Children’s Story Books for Trauma Informed Work & Art Making

As part of my ongoing re-organizing and inventorying of my work & creative space, I spent some time going through my collection of children’s books that I commonly use in group work (as well as individual sessions) with school aged youth (ages 6-12) and pre-school aged children. Many of these books I have had for years, purchased at trauma conferences, and have found really helpful to introduce a theme or topic that we will be working on before beginning the art intervention.

Children's Story Books for Trauma Informed Work & Art Making | creativity in motion
Shelfie: Children’s Story Books for Trauma Informed Work

Here are some of my favorites and how I like to use them with art making in the groups I’ve done over the years:

Domestic Violence:

  • Hands Are Not For Hitting– I like to use this book with younger kiddos, between 4-6 years old to help discuss helpful and & kind ways we can use our hands instead of choosing to be hurtful.  Often the story is followed by the children in the group tracing their own hands, decorating them with crayons or markers to include with the many ways we’ve discussed about how their hands can be used in positive, respectful, and non-violent ways.
  • A Place for Starr: A Story of Hope for Children Experiencing Family Violence– This book tells a young girl’s story about her mother, brother, and her leaving their home of domestic violence to the safety of a shelter.  The book is now out of print and any available finds are quite expensive to purchase, but if you come across an affordable copy somewhere, I recommend it highly!  I am super thankful to have a copy for my collection- I have found this book helpful for opening up discussions and art-making around the experience of coming to a shelter.

Emotions:

  • Is It Right to Fight? – The content in this book looks at aggression & anger from a variety of perspectives such as bullying, fighting between adults, war and prompts the group/child with questions to explore decisions, situations, and ways we can manage our anger or conflicts without fighting & violence.
  • When I’m Feeling…. series – This series features 8 different books about the feelings scared, sad, jealous, happy, loved, kind, lonely, & angry in very simple & short illustrated stories, which is great to use with young children to explore emotional themes. When we’re going to work on something like Worry Dolls, the When I’m Feeling Scared book is a helpful introduction to learn more about or normalize the feeling.
  • My Many Colored Days–  This book is another favorite of mine: I love the images and descriptions of emotions associated with the different colors– My favorite is the green, calm & cool fish! Lots and lots of possibilities for art-making to promote emotional expression inspired by this classic Dr. Seuss book!  Check out this PDF resource supporting social emotional development using a variety of arts based and hands on activities with this book.

Strength-Based:

  • Just Because I Am: A Child’s Book of Affirmations: I mostly use this book with young children as a way to instill not only how all feelings are OK, but that our thoughts, bodies, and who we are, is important to respect as well. This book goes really well with drawing images or pictures around the theme of “who am I?” or “this is me!”
  • Life Doesn’t Frighten Me– Maya Angelou’s amazing poem meets the awesome art illustrations of Jean-Michel Basquiat in this very inspiring book that tells the story of fearlessness and resiliency.  The narrative from these pages sets a great foundation to do some art-making about our strengths and supports.
  • Courage– This children’s book I’ve used not only in my professional work to introduce what courage is to the youth I work with, but it has also inspired my own creative work!  It’s a great story for adults to be reminded about too and both children & grown ups alike can benefit from creating Couarge Coins!
  • When I Grow Up– I initially bought this book at a local toy store in Chicago many years ago because I really liked the creative illustrations with black and white photographs of children’s faces, but then fell in love with it’s entire concept surrounding the cliche question: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?  Instead of focusing on the typical answer of an occupation or vocation, this book suggests another thoughtful perspective (and fun pictures) such as growing up to be brave, adventurous, generous, imaginative, curious, optimistic, patient, & more.  It’s a great book to explore how we feel about ourselves (and future selves), as well as how we want to treat others.

Trauma & Loss:

Both of these books below are really valuable to help introduce what trauma is, trauma reactions, and learning how to manage traumatic stress through an animal character based story.  After reading and having a discussion about the book, I often invite kids to create art expressions about what they think happened in the story.

Peacemaking:

I use this batch of books & stories to inspire kids about how to become a peacemaker and how make choices to live non-violently in their home, school, and community:

  • What Does Peace Feel Like?– This is my favorite book in this section…. The content prompts children to use their imagination and explore their senses about what peace looks, feels, smells, tastes, and sounds like.  It’s fun to have kids draw one of the senses symbolizing peace to him or her!  Just like the book, I’ve seen that often peace often tastes a lot like ice cream! 🙂
  • The Peace Book– A great introductory book to start exploring simple, but meaningful ways that we can bring peace to others & the world around us!  I like to prompt group members to think (and create about) what peace means to them as an individual, in our group, to others they know (at home, school, their neighborhood), and what peace means globally in the form of a flag,, shield, or mandala.

Relaxation & Self-Regulation:

These two books share lots of different ways for kids to calm their minds and bodies in the face of stress.  Often before it’s time to make art, I like to take time to pause for a little bit of quiet time in the group, where we focus on breathing, movement, and more:

I hope this list and ideas were helpful! A lot of books listed above are linked to one of my favorite resources, The Self Esteem Shop, who supports trauma informed work through carrying many of these children’s books and more.  I hope you will check some of them out, or if you use them already (or others!) share your experiences below!

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Related Resources:

My Trauma Informed Pinterest Board

Peacemaking & DIY Papermaking

Group Strategies & Interventions with Traumatized Children and Adolescents

26 Paper Hearts

Over the course of this week I’ve been working on handsewing 26 paper hearts in memory of each child, teacher and staff member who was killed a week ago during the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Handsewing paper is an act I find soothing and comforting, as well as a containing creative practice in my own art-making that often reminds me about themes of fragility and mending.

26 Paper Hearts
26 Paper Hearts

The image below was created with the 26 paper hearts and mailed yesterday to The Light of the Heart- A Community Art Therapy Project in Aurora, Illinois who will be sending an art package to Sandy Hook Elementary with messages of love, hope and condolences.

26Hearts
In Loving Memory

Each heart that I created for this image will also be used for my response to the 26 Acts of Kindness campaign that went viral this week to honor the victims and create collective action to do something life affirming and positive in the wake of this heartbreaking incident.  I’ll be sending out tags, cards, and envelopes with one of the 26 paper hearts above with messages of love and creative goodness as my contribution.  I’m in. As Ann Curry asked, are you?

#26acts

Resources & links:

Where We Create: Wonder, Inspiration, Motivation, Connection

Today marks the last day for the art therapy photo documentary Spaces & Places: Where We Create, an online project that Magdalena Karlick and I launched back in February inviting art therapists, art therapy students, and art organizations to submit digital pics and descriptions about the creative spaces they work & create in, as well as favorite or common materials and media used.

Over the last 4 months it has been a pleasure to see this project unfold…with wonder, inspiration, motivation, and connection.  Over 200 photos from Italy, India, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, the US, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Australia were shared via The Art Therapy Alliance community on Facebook, through Flickr, and posted on the go with Instagram.

I’ve enjoyed experiencing through with project and its collection of photos where art therapy happens, art materials that are offered, and the creative spaces we make our own art.  Equally enjoyable  for me has been the connection the photos have inspired.  Through the power of social media, there’s been many supportive exchanges & interactions in the form of sharing, tweeting, liking, or commenting  that have helped foster community, connection, and creativity.

More to come soon from Magdalena and I on the Art Therapy Alliance’s posterous, as we share our reflections and thoughts regarding Spaces & Places: Where We Create.   A big thank you to Magdalena for co-organizing this project with me, the project’s endorsers, and to each and every art therapist, art therapy student and organization who contributed photos and shared their Spaces & Places.  I invite you to take the time to view all the photos, comments, and connection inspired by Spaces & Places: Where We Create here on Facebook.

I wanted to make my final photo contribution to Spaces & Places: Where We Create with some pics of the art therapy space I worked in today: my art therapy office (below from my previous #wherewecreate submission) where I facilitate individual and group community based services with youth.  In this space today, it was the last session of a children’s trauma and loss art therapy group that I have been meeting with over the last 8 weeks:

Art Therapy Office Space
Art Therapy Supply Stash for Groupwork

For many of my last group sessions, but especially for this children’s trauma & loss group because it helps reinforce themes related to resiliency, I like to spend some time focusing on an experience I introduce as “Stones of Strength”. Each child has the opportunity to select their own personal stone to embellish, make his/her own with permanent marker and by writing one word on the surface that brings him/her feelings of comfort and safety.

The stone can then be used as a tangible, creative, and personalized reminder to keep and use for coping in times of worry, stress, or  difficult days.

A batch of stones from the photo below were creatively developed & dedicated by this group of 6-12 year olds for kindness, love, friendship, and hope, to  just to name a few.

Stones of Strength

Group Strategies & Interventions with Traumatized Children and Adolescents | Online Course Now Available

When I started working in the social services field over 15 years ago, my first job was as a residential care youth worker.  The unit I worked on included 10 pre-adolescent boys struggling with severe emotional and behavioral needs as a result of abuse, early childhood abandonment, and neglect.  One of my first memories of beginning this new adventure was introducing purposeful and structured group time focused on general art making for relaxation, positive interaction, and self-expression. The programming was well received by the boys, my co-workers, and agency administrators, so much that they wanted more.  This setting is eventually where I was fortunate enough to start my art therapy career, have the opportunity to develop the agency’s first art therapy program, and start to better understand some of the benefits and challenges related to group work within a partial hospitalization program.
Fast forward about nine years later when I transitioned from the residential treatment setting to work in a shelter with youth impacted by domestic violence, as well as work within a bereavement program with grieving children and teens, where I started to learn more about and become better skilled at trauma informed group work.  A lot of this experience was obtained through great support and supervisors I was lucky enough to have in these settings, as well as the commitment I made to become certified as a Trauma Specialist and Consultant through The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC).
I am very grateful that during the last eight years I have been able to serve and focus most of my art therapy work on trauma informed groups for helping at-risk children and adolescents, whether this includes youth in crisis from exposure to domestic violence, adolescents in foster care, children and teens in shelter coping with homelessness, or grieving youth who have experienced traumatic death loss.
Inspired by this journey, I am excited to announce my new online course , Group Strategies & Interventions with Traumatized Children and Adolescents. To learn more and register, check out information about the course here being offered through TLC.  My course focuses on the benefits and considerations important to facilitating group work with traumatized youth and introduces participants to themes, sensory based activities, therapeutic books, games, and creative interventions to implement in the group setting with traumatized youth.

Course content includes:

  • Benefits of Group Work with Traumatized Youth
  • Trauma Informed Group Structure
  • Facilitator’s Role
  • Group Themes
  • Developmental Considerations
  • Strategies & Interventions
  • Using Art in Trauma Group Work
  • Resources

To learn more and register, check out information about the course here.  6.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available.

Peace Paper: Papermaking, Art Therapy, and Social Action On the Move in 2012

A new project and team that I am very excited to be involved with is Peace Paper, founded by Drew Matott and Margaret Mahan to empower bereaved international communities through engagement in collaborative art processes addressing peaceful reconciliation and positive forward thinking.  Through paper, writing, book, and printmaking activities, Peace Paper workshop participants transform significant articles of clothing into works of art which broadcast their stories.

Peace Paper announced its 2012 Tour Schedule last week, which includes a variety of workshops, conferences, teaching, and training across the US (Massachusetts, Michigan, Washington DC, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York , Kansas) as well as international visits in Eskulan, Kosovo, Turkey, India, and more with the project’s amazing creative team.

There are a few art therapy focused offerings for 2012 that Drew, Margaret, and I will be facilitating:

  • May 14 – 18- Arts and the Military Conference, Washington, D.C.– As part of The Arts and Military Conference hosted by George Mason University, Drew and I will be offering a five-day papermaking workshop for art therapists and survivors of trauma. This workshop will focus on technical training, practical applications, and hands-on demonstrations of papermaking and implementation for trauma intervention.
  • September 6-8- Buckeye Art Therapy Association Symposium, Dublin, Ohio–  Margaret, Drew, and I will be in the Columbus area as part of the 2012 BATA Symposium. This will include a full day pre-conference workshop for a limited audience to provide participants an understanding about how the papermaking process can be beneficial with populations as a form of social action and therapeutic transformation in trauma and loss intervention.  During the BATA Symposium, we will present a keynote presentation on the topic of art as social action, focusing on lecture and visual content related to utilizing papermaking and creative expression as a cathartic process to give meaning, create transformation, and provide empowerment through releasing and reforming fibers into new stories and new beginnings.   A workshop offering entitled, “Expressions for Peace” will invite Symposium attendees on the following day to create their own reflections and expression for peace on handmade paper flags created from Peace Paper’s recent travels.
  • October 12 & 13- Kansas Art Therapy Association Conference, Emporia, KS– Margaret, Drew, and I will be conducting a two-day workshop for art therapists, including a lecture highlighting Art as Social Action and Papermaking as Trauma Therapy.  This event will also include an exhibit of Peace Paper artworks.
I am so looking forward to teaming up with Margaret and Drew again in 2012 for these events.  Save the date(s) and stayed tuned for more details on each of these offerings!  You can also stay connected to Peace Paper updates and news on Facebook, on the web, and follow the project’s travels through the Peace Paper blog.

Resilience and Empathy: The Art of Healing Trauma

The 2011 Buckeye Art Therapy Association’s Annual Symposium, Resiliency & Empathy: The Art of Healing Trauma is being held September 30 and October 1 in Dublin, Ohio.  This year’s keynote sponsored by BATA and the Michigan Association of Art Therapy features Cathy Malchiodi who will be presenting an evening lecture and morning workshop on the impact of  resiliency, gratitude, and empathy in relationship to trauma intervention and recovery.  A pre-conference course with Cathy focused on Trauma Informed Art Therapy is also being offered in addition to the Symposium.

This year’s BATA Symposium Program includes additional presentation offerings and workshops on the application and use of art therapy with grief and loss, traumatic brain injury, adolescents,  as well as supervision, social media & ethics, and self-care.  I am especially looking forward to Elizabeth Sanders Martin and Emily Johnson’s workshop on Celebrating Life in Traditions of  the Day of the Dead. 

On Friday afternoon during the Symposium I’ll be presenting Art as a Voice: Art Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Violence which will provide an overview of art therapy with survivors of domestic violence and address trauma informed considerations, common treatment goals, and art interventions to consider when working with battered women in a shelter setting.  Content will be presented on the impact of domestic violence, how art therapy can provide a voice and facilitate support around key issues such as safety, the cycle of violence, and crisis intervention.

For more information about the program, lodging accomodations, and registration download BATA’s printable PDF brochure here.

Creating a Dialogue & Resource for Domestic Violence: Trauma Network Blogging

It’s official! I’ll be blogging as a core contributor for The Trauma Network,  a growing community of therapists coming together to learn new ways to advance their clinical practice, exchange resources, interventions, and find support related to trauma informed work.

My posts for the network will focus on considerations, strategies, best practices, and ideas for  therapists working with children, adolescents, families, and women impacted by domestic violence, including the benefits of using art and creative interventions with this population.

I hope my blogging will start a dialogue and create a trauma informed resource within this community connected to domestic violence and offer practical information useful for this area of work.  

To learn more about The Trauma Network and how to join (free!), please visit http://www.thetraumanetwork.com.