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If You Turned into a Monster

Transformation through Play: A Body-Centred Approach to Play Therapy
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"Draw me a picture of what you would look like if you turned into a monster." Dennis McCarthy's work with distressed or traumatized children begins with an exercise that is simple but very effective: he invites the child to communicate with him in their own way, through the non-verbal language of play.

Using case studies from his clinical experience and with numerous children's monster drawings, McCarthy lets the meaningful self-expression of the child take centre stage. He demonstrates that being allowed to play, move and draw impulsively and creatively in the supportive presence of the therapist is in fact the beginning of the therapeutic process. These activities are shown to be more therapeutic for the child in practical terms than the interpretation of the clues it provides about the child's state of mind.

This very accessible book will be inspiring reading for play therapists and other professionals working therapeutically with young children and their families.
  • Published: Jun 15 2007
  • Pages: 160
  • 228 x 150mm
  • ISBN: 9781843105299
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Press Reviews

  • Counselling Children and Young People

    I would recommend If You Turned Into a Monster not only to therapists who work with children but to teachers and parents. The book is written with the kind of compassion that makes you want to read more.
  • J. Scott Morgan, fiction and non-fiction writer

    Dennis McCarthy's beautifully written book, If You Turned Into a Monster, might seem directed towards professional therapists, but its truths are universal. The wisdom of Mr. McCarthy, his gentle empathy, his reflections on myth, psychoanalysis, Bioenergetics, and his own struggles with childhood grief, will enlighten every reader. In jargon-free language, it explores the inner world of children in crisis, and reveals their incredible capacity not only to survive traumas, but - with the help of an insightful and caring therapist like Mr. McCarthy - to regain wholeness, reshaping their inner lives as they draw pictures, tell stories, and build up, break down, and remake their sand creations. It is thoughtful, funny, compassionate, filled with insights, and when you finish it, you will be rewarded with a desire to better understand your own mysteries, your `monsters', your true treasures of the self.
  • Professional Social Work

    Supporting traumatised children through play, rather than focusing predominantly on interpreting and reacting to their behaviour, is the key tenet of a book by Dennis McCarthy informed by his work as a therapist with young people. If you Turned into a Monster: Transformation through Play: A Body-Centred Approach to Play Therapy, draws on case studies from his own work. The author argues that games such as asking a child to "draw a picture of what you would look like if you turned into a monster," allow for non-verbal communication of the child's mental state and offer practical therapeutic benefits in their own right.
  • Children Now Magazine

    In this book for therapists working with traumatised children, psychotherapist Dennis McCarthy explains his method of asking children to draw him a picture of what they would look like if they turned into a monster. The idea is to invite children to communicate with him using the non-verbal language of play. McCarthy uses case studies and children's monster drawings to show that being allowed to play in the presence of a therapist is the start of the therapeutic process.
  • from the foreword by Richmond K. Greene, Jungian analyst and former director of the C.G. Jung Institute in New York City

    I recommend this book not only to therapists who work with children but especially to parents and teachers... [T]his book pushes past the complexities of psychological theory and jargon... [I]t is rare to find a therapist who has the sensitivity and skill to create...a safe and sacred psychological which children feel free to allow their monsters into the room... Dennis McCarthy clearly has this gift...
  • Gioia Timpanelli, author of Sometimes the Soul: Two Novellas of Sicily (Winner of the National Book Award) and 'Dean of American story telling'

    With a great deal of love, compassion, and wisdom Dennis McCarthy chronicles the lives and stories of children and their monsters in his book on transformation through play. The best stories always give specific details (this child, this particular situation, this problem) while also telling the universal stories which are meant for everyone, everywhere. This is that kind of important book of life stories.
  • Dr. Alexander Lowen, creator of Bioenergetic Analysis and author of The Language of the Body

    I found Dennis McCarthy's description of his energetic work with children fascinating reading. He has an unusual sensitivity and a solid comprehension of the emotional conflicts children have. His therapy is simple but highly effective based as it is on understanding the child's need to discharge his negative aggressivity safely. I recommend this book to parents, teachers and child therapists. They will enjoy reading it as well as learning from it.
  • PsycCritiques

    A therapist needs to open to the use of a wide variety of techniques and ideas, cognitive as well as cathartic acting out. The reader prepared to learn from a wise and seasoned therapist how to include innovative techniques in his armamentarium of tools to help release children from their emotional bondages will find nuggets of treasure as well as pleasure in the therapy stories recounted by the author.
  • International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis Journal

    The book is a clear exposition of effective treatment and I recommend it for the fascinating journey through cases with specific details and impressive results'.