This quote from the great human rights leader Frederick Douglass reminds me of the emancipatory power of books.
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
— Frederick Douglass
As a therapist who works with traumatized children, I’ve seen how well-written, well-illustrated books can liberate a child’s life narrative in a way that traditional talk therapy simply cannot. Thoughts about the way the world works are greatly altered by overwhelming experience, and a child who has been traumatized tells him or herself a very different story about their world after trauma. Good books have a way of reframing and rewiring that story. Brain chemistry is altered when a child’s mind resonates with a healing narrative. This mode of therapy, called bibliotherapy, is one of the oldest techniques we use as helpers.
Parents, I invite you to consider books with the eye of a therapist. Whether or not your child has been traumatized in a clinical sense, ask yourself how characters and narratives connect with your child’s experience, and talk to them about it. I’ll be commenting more on this powerful form of therapy in future posts.
Aaron is a child and family therapist at Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin specializing in trauma counseling. He has experience working with clients who are coping with depression, anxiety, divorce, and family and community violence. He is a certified practitioner of EMDR, and uses expressive modalities such as play therapy, bibliotherapy and music and art-based therapies with a wide range of clients.
Aaron is also a current partner with Project Ujima, a hospital-based program committed to helping families cope with community violence. He uses Hip Hop Music Therapy with many of his urban adolescent clients through their community outreach program.
Read more blog posts by Aaron Heffernan.