The Use of Play in Therapy

playDr Fiona Zandt has written the below article on the importance of play in therapy. Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett, authors of Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings, are clinical psychologists who currently work in successful private practices in Melbourne. They each have over 15 years’ experience working with children and families. 

Connecting families with wool – Why play is so important when working therapeutically with children

A therapist recently described using an activity from our book that involves using wool to connect family members to make visible the ways in which their feelings and actions impact upon each other. Following the session the child who was being brought to therapy articulated some of what she had learnt to her Mum. She said that she now knew that if she died, everyone would be really sad, and that not everything was her fault. Her comments reflected some key messages that the therapist wanted to convey – namely that she was part of a family who cared about her and were all being affected by the difficulties they were experiencing. Blame was removed and the responsibility for change was shared, laying the foundation for the therapist to work effectively with both the parents and the child.

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Top 5 tips for getting your business started

by Vicky Abad, co-editor of The Economics of Therapy, edited by Daniel Thomas and Vicky Abad, Apr 2017, £22.99, ISBN: 9781849056281


Many people remind me how lucky I am to run my own business. I love what I do, it is my passion and I feel very lucky indeed to make my living doing what I am passionate about and doing what I love – making music with children.

Starting a business doing something you are passionate about is a privilege and an honour, and it is also hard work. Nobody pays you to go to work except you – so you have to really believe in what you do, have faith in your ability to do it and your ability to sell it to others. You have to build something that people want to buy and this takes time and planning.

It is sometimes easy to daydream about what your business would look like but then get lost or overwhelmed in the actual reality of trying to set one up.

Running your own business isn’t all songs and tambourines (or drums and shakers for that matter either!). Yes it is fun, and rewarding, and it is also risky and challenging.

If I were to start out again, there are a few things I would do differently to get to where I am today. I have learned many lessons and found ways to do things more efficiently, not just in regards to time, but also in regards to emotional energy.

So, here is a list of the Top 5 things for getting your business started.


1- Think big – plan now – how big do you want your business to become?

Do you know what your end position is? Dan talks about this in his chapter in our book The Economics of Therapy. When I started Boppin Babies I didn’t really have an end game, I had a very immediate need that I wanted to fulfil – I wanted a music group that I felt was appropriate for my little baby to attend. I knew I could provide this service, and that it would be excellent but I didn’t plan how the business would evolve. In some ways this has been a blessing as the growth has been organic and has moved in new directions I might not have originally considered. In other ways the growth has caught me by surprise, and being prepared (having a plan for it) would have helped me manage it more efficiently.

So the first tip we have for you is – map out your business plan and envisage where you want it to end – what do you want to grow into? Then you can work backwards and implement steps to get there, and these steps will allow for greater growth, and more efficient growth as you won’t have to go back and reinvent the wheel each time you outgrow it.


2- Choose your name carefully

This really fits in with the first tip. You want your business to grow and when it does you will want it to still reflect the name you have chosen. So think of whether you want the name to be about you (Vicky Abad Music Therapy Centre) the core business you will provide (music, therapy, art, babies that bop), an acronym, or whether you want it to elicit an emotional response, experiential feeling, or maybe you want a name that is completely unrelated to your clinical work that you can generate a market for. For Dan, choosing a name for growth and expansion was core to the set up and growth of Chroma. He did not want a name that told people what the business did; he wanted a name they could grow into. For me, Boppin’ Babies very clearly reflected what the business did and how babies participated (they bop!), so I used a verb-adjective name to capture this. Adjectives can also be used in a nonsense sequence such as the Skinny Cow, or a verb like google to provide your name. You can play with adjectives and acronyms too, or stick with nouns that are logical, plain (think McDonalds), or nonsense- the options are endless!

So, our second tip for you is – take your time choosing your name and choose one that will reflect where you want to go with the business. Spend time throwing ideas around, draw up a logo; see if it matches visually the sound of your name. Invest some money and engage the services of a graphic designer and a marketing agency to help you brainstorm if you have trouble (like me) visualising what a name will look like. There is no wrong answer here, but the name you choose will direct your graphic and online marketing and the image you want to portray to the world.


3- Surround yourself with smart people who have different skill sets to yours

Chances are you are an excellent therapist if you are reading our book, and entrepreneurial in nature. I think I am excellent at my job, at being a music therapist, at engaging and connecting with families through music. I am also really good at coming up with great ideas and strategic plans, but I am not so great at unpacking the steps required to get to my end vision.

Our third tip for you is to – surround yourself with a team of experts who can help you build your business by providing different strengths to your own. This can include a finance team (or if you are small an online accounting program that does the hard work for you but keeps the costs down while you are in set up mode), HR team, PR experts, social media gurus, sales people. The list is endless!

It can be expensive to get started, and money is probably tight given you are starting up. If so, you don’t have to employ a suite of professionals, you can choose the areas you know are not your best strengths and outsource them. These days there are excellent online services you can tap into for business support including virtual assistants, apps that manage your bookings, accounting software, admin automation systems and many more.

Here are a few that will really help you with time management, cash management and tax:

  • Get yourself an excellent accountant. There are different tax implications for self-employed people and companies. It is important you use the correct legal set up as well as understand the tax implications and the laws.
  • A strong online presence will help people find you – get help designing the best website you can afford. If you are pretty good at this yourself then use online services to tweak the design you come up with
  • Marketing your services is also a niche business skill. Use the services of content writers, public relations consultants and/or marketers if you can afford them in the start-up phase to get you going.
  • Sales – you have to sell your services now. This is an area that really challenges many therapists. Something to consider in your planning is: are you comfortable selling your services? Can you market them or should you get help from a sales specialist?
  • Look at what administrative apps you can find to support bookings, payments and accounting


4- Work with a mentor

When you start out, the whole idea of growing a business can be overwhelming. And at any time, when you are growing said business, it can be easy to get lost in the day to day detail. It can help to have someone objective (not your partner, best friend or parent) to turn to and bounce ideas and questions off, and also to hold you accountable to decisions you have to make/ actions you must take.

The fourth piece of advice is to – get a business coach/consultant you can turn to for support, advice, accountability. Therapists are used to the idea of seeking out supervision to help us with our clinical work. View this as supervision for your business work – it is just as important to have someone you can debrief with and not bring home the stress of running a business to your family. This person is also someone who can give you a kick up the pants if need be, or hold you accountable without any emotional connection the way there might be if, say, your partner were to say “how is that new contract coming along? Or why haven’t you finished that proposal? What is next on your agenda?”

5- Work on the business not just in the business

This one can be tricky at the best of times. As the business owner, you are the one responsible for driving the growth. You are the passionate one. After all, it is your baby. So the temptation to do everything can be huge, you cover shifts, take groups, do the pay run, balance the books, organise the sessions, pay the bills, attend marketing events etc. If so, you are working in the business every moment of every day, which means there is no time for you to work on the business. It can be hard to prioritise time that is not bringing in money when you have staff wages and bills to pay. But if you don’t there will be minimal opportunity for your business to grow.

My fifth top tip for you is – plan from the very beginning a portion of time each week to work on your business. You will be tempted to work in it all the time as things will be busy. But here’s a sixth tip (always give something for nothing as Dan would say) – you are going to stay busy. It will never get less busy. As you grow you will find new levels of busy to fill the spaces you create by establishing systems/ protocols/ procedures/ staff. So, from the get go, timetable each week set periods of time and even whole days where you work on your business. This can include clinical revisions, looking at your sessions plans or work load for example; and it should also include strategic planning and thinking, like identifying where the next clinical growth area will be for you, or planning to expand into a new area, meeting potential partners, and then working through how these future directions will effect staff recruitment and training, so you can plan for this extra (busy) work too. Networking with colleagues and business partners is also important and shouldn’t be underestimated.

We wish you all the very best in your new and exciting ventures of setting up your business! We have written this book – The Economics of Therapy  – to support you doing just so, to tap into what you are already good at, given that you have trained in the creative arts therapies. Now you can add these practical tips and get going on setting up and growing your successful business!

Vicky Abad and Dan Thomas.

Vicky Abad is a Registered Music Therapist with extensive national and international management, clinical and research experience in paediatric and early intervention music therapy and music early learning. Vicky started her own business Boppin’ Babies in 2007, and over the years has grown it in response to client needs while balancing this with market demand and family life. She has a keen understanding of the intricacies of running an arts therapy business in today’s busy world. She has presented her research and lectured in music therapy, music early learning and business management internationally.

Daniel Thomas has been a music therapist since 2002 and started his first arts therapy business in 2005. Through the development of Chroma, established in 2013 as a national provider of arts therapy services, Daniel has garnered a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities involved in running a large therapy business. Daniel has presented his ongoing research in Scandinavia, Australia and the UK. Chroma was awarded the Advancing Healthcare Chamberlain Dunn Learning award for entrepreneurship in April 2017.

If you would like to read more articles like Vicky’s and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer. You can unsubscribe at any time.

The musical nature of human communication

musical-nature-human-communicationRhythm of Relating

by Stuart Daniel

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (it was the nineties in Edinburgh) I enjoyed getting painted red and drumming like wild-fire with a group of people dedicated to festival and having serious amounts of fun. The festival nights we drummed were a culmination of many hours spent in connection through shared rhythm. There’s a collective space we would enter, a space known to any rhythm musician, where time goes strange, the group hums with a new electricity and unity glows.”


Sometime last year, as a play therapist, I was working with an eleven year-old boy. We had been hanging out for four sessions. The boy had a lot to be angry about and, up until this point our connection had been defined by me (almost as a by-stander) attempting to help him feel safe and contained as he expressed this angry momentum. I remember feeling disconnected. Not obviously, but somewhere in a quiet place inside where the chance for melancholic sadness has a chance to grow. In this particular session, session five, the boy had given our punch-bag a name and was beating it with hands and then foam swords. I stuck with him, joining in, empathising with body, gesture, a few words. After a while the energy of his angry impetus faded a little and he more casually struck with the swords. I had some insider information here! I knew the boy was learning, and loved, to drum. I started playing an off-beat to his strikes, and then switched things around a little. He matched perfectly and, after a few iterations, developed too. We played in-sync like this for a while until the energy of the room changed colour. The boy became quiet, lay down on the fallen punch-bag, and moved on to a series of mother-baby play scenes of a fresh, gentle, powerful quality completely different from before. I remember being delighted, moved, and consciously thinking, “has he been reading our book?”.  Continue reading

On the value of writing with traumatised young people – with Marion Baraitser

Baraitser_Reading-and-Exp_978-1-84905-384-6_colourjpg-printMarion Baraitser demonstrates the power of writing with traumatised children and young people. Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people:
When disturbed young people have read aloud together a strong text, talked about it with a practiced facilitator in a roomful of trusted community members, discussing characters and subjects that concern their own lives, and then written about it, it can transform their idea of themselves and of their future lives. They are better able to externalize self-hood so they can exist in the world, feeling that their internal being has connected to the outside world through books, in some profound way, a form of ‘being-in-development’, a process of growing and changing the many selves they can uncover by this process. The facilitator brings energy, optimism, warmth and responsiveness, even inspiration, or at least motivation or affirmation, to each session.
Here is Amina on the value of writing in helping her to heal:
Writing is helping me to put down memories, different perspectives, to try to find the line… Talking doesn’t do this. When I write I am having a relationship with my journal. Writing is like having a conversation with yourself. I tend to be more honest… pick up on things that lie deeper. I love myself, in writing… I am lucky to be here… I am lucky to be alive… You must keep going and finding yourself, at the same time staying true to yourself… even though you cannot forget where you started from.


How reading great books together can change lives:
The Nigerian writer Ben Okri, who holds childhood memories of civil war in Nigeria, of his schooling in Lagos 400 miles from his family and of how, on reaching England, he lived rough, by his wits, homeless and miserable. He went to London because of Dickens and Shakespeare, but he also loved African writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. ‘Literature doesn’t have a country. Shakespeare is an African writer… Dickens’ characters are Nigerians.’ (Okri, 1992) As the young people read aloud in the company of a facilitator and a like-minded group, they become the writer, they are taken out of themselves, and if the writer is worth his salt, that encompasses a whole new set of dimensions that can change the way they regard life and their place in it.

Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.





O_Toole_Asperkids-NotYo_978-1-84905-958-9_colourjpg-webTo celebrate the launch of our brand new coloring book by award winning author Jennifer Cook O’Toole we’re inviting Asperkids everywhere to join in with our Not-Your-Average-Art-Gallery.

Gettingfish with eyes involved is simple.

Step 1: Just print off the goldfish image and color it in!

Step 2: Send us your submission. Simply take a photo of your coloring and send it to us at

Step 3: Be sure to like our Facebook page to see if your submission features in our gallery of Awesome Asperkid’s Pictures.

To see more great pictures purchase a copy of the newest book in the Asperkid’s series by Jennifer Cook O’Toole.

By submitting a colored in drawing to  Not-Your-Average-Coloring-Art Gallery you give permission to Jessica Kingsley Publishers to share your work on via digital and print marketing such as social networking sites, blog posts and catalog mailings.

Jennifer Cook O’Toole is the author of Asperkids, The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules, The Asperkid’s Launch Pad and Not-Your-Average Coloring Book all published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.



Creative therapists: How to be your own boss

Mikel_Art-of-Business_978-1-84905-950-3_colourjpg-webIn this extract from The Art of Business, author Emery Hurst Mikel takes a step-by-step look at the process of marketing yourself as a self-employed creative therapist, giving top hints and tips based on her own wealth of experience with this flexible way of working.

Read the extract here


Entering into the realm of imagination – an extract from Dramatherapy with Myth and Fairytale

Pearson-Smail-W_Dramatherapy-wi_978-1-84905-030-2_colourjpg-web Jenny Pearson, co-author of ‘Dramatherapy with Myth and Fairytale’, explains how this extract, from one of the chapters written by the late Pat Watts, expertly guides the reader through the process of preparing groups to enter into the realms of imagination, ready to begin a myth enactment.

“The myths and fairytales in this book are stories from long ago that have survived the centuries because they have been loved and because they carry wisdom and healing. They have survived because people have told them to their children and grandchildren who have remembered them, written them down, created books and plays, dances and films around them, and told them to their children.

In the drama and movement therapy practiced by the authors of this book, the stories take the form of simple, straightforward scripts. The opening chapters take the reader through the experience of entering into the stories as improvised drama and living them in role. The Sesame approach to myth enactment requires no previous experience of ‘acting’ or ‘dance’. Participants are invited into a given space and taken, step by step, toward and over the threshold that leads into the realm of imagination.

This is how Pat Watts, who created the Myth module of the Sesame training at Central School of Speech and Drama, describes the process of entry into that magical Land.”

Read the extract here


JKP Authors Andrew Nelson and Cindy Schneider share Autism-Theatre Techniques with specialists from Hong Kong

By Andrew Nelson, author of Foundation Role Plays for Autism: Role Plays for Working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parents, Peers, Teachers, and Other Professionals

Fellow JKP author Cindy Schneider (Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome) and I have been colleagues and friends for over three years now. We met at the Autism Society of America (ASA) Conference in 2008 and immediately began collaborating on national autism-theatre projects along with other specialists from around the world.

Very early on in our friendship and collaboration we identified a mutual interest in training other autism-theatre practitioners in a “summer institute” style workshop. We wanted to offer thorough training in the theories and techniques used by autism-theatre artists and educators, and to give participants hands-on experience applying new skills with actors on the autism spectrum. This summer, in late July, our dream was realized.

One year ago, a mutual friend of ours contacted me about autism-theatre training for a group of autism specialists from Hong Kong. Mandu James YC Cheung and his wife, Dr. Eva Lai, had previously collaborated with Cindy and me on a project called “Actors in Action” at the ASA Conference. Mandu and Eva asked if I could arrange for a group of six autism professionals from the Caritas organization to come study somewhere in the US. I immediately contacted Cindy and plans were soon underway.

Our new friends from Hong Kong arrived on a Friday afternoon and we immediately dove into an intensive autism-theatre training.

For three days Cindy, myself, and our new partner Chris Nealy demonstrated a variety of activities from books and from our work over the years.

One of my favorite theatrical tools is the mask. Masks can be used in a wide variety of ways to teach emotion recognition, body awareness, emotional expression, subtle social cues and postures, etc. This particular set of masks was designed and created for me by my friend Doug Berky, an actor and mask maker from Indiana. In the photo (below) we are conducting a role play and using masks to depict the emotions often seen in bullying situations, and how different outcomes can change the mask from happy to sad, etc.

We also began to help the trainees develop an action plan for when they returned to Hong Kong. The trainees then spent three and a half days in the field observing many of Cindy’s ongoing “Acting Antics” programs in a variety of settings around her home base in Pennsylvania. They were also given the opportunity to work directly with actors on the spectrum, implementing new techniques learned in the previous days’ trainings.

By the end of the seven day intensive, we group of trainers had developed a very lovely friendship with our six new friends from Hong Kong. We laughed together and spent time discussing how the experience was going to be put into action in their communities.

Overall, I believed we learned as much as trainers as they did as trainees. We were especially honoured when the participants presented us with original art created by artists with developmental disabilities in Hong Kong (pictured left).

Cindy, Chris and myself hope to stay in close contact with our friends to learn about their experiences in the months to come. We also hope to be able to offer similar experiences to others with an interest in autism and theatre in the future.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011