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Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Unpack My Heart with Words

Marion Baraitser

Part of the Writing for Therapy or Personal Development series

Quick Overview

Drawing on the author's work with young asylum seekers and refugees, this book explores how literature can be used to help children and young people who have been victims of violence overcome their experiences and regain self-worth. It covers all aspects of implementing the therapy, including the theory behind it and practical advice.
Details Price Qty
Paperback / softback
2014, 8.98in x 5.98in / 228mm x 152mm, 288pp
ISBN: 978-1-84905-384-6
2014, ePUB, 240pp
ISBN: 978-0-85700-747-6
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Unpack my Heart with Words explores how literature can be used to help young victims cope with their experiences. The process of reading, discussing and rewriting carefully selected texts can have a significant therapeutic impact, as the young person identifies his or her own experience in the narrative. This book guides readers through all aspects of implementing biblio/narrative therapy with children and adolescents, from the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding the psychological needs of the child to providing more practical information on how to choose the right text and encourage expression through the spoken and written word. It includes exercises for use in sessions, an analysis of the importance of symbol when working therapeutically with children, and a complete account of the ethics of good practice. Drawing on the author's innovative work with young asylum seekers and refugees, and with an overview of the latest research in creativity, language and memory, the book provides a comprehensive and practical resource on the use of literature to help young victims regain their dignity and overcome the overwhelmed hurt self.

This book will be of immeasurable value to students and practitioners world-wide in arts and health care who work with traumatised young people, including counsellors, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, teachers, psychotherapists and social workers.


'The stars of Unpack My Heart with Words are four survivors of war and abuse whose words thread through Marion Baraitser's narrative. Offering both theory and practice, she takes us on an insightful journey as she delicately encourages these traumatised young people to respond to selected literature through dialogue and writing. I have a better understanding now of the term 'therapeutic resilience' and huge admiration for the Baobab Centre, its community of young survivors and therapeutic workers.'
- Beverley Naidoo, author of The Other Side of Truth, Carnegie Medal 2000

'[This] book explores the ways in which the combined activities of thinking with others about written stories, exploring feelings, ideas and memories that emerge and then writing on the themes explored, can help young people to process both destructive and nourishing experiences... I hope that its publication will lead to others learning the skills to work in such an energetic, careful and creative way with young refugees and asylum seekers in various contexts.'
- from the foreword by Sheila Melzak, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and Executive and Clinical Director of Baobab Centre

'As a theatre practitioner and writer, currently working with issues of asylum, I found this book to be helpful and stimulating as well as beautifully written. It provides insightful, creative and intelligent ways of working with traumatised young people.'
- Clare Summerskill

'This book has a sense of straddling continents of theory and practice... Marion Baraitser has been working at the Baobab Centre as a writer-in -residence. She details her work, experiences and a critical perspective on many aspects of using words with young people who have had unique early lives, involving some or all of the following: warfare, receiving and/or perpetrating violence, abandonment, racism, identity crisis, dislocation, poverty and surviving without parents or carers. Baraitser visits relevant areas of consideration when working with this client group, including the nature of trauma and its effects on brain development; culture, age, gender and reading level of participants; sensitive choice of materials; many examples of world literature and exercises, which will be useful to other practitioners and topics such as collective cultural identity, groupwork, incorporating drama, 'performed language' and music... There is much that is transferable within this book for all 'words for wellbeing' practitioners...The particular stories and voices of the children are valuable in this volume... It is worth taking time with this complex and deep examination, not least as a reflexive tool to measure ourselves as facilitators against Baraitser's experienced account of a writer practicing with a traumatised and vulnerable client group.'
- Claire Williamson


By (author): Marion Baraitser
Foreword by: Sheila Melzak