Staunton counselor authors kids’ books on mental health

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 10:29 AM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Talking with children about topics surrounding mental health can be difficult, but one Staunton counselor and author is breaking down those barriers through hands-on activities and colorful characters.

“Even as early as like middle school I knew that I wanted to be in the mental health field in some capacity,” Dustin Wright of Wright Psychological Services, PLC and Happy Hobble Books said.

Wright grew up in Augusta County and throughout his childhood, he said he had struggles dealing with emotions. Since becoming a professional counselor in 2008, part of his job includes talking with children and families.

“In our world, we use the term bibliotherapy, where we use story books, or picture books or workbooks either in conjunction with therapy or a part of therapy where the family uses it at home,” Wright said.

Wright said most of the literature available on topics like handling emotion and stress was not keeping up with the ever-changing younger generations, so he authored his first book.

“My Temper-taming workbook for us, with Herbert the Happy Hobble and the Mad monster,” Wright said.

The activities within the workbook are designed to benefit both the child and the caregiver.

“I really wanted to find really cool science experiments or magic tricks where people get their hands dirty and use those as metaphors to teach different mental health concepts,” Wright said.

Wright’s other works include ‘The Adventures of Chad’, a rhyming-style series that details a young boy’s experiences encountering and overcoming challenges with emotions. Another book of Wright’s also combines learning the alphabet with mental health strategies.

“Instead of tracing ‘A is for apple’ I can trace ‘A is for artwork’ and explain why artwork can be therapeutic so we have three different coping skills for every letter of the alphabet,” Wright said.

Overall, Wright said he hopes families can discover new ways to learn and help each other with each page of his books.

“If somebody’s struggling the whole family feels it and sometimes that can cause of a divide, sometimes big, sometimes small. But doing something like reading ‘The Adventures of Chad’ and having a good time, and then all of the fun creative activities in the workbook and having laughs while they’re learning and growing. I mean that’s the benefit right that’s why I call it family help and not self-help,” Wright said.

A portion of the proceeds of books sold through Happy Hobble Books goes to Mental Health America of Augusta, a nonprofit that advocates for mental health resources.

You can read more about Wright and his books here.