So here is what I know as summer is coming to a close. The thought that I had for fall is a distant dream, the thought of “well by fall this will all be back to normal”. Turns out - I was completely wrong. It seems like some of the changes may be sticking around for waaayyy longer than any of us thought.
I also know that there is absolutely nothing uniform about how we all are approaching fall and the return to school. Even in my small community things are widely varying from school to school. Some are going hybrid, some all back, and others completely distant.
What I also know is that Minnesota recently enacted a mask mandate statewide that will impact children going back to school. All of it is tough. Staying home. Wearing masks. Distance learning. Going back to school. Every. Single. Bit. I also know, we can do hard things.
I was searching for something to help make meaning for children that were going back to school and would need to wear masks. Aaannd you know I am always down for a good metaphor so here goes!
Okay, so I LOVE the movie Finding Nemo. Trauma, adventure, healing, danger, reunification, growth…it has it all! One of the scenes that I keep coming back to is the scene near the end of the movie where Nemo is just reunited with his father after a whole movie of searching and the big nets come down from above and Dory is scooped up in the finishing net. WHAT! WHAT?!? This is the dramatic tension that only Pixar and Disney can produce.
Okay, so what happens next *spoiler alert*. Nemo uses the problem solving skills learned from the dentist’s office tank to rescue Dory. He says “swim down”, because he knows that working together will help not only Dory, but everyone. All together they swim down breaking the net arm off the boat (I’m sure it has a technical name but I don’t know what it is) and the net is set free! All the fish go spilling back into the ocean. Sweet freedom! See all the action for yourself HERE!
So you might be asking….what does this all have to do with masks? Great question! Sometimes it feels like COVID-19, social distancing, masks, sheltering in place, and a complete disruption of life as we know it miiiiiight feel like the distress and restriction of being in a net, trapped, not going where you want to go, and doing the things that you might like to do. Okay - am I the only one who got a little emotional watching that clip in the midst of COVID-19?
AND we also know that the way to get through this is together. Everyone playing their part – scientists, policy makers, and yes even young people who are wearing masks at school and out and about. This can launch into a good discussion of what “being in the net” feels like for them as well as all the key players. For those artistic kids you can launch into some really great metaphor drawing. Also, problem solving what skills the child has (like Nemo) to get through this! This conversation can help young people feel a part of something. Also – any time we can introduce metaphor or video clips to session, I’M IN!
What metaphors are you using to talk to your young people about wearing masks? How are you talking about this with your clients? Drop a comment below to share!
How does a play stove for under $1.00 sound? Pretty awesome right? Have no fear, with this FREE play therapy kitchen printable HERE and this $0.99 tote from Target you are on your way! Imagine the sizzling sound of food cooking on the stove and the beeps and clicks as all the buttons are pressed. Oh the sound effects of play!
There are so many essentials that are needed in a playroom and if you are playing on the go, stocking more than one play room, or creating individual play therapy kits for clients your budget can get out of hand pretty quickly. This low cost printable kitchen set up might be just what your play room needs!
What I also like about these DIY kitchen sets is they also double as food storage or other toy storage when you are not playing and the inside can be used as an oven...or whatever the child would like it to be! Isn't that the deal with Child Centered Play Therapy?
One pro tip would be to make sure that you put a layer of packing tape over the entire surface so the sliding pots and pans and sweet little fingers don't tear up your stove. But, the great news is if they do, you just print another copy and tape that puppy right back on!
This free printable comes with three full sheets of play kitchen cutouts in different sizes and shapes to fit whatever container or tote is going to become your new kitchen!
Oh, and if you are worried about whether kids will actually get into something that is a little DIY - my son (who was happy to be mommies helper) absolutely LOVED it, dug out his pots and play food, and complete with sound effects got right to it!
Want to know more about setting up a playroom? Check out this training HERE!
Grab the FREE Play Therapy Kitchen Download HERE!
What are your favorite free or low cost play therapy toys? Drop a comment below!
I don't know what your current relationship with Tele-Play is or who needs to hear this but, we need to find gratitude in our Tele-Play practice. Some play therapists LOVE it - they have found a platform that works well in serving their clients and feels like it is a better fit for their lives. I definitely know the commute of Tele-Play has its perks! Others are burnt out and completely over it! Wherever you land, like I said HERE, I think Tele-Play is here to stay, at least in some form.
I like to think about gratitude as one of the antidotes to burnout. An article published by the Greater Good Science Center from UC Berkley has linked workplace gratitude to "more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers." Doesn't that sound like something we could all use?
I would encourage you to sit down and create a list of things you are grateful for within Tele-Play. Really dive in and consider what that looks like for you. Okay, I'll go first.
I am grateful for clients who are vulnerable enough to allow me to enter their lives in a new way. To allow me to be present in their homes when life isn't always perfect, neat or picked up. I am grateful that allowing me into this space has actually lowered defenses and allowed them to be more comfortable than in our office setting. I am grateful that I get to see dogs, cats, and exotic pets, their favorite toys, and the space they feel most comfortable. This is a side of young people we don't often get to see.
I am grateful for the ability to allow clients to keep therapy commitments when life happens. When families go to the cabin, to stay with grandparents, or have relocated I am able to continue to support them in their mental health journey. There are less barriers to logging on to services and even if someone forgets usually a quick phone call leaves us minutes away from our session instead of the 20-30+ minute process to get out the door and into session. I am grateful that when I relocated there were some clients that could have the choice to keep their therapy consistent.
I am grateful for the lessons I have learned that less can be more. Without the security of my play room and variety of carefully selected toys I can still do meaningful therapeutic work. I am grateful that Tele-Play has allowed me to get clear about what I need, what my clients may need, and that beautiful therapeutic work and healing can be done with a small selection of toys, like I talk about HERE and HERE.
I am grateful, in a practical sense, that Tele-Play has allowed me to keep my practice alive and continue to serve those struggling on my caseload. AND children are getting better, progressing on their goals, healing, and are able to terminate, just like my in office practice. In COVID-19 the only other option would be to cease therapy all together OR expose myself and clients to significant safety risks before having all the appropriate information. Both of those are undesirable to say the least.
Lastly I am grateful to have witnessed resilience - within myself and the teams in both of my practices. It was amazing to watch therapists get clear, form plans, and execute what has been (for me) likely one of the most significant, chaotic, and scary transitions of my career. Within 48 hours to go from seeing clients in office, business as usual (with more sanitizing and cleaning), to a full telehealth operation with forms sent out, orientation info given, and clients re-scheduled was amazing. I am also grateful to see the resilience within myself. If I can practice Tele-Play therapy in less than a 5 foot by 5 foot space I can literally do therapy anywhere. This re-frame of having done hard things in my practice will carry with me my entire career.
Now, It's your turn. What are you grateful for in Tele-Play? Drop a comment below!
The impact of family bonding activities are enormous. Spending time together as a family, okay to be more clear enjoyable time, has so many benefits for both children and their families! These benefits include a stronger emotional bond between parents and/or caregivers and their children, improved communication, improved performance in school, and decreased behavioral problems, according to an article HERE from South University. Other benefits according to THIS article include include higher levels of self esteem, reduction of stress, development of conflict resolution skills, increased adaptability, and strengthened resilience.
I also am very interested in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they play a role in the lives of children that present in our offices. I don't know about you, but when it comes to ACEs I can feel pretty out of control and a bit helpless. Although therapy can support children and families, provide a healing environment, and attempt to buffer further ACEs, therapy cannot change the ACEs that have happened or inevitably are happening or will happen.
BUT did you know that research is showing that positive childhood experiences can mitigate the effects of ACEs? Research shows that higher numbers of positive experiences in childhood were associated with 72% lower odds of having depression or poor mental health as an adult.
Positive childhood experiences were defined as being able to "talk with their family about their feelings, felt that their families stood by them during difficult times, had at least two nonparent adults who took genuine interest in them, whether they felt safe and protected by an adult in their home, felt supported by friends and felt a sense of belonging in high school, and participated in their community" according to NPR. The experiences in the everyday - not things like winning the spelling bee, getting all A's, or making the game winning shot.
Okay - now that is something I can get behind! As therapists there is definitely work we can do to foster these positive experiences as well as increased bonding in relationships. I don't know about you, but this is something that nearly every client I work with could benefit from! I also know that when I introduce up family bonding time in session it usually brings up overwhelm with parents and caregivers. But when? But how? We are already doing so much!
I like to meet families where they are at and often brainstorm what free or low cost activities they could incorporate into their schedule. I also get serious in session to set a specific time and date that they are committing to engaging in the activity. This dramatically increases follow through vs saying something like "sometime in the next week make sure you do this activity."
I created a free download HERE that you can share with families to help get them unstuck and see what's possible with things they likely have around the house OR make things they are doing anyway a fun activity and a departure from the everyday. I share 12 of the most flexible family activities to take the overwhelm out of figuring out just what to DO together.
Below are some of my favorites for meal time - I mean the family has to eat am I right? Check out these activities below!
Family Meal Night
Family meal night is one of the most classic ways families can come together and bond. However, THIS family meal night is completely different!
Coming Together: Family Course Meal:
First create a list of courses you would like for your meal. This list can include items like appetizer, salad, entrée, side dish (can have multiple), drink, and dessert. Cut out each of these items and put them in a cup. Each member of the family takes turns drawing until each member has at least one course. Families can also decide to limit the amount of courses to the amount of family members so each member only has one. Then, it is up to each family member to research, plan, and make (all on their own) the recipe. You may have an age limit that the challenge is for 3 or 4 and up, have the little ones be in charge of picking the beverage, setting the table, or some other sort of age appropriate task.
For the older children you need to make sure that they can achieve all steps in the recipe safely. Maybe this means they need supervision sliding the dish in or out of the oven or some help with the knives – BUT have you seen Master Chef Junior? Most kids can do more than we give them credit for. This also means that your 6 year old’s “main course” might be sandwiches that she can make herself or your 5 year old’s side dish might be frozen French fries from the store he pops in the oven.
The thing to note as parents or guardians is to support your child in creating something independently (as possible) that they are proud of. Maybe the fries are a bit, umm, crispy. That is fine (as long as the kitchen isn't on fire) it is the process and the bonding that is the most important part!
You can choose to have a theme for your meal like picnic, Italian, finger foods, etc. OR have everyone pick anything that might be on the table. An addition to this is that each family member needs to give one compliment about each course.
Battle of the Recipes:
Families break off into two or more teams. Together as a family a recipe is chosen – it could be tacos, lasagna, curry, cake – any sort of recipe. Then, each team researches what they feel the best recipe will be, make a list of ingredients and get shopping.
Families may decide to have one team go one day/meal and the next team goes the other or to have both meals at the same time. Then, it’s time to cook, bake, and/or prepare. Each team works together to prepare their meal and then it’s time to sit down at the table for the tasting or just plain chowing down! After the meal each family member rates each meal (using the score cards in the download) on categories such as preparation, taste, temperature, etc. At the end scores are totaled up and a winner is announced!
Unique challenges to add could be staying under a certain dollar limit for a meal OR adding a time limit that the meal needs to be created. You could also require the use of a specific ingredient. Winners may get something (maybe a family Battle Of The Recipes trophy or medal – get some inspiration HERE) or just bragging rights until the next battle!
I love these two ideas for families bonding over food, also being mindful that food may be a stressor for families such as with members who struggle with disordered eating or where mealtime is a struggle for other reasons. It is always good to be mindful of issues like these to brainstorm what activities may or may not be a good fit for certain families.
However, the families that are appropriate for these activities have reported so much enjoyment and FUN had with one another. Like true highlight of their week! It is the fantastic pivot of making something that can at times be mundane and routine a bonding moment with lasting memories.
Download the worksheet bundle HERE!
Check out the free download HERE that you can pass to the families you are working with to get them thinking about and excited about family bonding time! It can take the pressure off of parents having to do the research and spend hours scouring Pinterest or google to find the right activity. Oh, and maybe you want to use some of these ideas for your family too! I know some of these are in the rotation at my house right now!!
Drop a comment below about a favorite bonding activity you recommend to families!
Healing happens in relationships. Right brain to right brain. With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life it can be a challenge to stop, take a breath, and enjoy one another. There is so much pressure for parents and caregivers to have a clean house, get dinner on the table, cart kids where they need to go, and regulate themselves that there is often little time left over for anything else.
The importance of family bonding time, just enjoying one another, is why I often try to meet parents and caregivers where they are at to help support them in creating this quality time with children. Relationships also happen in the tiny miniature moments in the every day...all those little moments add up to big, meaningful, and strong relationships.
Okay but back to the everyday stuff - you know, the practices, play dates, grocery shopping, meals on the table....when exactly is there time for bonding? Families are busy enough as it is! I know I often hear this in my practice and experience it in my own life. I wanted to share some of the little ways parents and caregivers can find meaningful connection with their children while doing life.
First what we know is that a habit is easier to create when you pair it with an existing habit. Hope is not a strategy. I promise if families (ahhhem adults) are not planning for connection time they will not be able to show up as the best version of themselves that they would like to be in their relationships with their children.
So, what does that mean for families? Find a time where you are naturally in the same space as your child and add on a connection habit. Some favorite times include on the drive to school, the drive home, at dinner time, or right as a child is going to bed.
It is best when connecting a parent or guardian's main priority is their child. No listening to the important story on the radio or the news OR scrolling your phone AND trying to connect at the same time. One of the biggest complaints from parents is how young people are glued to media. Well....sometimes young people say the same thing about parents and guardians too. However, one of the benefits of connecting in the car, is that sometimes watching the road can be just enough of a distraction to make young people's defenses come down and really open up.
So some basics, although I feel it is important to note, are those classic connecting skills. The ones we learn as therapists and can teach to parents and guardians. You know, eye contact, paraphrasing, identifying feelings, having empathy, making sure your nonverbals as communicating understanding, asking open ended questions.
Okay, now that parents and guardians have the time down for when they will connect, some basic connection skills, WHAT the heck do they do to create connection? Most of the time the question of "how was your day?" falls flat with a "good" and a shrug. Or worse yet - the sigh and eye roll.
Below is a list of my favorite questions, comments, and rituals to create connection in those little moments of everyday:
I hope you have some new ideas to share with the parents, guardians, and families that you work with! What are your favorite connecting questions? Drop a comment below!
One of the things that I love about Tele-Play therapy is the creativeness that comes out of necessity! One of the many activities I have been enjoying doing with telemental-health is playing card games virtually as a Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy activity for my sessions and admittedly I have really settled in to playing the "old fashioned" way - with real cards.
What you need for this activity is to each have the same set of cards or same game at each location. I have been surprised to find that most families have UNO (one of my faves) but nearly everyone has a regular plain old deck of cards. Now, mind you, they might have creative or ummmm interesting designs on the back – and it has become one of my favorite parts to check out and compare designs.
When you are playing cards virtually, instead of laying the card you are playing face up on the discard pile, you hold it up to the screen on your turn until the next person "plays" their card. Then, when the next person has their turn they hold up the card to the screen while you select your next play. Pretty low tech, but works extremely well!
I developed the game "Strengths and Struggles" (or you could call it strengths and stumbles....sunshine and struggles, really anything) based on the game of Crazy 8's. Not sure how to play? Here are the instructions - straight from Bicycle Cards! I also don't keep score at the end I just start a new round.
So here is where the therapy part comes in - every time you change the symbol you need to say something according to the "therapy rules". If you change from red to black you need to say a strength you have and if you change from black to red you need to say a struggle or a stumble.
Let's define strength and struggle a bit deeper. A strength can be a trait, characteristic, choice they made that benefited themselves or others, a choice they made that was hard but they did it anyway, and on and on! Maybe they cleaned their room all on their own! Maybe they let their sibling sit in the front seat even though it was really their turn. And just maybe they worked really hard and completed that art project or story they were working on!
A struggle or a stumble is a time where they didn't make a choice that worked for themselves or someone else. This could be a time they didn't do a chore and lied about it, a time they got frustrated at their sibling and yelled, or a time when had anxiety thoughts going over and over in their head and weren't able to reach for a skill. The great thing about struggles and stumbles are they are GREAT opportunities to learn and getting up is part of the journey.
Now, here's the thing. YOU as the therapist also have to follow the therapy rules on your turn. This is an excellent opportunity for modeling! You want to make sure that your examples are kid friendly. You miiiight not want to use things that are too adult or will go right over a child's head like taxes or mortgage payments. You also might want to soften things a bit. If you got angry in the car about being cut off and started yelling (like really loud), you would definitely not detail the whole incident. Keep the focus on the child and what they might benefit from hearing. You might soften to feeling angry and not using your skills of deep breathing as a stumble. Most kids can relate to that!
For some, you may need to brainstorm a list of things you might say for successes and struggles to avoid the blank stare look and confusion when it is your turn. That totally misses the point of validation, normalization, and modeling that can come with this activity!
There are so many great moments to introduce skills, challenge cognitive distortions, normalize, and provide psychoeducation (among other things) with this activity! AND you can flex it, bend it, and get creative! Sometimes children develop the best set of unique "therapy rules" - so it is definitely an adaptable approach!
What are your favorite "therapy rules" for therapeutic games? Let me know in the comments below!
If anyone asked me what my practice was going to look like for Play Therapy and EMDR in 2020 this wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. By this I mean – not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be doing therapy 100% online with clients and spending a good chunk of that time in a makeshift office in my garage. If you know my story you know that telehealth was part of my practice before COVID-19, BUT nowhere near all of it, and the shift to all the activities, consents, procedures, and paperwork all at once was difficult!
As we are all settling in to Tele-Play for some of us this will be the platform that we use for the foreseeable future. For others integration back into the office and sanitizing toys, ohhhh ALL the sanitizing, is the next chapter. I think we can all agree that Tele-Play is here to stay in one form or another – either for clients who aren’t comfortable and/or have a pre-existing condition where they do not want to risk being in the office or *the way I hope it will be* integrated into normal practice as a way to increase consistency when life happens. Sibling sick and can’t be left at home? Tele-play! Unable to make it into the office because of work schedule? Tele-play! AND if you are from a snowy state like me – blizzard? Tele-play!
So inevitably you have run into some of the difficulties, mishaps, and frustrations that can happen with Tele-Play. Maybe you have gone on a bike ride with your client, jumped on the trampoline, had a tour of their whole house, or had to set a limit about not taking you into the bathroom.
A recent blog comment by Ashley reads “What if they run out of the room? What if they turn off the camera/program? What if they take the device and go on other programs? What if they don’t listen to what I say? [When a client leaves the room with permission] will she come back?” These are all great questions and I felt they deserved some more thorough attention!
Okay let’s break it down!
What if they run out of the room? What if they leave with permission but don’t come back?
This is where policies and procedures are key! All of these procedures are discussed in detail with clients and parents before starting sessions. Did this sentence just make you anxious because you have no idea what I am talking about? No worries – you can introduce and orient to these at any time!
So one of my rules is I always have my business cell phone within arms reach. I have whatever parent/guardian is with the child at the time of the session’s phone number. We have agreement that they will be able to be reached immediately at any point in the session. I also have an agreement that if a session gets interrupted for any reason (tech down, the kid running out of the room) and cannot resume within two minutes (longer for things like going to the bathroom) I call the parents and have them support re-engagement.
What does re-engagement look like? It depends! One of the biggest things to consider is, if this were your office how would you handle these behaviors? Some therapists might meet the child where they are and just be present in the waiting room. Other therapists would give the child space. Still others would set a limit stating that choosing to leave the playroom is choosing to end the session and engage with the parent for the last portion.
The key is to work within your theory or framework and identify the function of leaving. For kids that just get excited and distracted sometimes it might work to have a parent camp out outside the door and issue gentle reminders for the child to stay in the room. For others who are dysregulated or have some apprehensions or anxieties about engaging then there are more complex elements to consider. You need to pair with parents and work to have the parent as an external co-regulator for the child.
What if they turn off the camera/program? What if they take the device and go on other programs? What if they don’t listen to what I say?
Now the questions above were about keeping the child in the room, this next set of questions is how to engage with the child when these problems come up during session. I promise you these things will happen – the camera gets turned off, they exit out a program, or they are just plain old playing video games or Minecraft during your session. Ugh.
The first lens I look at is “Is this behavior therapeutic”? Take the example of the child who wants to feel in control, a child who feels distant from you, or a child who feels abandoned. Could play themes come out of turning the camera on and off? You bet! Your theory depends on what you do next – tracking, creating an activity around this dynamic, etc.
Now, this may or may not be different if the child is turning off the camera to hide something. Could this be similar to a client who goes into a tent in your play room and doesn’t want you to see what they are doing? Yes! However, sometime it means a client is doing something they should not be doing both in the playroom and in the context of their home environment. For this type of behavior a limit would need to be set. This might include those policies and procedures of contacting parents and having them create the structure to enforce limits within the session.
Now, there are some ways you can tell if a client could be going on another program. If there are different lights flashing on their face, if their face is close to the screen but they are distracted, their eyes are going back and forth and are not set at a steady gaze that we would expect if they were paying attention to you on the screen, their affect (excitement or defeat) does not match the context of the therapy setting, or if you hear rapid typing. For teens old enough to have a cell phone, this could be looking at their lap frequently. Does this always mean they are on another program? No – unfortunately there is no fool proof way to call out this behavior.
With this, I usually start with a wondering or noticing of what I am observing. Then you can create some tweaks – such as having them sit far enough back where you can see their hands OR having a parent come in to ensure that all other programs are off. I am told that there is a way that a parent can lock the child onto one screen, but honestly I haven’t ever used this method so that might be some digging on your own if you have a client where this is an issue.
Lastly – what if a client just refuses to do what you say? Well…..doesn’t that happen in our offices too? I hope it’s not just me! So - how you handle it depends on your theory! Sometimes this behavior comes from a hypoarousal state where the client doesn’t want to do anything OR sometimes it comes from hyperarousal state and they are having behaviors from a flight/fight response. These behaviors typically may need limits at some point. I tend to pull limits in a bit sooner in Tele-Play due to the potential if there is escalation to need to call parents into the room and the lag that it may take from calling to parents present. This is different from in your office when you can immediately and physically be present with the limit.
Limits might look like “One of the things we cannot do during our time together is break your toys, but you can do almost anything else that you would like!”. I like the limit setting process from the book Child Centered Play Therapy by VanFleet, Sywulak, and Sniscak where after stating the limit (in the example), if the child is not able to comply you state the limit with a warning. If the child still does not comply then you enforce the consequence from the step prior. In Tele-Play this might look like the child’s time during the session ends and you continue the rest of the session as a parenting session.
Wheew! That was a lot AND I hope it got you thinking about how in office troubleshooting of problems can be translated to your Tele-Play sessions! Let me know in the comments what the biggest Tele-Play obstacles you have overcome (without any client information of course!) and how did you do it?
Omu’s stew brings the whole neighborhood to her door. Thick red stew to be exact. The most delicious stew anyone has ever tasted to be more precise.
The community trickles in throughout the day enticed by the most delicious smell, and each time Omu hears a knock she gives! Bowls upon bowls head out her door for the entire day. At the end of the day as Omu goes to grab a bowl for herself it’s all gone. As soon as her heart starts to sink, she hears another knock – everyone has shown back up at her home. Not to take, but to give!
I have fallen in love with this story about giving, community, and togetherness. It is about the gifts that we give others, and when we need it most, how others pour into us. Oh, and the book is BEAUTIFUL too! In case you are wondering – Omu is pronounced AHH-moo and is the Igbo term for “queen”. In the story (and for the author Oge Mora) it means Grandmother.
I created this FREE worksheet bundle and want to show you how I have been using it in sessions with young people! These worksheets are a great fit for Tele-Play, in office sessions, for school based services, or nearly anywhere else you may do therapy! It is great for kids to strengthen their sense of connection, self esteem, sense of contribution to others, and identify how to get needs met!
So this first set can be used in SO many ways. Usually I have a client start and work from the “Filling Up Our Bowls” sheet. They label the big bowl in the middle as themselves. From here they can cut out and paste (or draw their own) bowls of people they pour into – parents, grandparents, guardians, friends, teachers, and YES even their therapists! These bowls are placed around their bowl and I encourage clients to choose color that represents the person they are pouring into. Maybe blue for their brother? OR green for their best friend?
Next to each bowl coach the child to write the way they pour into this person. It could be inside the bowl, around the bowl, coming up like steam – anywhere will do! Could it be that they share their humor, compassion, tech skills, or love for sports? YES!
Then using the same color as the bowl of the person they are focusing on, write with that color inside the child's bowl of how that person pours into them. With the example above, using blue, how does their brother pour into and support them? Is it by always being there to talk? Sharing? Suggesting fun things to do together? AND in green for their best friend, does that person give them compliments, help them with homework, or show compassion?
Sometimes it may make sense to just work off of the “Whose Bowl Do You Fill” worksheet and identify the way the child gives to others. This can be tricky if the child only has a couple of people they believe they pour into OR has more bowls than are created. However, we are play therapists so we adapt – turn it over and create more bowls OR cut a smaller worksheet out of the larger one!
This next worksheet, "Recipe of ME!" can be used in tandem or in place of the first set. Omu draws the entire community in with her delicious smelling, thick, red stew! This worksheet is used to increase self esteem and identify what draws others to the young person you are working with.
For the literal children you could coach them to write words and characteristics that others like and appreciate about them. In metaphor you could have the child draw the ingredients in their version of “thick red stew”. On the outside you could create a recipe card of what each of the ingredients means – do the carrots mean kindness? Are the onions like empathy? Does the salt mean a little sass or humor?
Click HERE to get the free downloadable worksheet bundle! I would SO encourage you to buy this book - it's $15.00 right now on Amazon. Prefer smaller book stores? Find a list of independent Black owned bookstores HERE!
What other activities do you use to help with self esteem, connection, and relationships? Drop a comment below!
PS Want to know why I am so book obsessed lately? I've been living, breathing, and playing with books getting ready for my new bibliotherapy training - check it out HERE !
Books are one of my favorite ways to connect with clients and help them work towards their goals. I like to say that Play Therapy and Bibliotherapy are like chocolate chip cookies and ice cold milk – the perfect match! Or, if you are like me – cream and coffee, Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew to be exact. I am a bit of a book fanatic and it always seems like I am adding “just one more” to the cart. My latest came in the mail last night and I can’t wait to dive in with clients.
Bibliotherapy (the use of books treatment of mental health) is used as a directive play therapy technique that I most often pair with Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy…because, well, that’s my theory! When I’m not doing Child Centered Play Therapy of course, which sometimes might include books because the child can do “almost anything” they would like.
One of the things I absolutely LOVE about Bibliotherapy is it can be combined with so many other directive play therapy approaches depending on your specific theory and the client’s specific goals. Honestly – I have yet to find a topic that is NOT covered by a book. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, waiting for an author to bring it to life!
Bibliotherapy is SO MUCH MORE than taking out a book and reading a story to a child. Bibliotherapy is the use of books in therapy to help children cope with emotional and behavioral problems as well as life changes. Literature is used not only to bring about an interaction between the child and therapist BUT with the child and the book as well. It also pairs the receptive experience of hearing the book with the expressive experience of engaging in a paired directive play therapy activity afterwards. Pretty cool, huh?
There are also two types of bibliotherapy - interactive and reactive. As well as processes to select literature (for your play room in general AND for your specific client) and stages of therapeutic change to look for. In short – it’s complicated BUT when you get the rhythm down SO worth it. My guess is that if you are working with kids and using books you may have some of this down already!
I have been keeping lists of books since my first “real job” as a therapist. I can remember wanting to soak everything in and being in awe of another therapist on my school based team talking about this thing called “Play Therapy”. She would often bring up books that might be useful for the clients I was struggling with so I started a word document, well because I love lists and organizing.
Since then that list has grown exponentially as I add books to my collection, hear about books in consultation, put books on my “most wanted list”, read articles, attend trainings that mention books, and casual amazon browsing. I once heard a therapist say they have over 300 books in their collection - #goals.
As I was compiling that list (over 230 books to be exact) for THIS training, I wanted to share with you some of my most loved books for emotional identification and regulation. I gathered the 70 books that are used and loved by therapists for this work, as I deeply believe that most children can benefit from general emotional regulation work. Click HERE for the free download!
The list includes the general emotional regulation and identification books as well as topics of anger, anxiety, sadness, and jealousy! I think these types of books are the most “bang for your buck” type of books because you can use them with so many different clients.
THEN it’s time to get creative – what directive play therapy activities could you use that will resonate with your clients to help deepen the Bibliotherapy process? Not sure where to start? Check out some inspiration and free resources for using Bibliotherapy and Play Therapy HERE, HERE, and HERE. To get inspired for how to grow your multicultural book collection check out this source list HERE!
Want to dive deeper? Check out my training Bibliotherapy: Healing Children Through Stories and Play Therapy! AND don’t forget to grab your free download for 70 Books for Emotional Regulation and Identification HERE!
We have a serious problem. There is a significant diversity gap in the number of books published about and by People of Color.
Despite making up 38% of the population, in 2016 Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined wrote just 7% of new children’s books. In 2018 books were significantly more likely to be about animals (27%) than that featured Black/African American characters (10%), Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American (7%), Latinx (5%), or American Indian/First Nation (1%) characters.
In 2015? Only 14.2% of children's books featured diverse characters. In 2017 the Cooperative Children’s Book Center breaks it down that of the 3,700 books published that year 25% of books were about People of Color and only 6% of these books had authors or illustrators who were People of Color. This highlights that although there is an increase in books that feature diverse characters, they are not being authored or illustrated by People of Color.
So, what does this mean for Play Therapists? Well, I think it means that we have to be extremely intentional with how books featuring children of diverse backgrounds show up on our bookshelves in our play room. I would encourage you to take stock, right now, and evaluate what percentage of books do you own that feature diverse characters? And I’m not talking about a supporting character or diverse children in the background – actually featuring the stories and lives of Children of Color? What voices are missing from your collection?
Now, get a plan! What are you going to do, what are the specific steps, to help increase the diversity in voices of not just books featuring diverse stories BUT seeking out authors and illustrators who are Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, American Indian, or First Nation?
I wanted to share with you my favorite sources for diverse books to get you to “add to cart” these beautiful, wonderful, and diverse stories.
There is much work to be done – and lucky for us shopping for books is so much FUN! Let’s fill our bookshelves with these multicultural stories!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.