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!
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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.