You’ve asked. I’m answering.
Many of you ask me about book recommendations. Rather than answering, “Oh I don’t know, this and that” I thought I’d make ya’ll a list of what I’ve read that impacts my play therapy practice daily.
Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’ll get you a good start.
I put the books in three categories for ease of convenience, along with a short explanation about what makes each book worth reading.
Brain Books (I’m a brain nerd so there’s several)
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel- where to start if you are new to all of this neuro stuff. Lots of stories to help explain concepts
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk- wow- this is a tour de force but SO MUCH GOOD INFO- I recommend getting a hard copy and listen to the audio version as well
The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Bruce Perry- worth reading and re-reading. Again, a ton of good stories about Perry as a young psychiatrist that shaped who he is today with his research
Born for Love by Bruce Perry- the title is a bit misleading but it’s almost the continuation of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. Here he discusses more research about why we need each other and what happens if we don’t get connection in our developing years
Being a Brain Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology by Bonnie Badenoch- Oh Bonnie… this book reads as much as poetry as it does brain science. But, like poetry, you will want time to digest and take in her words, line by line.
The Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology by Daniel Siegel- Want an overview of all the concepts he has scattered throughout his books? This book is for you. Even has a glossary with definitions. Good stuff
The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Play by Theresa Kestly- This important and ground-breaking book should be a must-read for any therapist who is wishing to work with children on any level. It’s the one book that connects what we do in play therapy to what the latest of brain research. 5 PLUS stars
Brainstorm by Daniel Siegel- If you have read a lot of his stuff, some of the information will be repetitive. But, it’s really good information. I’ve even assigned it to parents and teens themselves to read- which has been super helpful for everyone.
The Teenage Brain– this is a bit random but REALLY good info- even for adults. Found this gem when grabbing a bunch of teenage brain books while prepping for a training
Play Therapy Primers
Theraplay by Phillis Booth and Ann Jernberg- One of the best investments I’ve made in my work with young children. Great understanding of attachment and attunement. Exercises for improving both are included in the book as well.
Child-Parent Interaction Therapy Treatment Manual by Sue Bratton et al. Use this book all the time. Great handouts and explanations of how to help parents or caregivers interact with their child in a real way.
Foundations of Play Therapy by Charles Schaefer- So many informative chapters- especially love the one on Prescriptive Play Therapy
Play Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Terri Kottman- Even if you are a veteran, you can’t go wrong with this text. Great, specific examples of how to use nondirective play therapy in several different settings, even if you aren’t strictly child-centered in nature
Child Centered Play Therapy by Rise Van Fleet et al.- Another solid reference for any nondirective play therapist- get these 3 books (above and below) if you work with non-abstract thought children
Play Thearpy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth-The “Bible” of play therapy- my friend, Pam Dyson, has her RPT supervisees read and review chapter by chapter to get a good understanding of the theory of what we do. Techniques are awesome and super useful but we need to understand not just the WHAT of play therapy but the WHY as well
Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axline- So many play therapists say this booked made them want to work with kids. I agree.
1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan- when I was first working with parents, this was my go-to resource. Even now, I refer to the 6 types of manipulation when working with parnets
How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Malish- it’s a classic for a reason- and if all parents did this, we would be out of a job
The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowtiz and Lucy Jane Miller – If you have a parent who is struggling to understand her kid on the spectrum, give her this. I’ve seen it save sanity on those hard, I-don’t-understand days
Joint Custody with a Jerk by Julie Ross and Judy Corocran- I see SO MANY kids in my practice who are the ones who suffer from hateful and harmful custody battles. This book make my life easier.
Love and Logic Magic by Jim Fey and Charles Fey- Another classic. Some things you may not agree with but the basics are solid.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tiny Payne Bryson- Another book that could put we play therapists out of business, it’s that good. Takes the high-level neuroscience stuff and explains it in a way that parents can understand
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson- This is like part 2 from the Whole Brain Child. Real, actionable strategies to help parents like being with their kids, even when they don’t always follow the rules
5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell- An off-shoot of the original 5 Love Languages- I’ve seen parents (like even my sister) understand and connect more meaningfully with their children due to reading this book
I Love You Rituals by Becky Bailey- This book is one of my favorites. Could be teamed up nicely with Theraplay. As a parent, you likely do these automatically but for those parents who do not have a natural language of love, this book provides lots of suggestions and how-to’s
Ages and Stages by Charles Schaefer and Theresa Foy DiGermonimo- not all parents know what is normal or expected of their child- for THAT parent who keeps asking you “is this normal” or for those who don’t seem to understand what is age appropriate
Hope this list helps some of you get started with your play therapy reading list or add to your ever-growing “to-be-read” stack of books!
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