatment through play therapy, I had several realizations.

#1. I remembered why I am in this field. Therapy with kids is where I am drawn. It excites and inspires me.

#2. I have been letting the environment of my job have too much influence over how I conduct therapy with my clients. That needs to change!

#3. I have a multitude of skills that I bring to the table. For the purpose of this post, the focus will be on my organizing and planning abilities. I excel at both, to a point that if I lose sight of what my goal and purpose is with a particular client or group if my lists, sub-lists and sub-sub-lists are not current and put in some sort of meaningful order.

Being a therapist, especially in my setting, requires that I put on the following hats all in a given day (or on an hourly, or minute-to-minute basis): group and individual therapist, coach, nutritionist, life-skills teacher, social skills teacher, caregiver (this should never be the focus, but is occasionally necessary),  reading/writing teacher, conflict mediator, care coordinator, secretary, message carrier...the list goes on.

That is a very long list, and is reflective of my harried emotional state at the end of many days. Then I remembered a novel thing: planning! If I am a teacher of many different sorts, I should look at what teachers do after they go home at night. "Lesson" planning for group, individual sessions and skills work. I constantly walk a fine line of doing my job and my work leeching into every aspect of my life in an unhealthy way. My resolution, however, is the following: Only work on researching and planning for treatment, activities, etc at home. I really love doing this part, and there is not time during the day to do it at the office. Now, that means I must have a boundary around how much time I commit to this endeavor per day/week. I don't know what that is yet, but I will figure it out.

As part of my planning sessions, I spent part of this very snowy snow day (the first in a year and eight months of working at my job!) compiling a list of children's books with therapeutic topics to use in groups during our reading (therapy nerd term: bibliotherapy) day. During these days I read a book to the kids who then reflect on the message behind the topic and apply it to their current lives or situations. Sometimes the most they are aware of is that Dr. Seuss uses really weird words. But we persevere, and I use my overdeveloped thinking on the spot skills to relay that, "Yes, Dr. Seuss does use really weird words and pictures. What do you think people thought of him in a time that everything was "proper" and much more structured? It took a lot of courage to give his strong messages in a fun way!"...and on I go.

Although I can think on the spot rather quickly with no child the wiser, I prefer to have a structure in place. That structure is reflected in my list. I have a bunch more books at the office to add to this compilation, and hope to get all the Berenstain Bears books someday. I use the suggestion of ages 4 and up very generously. These books are just as much for me as my 9-12 year olds. I will be updating this list and adding more all the time. Please write suggestions of any books with therapeutic topics that you may have! I'm grateful for all the information I can get my hands on! I also have the PDF file of the book list (my techie skills are not enough to upload a PDF online). If you would like a copy, you can direct message me at my twitter account JillEHDamron with your email address. Happy reading!


  1. I love lesson planning, general planning, and organization of the classroom and tools/papers much more now. I can even say I enjoy these tasks which is a great thing because without it, I'm sunk!
    However, I also enjoy the spontaneous creativity part of teaching so it really depends on the personality and needs of the whole class. Some classes or groups of kids really thrive on structure while others thrive with more loose, creative structure.
    Thanks for the list. It will help with next year's class!

  2. I really like both too! There will never be a lack of spontaneity at my job, so basic structure is a must before chaos erupts ;-)

  3. I am not sure if it would specifically help, but I recently learned that Jamie Lee Curtis (from Halloween and Activia!) writes awesome kids books.

    "It's Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel"

    "I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem"

    Were particularly highly recommended. :)

    1. Thank you for those suggestions! I really like Jamie Lee Curtis. I'll check those out and add them to the list :)

  4. Wow, I had no idea there were so many books out there for kids like this! Things have certainly come a long way since I was a kid.