The selection for the April meeting of my Play Therapy Book Club (voted on my members of my Facebook group) isn't a typical play therapy book. 

But it is an invaluable resource for any clinician that is working with children and families (which means that it is relevant to all of my play therapist colleagues). 

Here are some summarized highlights from our live discussion of this book. 

It's short, but jammed packed with information

At about 90 pages, When Parents Are At War can easily be read in less than a week.  Clinicians commented that they liked the length because it was long enough to give you detailed information about their clinical practice without taking a lot of free time away from their work.  

The chapters can easily be reviewed during missed appointments or no-shows and then the clinician has time to think about the concepts and integrate them.

The book is short, but you will use the time saved reading on implementation of the principles in the book. 

A Step-By-Step Guide for Updating Your Clinical Forms

The beauty of this book is that it guides you through every aspect of your clinical practice to help you improve how you work with divorced families right from the very first phone call.

Lynn Louise Wonders provides tips for taking phone calls from parents, screening for red (and yellow) flags, setting appropriate boundaries and establishing neutrality and fairness during initial phone calls.

She then helps you establish rock-solid informed consents, intake protocols and office procedures that will help you feel more comfortable in taking those high-conflict cases that you might have felt overwhelmed with in the past.  

These guiding principles continue throughout treatment plan development, progress notes, handling court appearances and termination.  Honestly, a lot of the things that she recommends I already do (and I was able to give myself a big pat on the back for that). 

But, she thinks of things that I had overlooked.

One of those being her termination recommendations.

I am currently updating my own consent forms with her termination and closure recommendations (once you read it, you can let me know if you plan to do it too). 

This Book Uses Family Friendly Language

The other thing I love about this book is that Lynn Louise Wonders understands that this is a difficult situation for everyone involved.  

Her focus is on helping the child, but she does not demonize parents in any way.  Her language is respectful, empathetic and caring.  

She even provides some sample scripts to help guide you with some words to say when in difficult situations.  

Lynn Louise Wonders is able to explain the range of divorced parents that you may work with in a way that is relatable. And instead of scaring you away from working with this population, she provides helpful and practical tools that allow you to do this work with competence. 

Overall, I think your clinical practice will benefit from applying the information that you learn.  Now, I'm off to finish updating my consent form with that termination language.

If you want  grab a copy for yourself, it is available on Amazon (no affiliate links, just sharing resources). 

And if you want to join the Play Therapy Book Club, then you have two options:

  1.  Join my Facebook Group (for mental health professionals only). This is where we vote on books!  OR
  2. Subscribe to my mailing list so that you are notified of the next book and meeting date.  We meet quarterly right now, so the next meeting will be in July!
  3. Oh, and it's all free (except for the book, of course). 

And if reading isn't your thing, Lynn Louise Wonders has an online course on my website called Play Therapy with High Conflict Custody Cases, that you might like instead.  You can check that out here

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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