What a Muddle by Jess Van der Hoech and Renee Potgieter Marks
What a Muddle is a workbook for children who struggle to regulate their emotions. As they learn about the key actors in their brains and how to help them, they draw and journal answers to questions.
About the author:
Jess Van der Hoech is a counselor in private practice in the UK. She primarily focuses on children with trauma histories and trains other clinicians to do the same. You can learn more about Jess here.
Renee Potgieter Marks has been treating traumatized children for almost 40 years and is the clinical lead therapist with Integrate Families, National Centre for Child Trauma and Dissociation in England. You can learn more about that work here.
What we love:
The simplicity of this book makes it ideal for creative kids. They are given blank spaces to design the characters themselves instead of coloring in someone else’s drawings.
The coping skills that are taught in the book are a great fit for clinicians who focus on somatic treatments. Activities like a butterfly flap, which is a form of bilateral stimulation, are suggested. I think the skills are simple enough that children can easily remember and use them and they can be really effective.
What we didn’t:
I liked the concept behind this book but I don’t know if kids will really understand that it’s talking about parts of the brain. I like using the personified parts to help kids understand but I wished that they would have spelled it out better.
This book would work well in play therapy if you fill in the gaps. I wouldn’t recommend it for parents unless they had some basic understanding of the brain already. If you wanted to use it as homework, my suggestion would be to send the parents home with a copy of The Whole Brain Child and then let them work through What a Muddle with their kiddo.
Many therapists enjoy recommending books to their clients to supplement the work they are doing together. We also use books to help ourselves grow as people and practitioners. Remember though that books are never a replacement for real human connection or for therapy when it’s needed. If you find yourself needing a therapist, a great place to start is Psychology Today. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.