Archive of ‘Communication’ category

Therapeutic Children’s Books

Books are one of my favorite ways to connect with kiddos. When we incorporate books into the therapy process, we refer to it as “bibliotherapy.” Sometimes, older clients are asked to read books on their own time outside of counseling. With my younger clients, we spend some of our time in session reading about ways we can better understand and cope with anxiety, impulsivity, trauma, or depression. In addition to keeping these books in the office, I also recommend them to parents as books to revisit at home. Below, I’ll share some of my most-utilized books in the counseling room! 

What To Do When You Worry Too MuchAge Range: 6 – 12 years

This is an interactive, workbook-style book for children experiencing symptoms of anxiety. This books explains that worries are completely normal, and that everyone experiences them. It talks about the somatic symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, sweaty palms, accelerated heartbeat etc.) that so many of us experience when feeling anxious. This book is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, and helps kids change the way they think about anxiety. It has lots of different interventions for children to try in session, and helps kids learn that they are in control. This is my go-to book for anxiety! 

My Mouth is a Volcano! Age Range: 5 – 8 years

This story book is perfect for kids who have challenges with speaking out of turn or blurting out answers at school without being called on. Impulsivity can be a big challenge for children and it often becomes more visible as they reach kindergarten and 1st grade- when expectations at school may increase. My Mouth is a Volcano tells us about a child who is constantly interrupting (or “erupting”) at school and at home. This picture book helps kids with perspective taking and empathy, too- always a plus!  

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine  — Age Range: 5 – 8 years 

This book tells the story of Wilma Jean, a student who is experiencing anxiety before and during school (sound familiar anyone?). Wilma, with the help of her mom and her teacher, goes from stomaches and headaches to actually enjoying school. It offers creative ways for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help their child better cope with their anxious feelings.  

What To Do When Your Temper Flares  — Age Range: 6 – 12 years

Another workbook from the makers of What To Do When You Worry Too Much. It teaches readers that anger is not a “bad” emotion, and that everyone gets angry sometimes. It offers step-by-step guides on understanding why people get angry, what purpose the emotion may serve, and different ways of expressing that anger in a safe and controlled way. What To Do When Your Temper Flares has lots of analogies, examples, and coping skills for kids (and caregivers!) to practice in therapy and at home. 

A Terrible Thing Happened Age Range: 4 – 9 years

This book has proven its worth time and time again! A Terrible Thing Happened helps kiddos understand and cope with trauma. The book describes the trauma, or “terrible thing”, very vaguely. The book never explicitly names the trauma. This is helpful because the book can be used in many different instances, and the child can imagine the trauma however they need to. A Terrible Thing Happened introduced the reader to Sherman, who witnessed something terrible. Sherman experiences eating and sleeping disturbances, somatic symptoms like stomachaches, and behavioral changes at school. Sherman learns from the help of his caregivers and his therapist that talking about the terrible thing can be helpful. Sherman learns how to express himself with art (and his words!) in this book about healing after trauma. 

What are some of your favorite books to incorporate into your therapeutic or educational work with children?


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern, supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S
Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com



Household Chores and Why They Matter for Children and Teens

What characteristics and life skills do you hope your children develop?  These are some that I often hear from parents in our workshops and parenting sessions:

  • Responsibility                        
  • Self-discipline
  • Empathy/Caring
  • Adaptability
  • Accountability
  • Respect for self and others
  • Creativity

Believe it or not, one way that you can begin (or continue) to help these characteristics develop in your children is by involving them in household chores. It is never too early or too late.  Kids need to know they are important, useful, contributing members of your family. Helping with chores builds the skills above and many more.

Many families I work with feel like kids have “too much on their plate” or say that “school is their job” and they don’t want them to be overwhelmed with responsibilities at home.  So instead, parents carry the heavy load of household chores on their own, missing an amazing opportunity to instill contribution.

Another barrier is that parents don’t realize that it is normal and expected for children and teens to lose interest in chores and get distracted by other things, such as friends, their phone, and school (much like we do).  Children are born with the desire to help and contribute (see video below), but they are not born with the skills needed to do so perfectly.  Parents have to teach, model, and reinforce household chore expectations again and again in order for them to stick.

Get started today involving your kids in household chores:

  1. Brainstorm a list of daily and weekly chores that happen in the home with the whole family.
  2. Choose a few important chores to rotate – one per family member- and make a list or chart to post the chores on.  Here is an example of the one we have at my house.
  • Take time for training – spend the first week doing the chores together so that you can teach skills such as spraying the dust spray, how much to feed the dog, how long to water the grass in the front yard, and so on.  Be collaborative and have fun with it! 
  • Decide upon frequency and what time it should be done based on the chore.  If your child (or partner 🙂 ) forgets, gently remind them with a kind smile and friendly body language, and a point at the chore chart to job their memory.
  • Resistance is NORMAL!  Don’t expect your kids to cheer and thank you when you remind them of their chore, but no matter how much they grumble, be KIND and FIRM – “I know you would rather play your guitar, AND it’s time to do your chore.” 
  • Use the Chore Chart below, a resource adapted from Positive Discipline, to determine the chores that are age-appropriate for your child. 

Check out this video that shows very young children (and chimps) demonstrating a desire to help!

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

Animal-Assisted Interventions with Rio

For many of us, being greeted by your pet after a long day at work is a highlight of our day. Our stresses and worries can float away a little easier when there is an easily excitable animal waiting for us behind the front door. Our pets have the magical capability of helping us forget about all the bad stuff. It’s not surprising that many of us refer to our pets as our “babies”!

As an animal-assisted therapist, I am lucky enough to bring my “baby” with me to work at Austin Family Counseling. Rio, my border collie, is the friendly therapy dog you may have seen around the office. He is usually wearing a bandana and will greet you with a kiss or a full downward-dog bow. He spends his days with me, working with children, tweens, teens, and their parents. With lots of pets and belly rubs throughout the day, it’s safe to say he has a pretty sweet gig.

Rio and myself are certified in animal-assisted counseling and completed our trainings at the Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy at Texas State University (Eat ‘em up, Cats!). Throughout our training, we experienced how powerful and therapeutic the human-animal bond can be.

In my previous blog post, I shared about animal-assisted counseling and how is can be therapeutically beneficial for clients. For this post, I want to share some animal-assisted interventions that I incorporate into sessions with my clients.

Highs and Lows with Rio:

To check in with my clients at the beginning of session, we start with our highs and lows. A “high” is the best thing that happened to you that day. A “low” is something we wish went a little differently. My client shares, I share, and we often speculate about what Rio might share if he could speak. Sometimes clients guess that Rio’s low is that it’s raining outside, that he’s feeling sleepy, or he only got to eat 2 treats instead of the client’s proposed 50. More often than not, my clients theorize that Rio’s high is spending time with them in session (and they’re not wrong!) 🙂

What Would Rio Do?:

I adapted this intervention from a fellow animal-assisted therapist, Wanda Montemayor. Wanda and her therapy dog Chango work with middle schoolers in Austin. Sometimes it is easier for kids to imagine what someone else might do in a situation instead of guessing what they themselves might do. You may have experienced this when your kiddo effortlessly recalls what their sibling did wrong, but find no fault in their own behavior! Not surprisingly, kids are very aware of what a dog might look like when they are scared, angry, or tired. Sometimes, it is more difficult to know our own physical reactions to stimuli that make us scared, angry, or tired. My clients know that if Rio were to ever huddle in a corner, wimper, or hide under his blanket during a thunderstorm, he would be feeling frightened. By guessing how Rio might react to relatable situations, clients are able to verbalize what their own emotional and physical reactions could be.

Emoji Balls:

Dr. Elizabeth Hartwig, the director of the Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy, knew that Rio would be a good fit for this intervention because of his energy levels, intelligence, and eagerness to please. I have about a dozen stress balls with different emotions depicted on them. While Rio and I wait outside of the office, my client will hide the emoji balls throughout the room. When the balls are in place, my client invites us back in. Because Rio is very motivated by anything that can be thrown and retrieved, all my client has to do is ask, “Rio, where’s your ball?”. Rio will then tirelessly search the room for each emoji ball. As he finds each one, he will bring it back to us. My client and I each share a time in which we felt the emotion that is shown on the stress ball. These emotions range from scared, angry, calm, loved, sad, and more. We often like to guess a time when Rio felt that emotion, too. This is an active intervention for all participants, and definitely a favorite of my kids.

I hope this sneak peak into animal-assisted counseling gives you a little more insight into the therapeutic work canine counselors are capable of. If you have any questions for myself (or for Rio), don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]com or (512) 893-7396.
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To learn more about Rio’s certification and training, check out Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy!

Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern
Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern under the supervision of Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S
Follow Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com

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