Child Life Bibliotherapy



Guest Blogger: Mary Pat Benning


Many child life specialists are familiar with the quizzical expressions that come when sharing their professional title and job responsibilities. Imagine that scenario- but magnified- when telling someone you are a child life specialist with a niche in bibliotherapy! For me, this revelation often requires a little illumination. And, truthfully, since the publishing of Heartfelt Books, I can say –I have gotten skillful in the art of explanation! 

People sometimes ask where the idea for Heartfelt Books came from, and I can unequivocally say that it was not from just one source or just one place. The path to publication was not straight forward in any way, but more of a meandering journey with unintended stops along the way. What I can truthfully say is that Heartfelt Books has been a labor of love and really is a culmination of unique personal and professional experiences I have had with students, with my own children, and with many pediatric patients.

Here are a couple page excerpts that will help define Heartfelt Books:

10 Heartfelt Books Message


Professioinal Image120 Heartfelt Books Preface

30 Heartfelt Books Contents

When I think specifically about using books in a medical setting, there are many appropriate scenarios and so many quality books that come to mind. In creating the Heartfelt Books program, my goal was to categorize quality books in a way that makes them easy to reference — both for patient scenarios we see every day and for those more unique situations. Being a true believer in relationship-centered care and teaching, I know books to be a wonderful tool to use to help establish rapport and build important and trusting relationships – both with patients and with family members.

With the Heartfelt Books Program, specific books and specific categories of books can also be used to do things like:

 encourage explorations of new feelings and experiences

 teach about a new diagnosis

 provide an entertaining source of distraction

 provide a sense of normalcy (in otherwise stressful environments)

I am excited about the great potential for bibliotherapy –especially in the realm of child life!

This year at the annual child life conference in Orlando, there are two specific workshops that will be presented: “Wee Read: A Novel Approach to Promoting Bonding and Brain Development in the NICU” and “What’s Your Story? Narrative Interventions for Teens” — both promise to be great sources of new information. I will attend these workshops and would love to continue the conversation!

For additional ideas on incorporating books and bibliotherapy into supportive services for children, please visit my website at http://www.HeartfeltBooks.US I have a page called “Working Together” and I would love to hear your ideas!

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