Do you ever have a gloomy thought that just won’t seem to go away? The more you try to ignore it the bigger it gets. Just sitting there, hanging around, making you feel all yucky.
It’s the uninvited guest that won’t leave.
Those are the worst. Cognitive Behavioral Theory would call these maladaptive or distorted thoughts. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) would call these Negative Cognitions.
Either way these thoughts are uncomfortable at best and deeply painful at the worst.
In the book Catching Thoughts, Bonnie Clark uses the beautiful imagery of a black balloon to show just what it is like having these thoughts hang around. We go on a journey of all the ways that one might try to get rid of these thoughts like ignoring, running away, and getting mad and yelling at them.
We find that when we can notice the thought and hold it at a distance we can then become aware of new thoughts, beautiful thoughts, and thoughts that are true and excellent. We learn that you can choose what thoughts to catch and can fill your life with beautiful color.
This is truly a must have book for your bibliotherapy collection, especially if you do EMDR or Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT).
One of the ways that I like to use this book is my free downloadable “What Thought Do You Choose” worksheet HERE! The cool news is that you can use it as a companion to the book OR completely on its own.
Here we have young people identify what thoughts are in their black balloon. These are the thoughts they acknowledge mindfully as something that is going through their head, notice it, and then….let it go!
In the colorful balloons they write the thoughts they would like to have about themselves OR the really good, beautiful, true, and excellent thoughts that they are having about themselves already that they want to really hold on to and sink deeper into.
From here you can engage in a visualization of the black balloon drifting away and notice the thoughts, feelings, and sensations of holding the colorful balloons. If you are trained in EMDR you can add bilateral stimulation to install this image as a resource.
You can also get really creative and get some black balloons where you can put inside pieces of paper with the thoughts that you want to go away, blow it up, and have the child release the balloon. You can then choose some colorful balloons and have the child write on the balloon the positive good thoughts. They can notice how they feel in their bodies as they hold on to and say the positive words.
So what about you? Will you be catching thoughts in your practice? If so, grab the FREE What Thought Do I Choose printable!
Is this a book you use in your practice? If so drop a comment about the creative ways you play!
And...want to know more about trauma, EMDR, and children? Check out my training on Playing Through Phase 2: Combining Bibliotherapy and Play Therapy for Phase 2 of EMDR.
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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.