Books Recommended by CTR Clinical Staff

We’d like to recommend books that we have found very helpful in understanding complex trauma and helping traumatized children. We have found these books to be so useful that they are required reading for our staff and often for the teams and caregivers we work with.

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Elina Falck recommends:

The Circle of Security Intervention: Enhancing Attachment in Early Parent-Child Relationships.
Bert Powell, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bob Marvin

Do you struggle with applying attachment theory in your work with traumatized children? While we know that creating a secure attachment with the children in our care is important, it can be hard to figure out what that means. The authors of this book spent more than a decade fine-tuning how to explain complex terms in genuinely simple, easy to understand ways. The result is a crystal clear, insightful and emotionally moving explanation of attachment security, what drives the different forms of attachment insecurity, and how to intervene effectively.

The first half of the book gives us the map to understand attachment in very simple, yet rich and accurate terms. It describes the behaviours we as therapists and caregivers need to engage in to create attachment security. It also compassionately outlines what caregivers do to create insecure attachment patterns with their children. We learn about how to see the underlying needs of children, even when they miscue us, and how to meet those needs consistently.

The second half of the book focuses on the 20- week therapeutic Circle of Security intervention. Even if you are not intending to use that process in your work, the case studies help clarify the concepts explained in the first half, and are very worth reading.

It is a “must read” for anyone who wants to understand and support good parenting.

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David Brown recommends:

The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer
Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel

“Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? While many factors contribute to aging and illness, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn discovered a biological indicator called telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres, which protect our genetic heritage. Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel’s research shows that the length and health of one’s telomeres are a biological underpinning of the long-hypothesized mind-body connection. They and other scientists have found that changes we can make to our daily habits can protect our telomeres and increase our health spans (the number of years we remain healthy, active, and disease-free).
THE TELOMERE EFFECT reveals how Blackburn and Epel’s findings, together with research from colleagues around the world, cumulatively show that sleep quality, exercise, aspects of diet, and even certain chemicals profoundly affect our telomeres, and that chronic stress, negative thoughts, strained relationships, and even the wrong neighborhoods can eat away at them.
Drawing from this scientific body of knowledge, they share lists of foods and suggest amounts and types of exercise that are healthy for our telomeres, mind tricks you can use to protect yourself from stress, and information about how to protect your children against developing shorter telomeres, from pregnancy through adolescence. And they describe how we can improve our health spans at the community level, with neighborhoods characterized by trust, green spaces, and safe streets.
THE TELOMERE EFFECT will make you reassess how you live your life on a day-to-day basis. It is the first book to explain how we age at a cellular level and how we can make simple changes to keep our chromosomes and cells healthy, allowing us to stay disease-free longer and live more vital and meaningful lives.”

I think what makes this worth taking a look at is that is provides added scientific evidence of the effect of chronic or long term trauma on health outcomes for children and adults (as one aspect of stress that effects the maintenance or deterioration of an individual’s telomeres. It offers information that could prove helpful when we are working to inform foster parents/adoptive parents and others regarding the common sense, daily alterations in a child’s diet, activity level and relational interactions that can have dramatic and long lasting benefits on that child’s life. In other words, it offers solid information from a source other than social service professionals like Bruce Perry or for that matter ourselves to back up the basis for the recommendations we are making in relationship to the treatment plan for individual kids referred to CCI. I think you will find it fascinating.

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Kenzi Dirks recommends:

Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children
Bruce D. Perry MD PhD (Foreword), Cathy A. Malchiodi PhD ATR-BC LPCC (Editor)

Have you ever wanted to think outside of the “talk therapy” box in your work with traumatized children? If so, Malchoiodi compiles essays by experienced trauma practitioners who use creative interventions to help their clients heal. This is an exceptionally informative book for those who want a brief overview of the types of interventions that can be most helpful for children and families who have experienced complex trauma. From music therapy, to play therapy, from drama therapy to bibliotherapy, this book sparks the reader’s imagination to use various media in their work. Each writer introduces the theory behind their practice, followed by practical tools and programs that they have implemented. Case examples and sample pictures bring these interventions to life. Leading traumatized children through their healing journey requires workers who are dynamic and flexible—a creative approach is essential when working with this population.

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Fred Chou recommends:

Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Scientific Foundations and Therapeutic Models
Julian Ford & Christine Courtois

The field of complex developmental trauma has picked up momentum in the past several years. With so much emerging research on this topic, it can sometimes be overwhelming to determine what evidence and practice trends have been firmly established in the literature. This is where this resource is helpful as it has been compiled by two of the leading researchers in the field of complex trauma – Dr. Julian Ford and Dr. Christine Courtois – and helps set the stage on key theories, research, and therapeutic models that have been well established in the literature.

This compilation is broken down into three sections–theory, individual therapeutic models, and systemic approaches to treatment. Chapters in this manual have been written by key experts in the field (i.e., Dr. Alan Schore, Dr. Ruth Lanius, Dr. John Briere), while the presented therapeutic models are also written by the developers themselves, such as Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Sandra Bloom, to name a few. There are several chapters that offer valuable insight into complex trauma. For instance, the chapter on clinical assessment and diagnosis (Chapter 7) offers a sobering reminder of how the clinical picture of complex trauma can often be confused with other diagnoses, while the chapter on cumulative trauma in childhood (Chapter 5) highlights the converging evidence between the Adverse Childhood Experiences, Polyvictimization, and Cumulative Trauma literature.

I highly recommended this manual for clinicians, researchers, administrative staff and policy makers who want to be educated and informed on the established literature regarding complex trauma in children and adolescents.

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Dr. Chipo McNichols recommends:

The Whole Brain Child-12 Revolutionary Strategies to Developing Your Childs Mind
By Dr. Daniel Siegel

The Whole Brain Child uses simple, jargon free language to explain how children’s meltdowns are mostly driven by the emotions of the right brain more than the logic of the left brain. I appreciated how user friendly and practical this book is with strategies that can be applied to children ranging from toddlers right through to adolescence. It works as a good reference book to go back to again and again for tips and strategies to manage different situations. I felt that the approaches used teach caregivers how to understand and respond to a child’s behavior in a way that pays attention to the relationship first, and deepens the attachment between the adult and the child. The book not only focuses on looking at children’s emotional responses but invites caregivers to look at their own reactions to the child’s behavior. I think this is an important and often overlooked part of learning; how we can effectively help children to work through overwhelming emotions. Caregivers are human too and are affected by the challenging behaviors they see despite loving their little ones to bits! Dr. Siegel does a beautiful job of helping caregivers to examine their own responses and lower their own emotional arousal before responding to their children.

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Kenzi Dirks recommends:

The Invisible String
By Patrice Karst

**A book to read with children

Children who have experienced trauma and who have moved from home to home often feel disconnected from the people around them. Karst’s book simplifies the power of love through the concept of “invisible strings” connecting us to our loved ones. This can be an exceptionally powerful book for the preoccupied or “clingy” child who needs to feel connected. Consider introducing the idea that an invisible string connects us even when we cannot see one another. One of my favourite lines is when Karst says, “Love is stronger than anger, and as long as love is in your heart, the String will always be there”.

Questions to ask the child:

  • How do you think the twins felt when they could not sleep at night?
  • How did they feel after learning about the invisible string?
  • Who do your invisible strings connect to? (Draw a picture!)

A great resource for increasing empathy through reading can be found here:

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Lisa Frede recommends:

The Explosive Child
By Dr. Ross Greene

In The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene presents a parenting strategy built on the premise that challenging behavioural episodes often stem from “lagging skills” rather than from children simply choosing to be difficult. He posits that “kids do well if they can,” and suggests that for those who don’t respond well to traditional punishment/reward parenting strategies, an alternative method of becoming allies and partners in problem solving may be more effective. Through the examples of child-caregiver scenarios, Dr. Greene introduces the idea that engaging with empathy, gaining a clear understanding of the problem, and extending an invitation to collaborate with the child to come up with a solution can bring greater success to managing their difficulties. As well as clearly outlining the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions steps (formerly known as Collaborative Problem Solving), he addresses a wide range of concerns adults may have about making this shift in relating to their child, trouble-shoots the plans he provides using examples of parent-caregiver dialogue, addresses how to use the method with siblings, and teaches how to avoid a variety of pitfalls. Although geared mainly towards primary caregivers, this book is valuable for anyone who has a significant role interacting with children. It is suitable for clinicians who want to utilize these skills with behaviourally challenged clients or who would like to encourage caregivers to implement CPS in their families; a chapter for educators on using CPS in the classroom helps make this a suitable book for school personnel as well.

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Dr. Chuck Geddes recommends:

The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog
By Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

In my opinion, Dr. Bruce Perry’s The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog is crucial reading for those of us working with maltreated children. The book is written in an engaging and compelling manner as Bruce Perry weaves his key points about neurological development and childhood trauma into memorable and true case stories. He writes about the children in a compassionate way and encourages our attempts to be curious and to understand them. Various case stories illuminate points about the development of empathy and desire for relationships, various forms of fight or flight or freeze responses, and the role of overwhelming anxiety and stress in creating various clinical profiles. Underlying everything is the incredibly hopeful message that we can intervene in a way that will make a difference.

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Dr. Chuck Geddes recommends:

The Connected Child
By Karyn Purvis and David Cross

This book offers wisdom for those parents who have adopted children, but has equal value for other caregivers as well. I think that Purvis and Cross have managed to find the effective balance between love and limits that helps children to thrive. The emphasis is on teaching the child in a gentle but strong way, with clear expectations but also lots of love and affirmation. A section on the effects of trauma and neglect and maltreatment provides an essential background for solving the “Puzzle of Difficult Behaviour”. I love the chapter on “Disarming the Fear Response with Felt Safety” as we’ve found in our work we must quiet the child’s over-reactive stress response before we can be successful.  Purvis and Cross describe clearly how secure attachment accomplishes this goal. Overall the book offers many simple but effective strategies for parents.

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