Author Q&A with Dr. Madeleine Vieira

Author Q&A with Dr. Madeleine Vieira

Dr. Madeleine Vieira is a Clinical Child Psychologist, author, and podcaster with a special interest in Childhood Anxiety Disorders and Infant Mental Health. Working in private practice, she offers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy, Play and Creative Arts Therapy, and Diagnostic Assessments to children.

Madeleine residse in London, UK with her husband and three children (all girls!). They have a Shih-Tzu called Caesar and since recently a Pomeranian puppy named Leila who both bark too much when the doorbell rings; the former is nothing like the Emperor! Her hobbies include, portrait photography, horse riding, world travels, dancing, and languages.

You are an author, but is it your day job? If not, what does fill your days? I am primarily a Clinical Child Psychologist besides being an author and podcaster. Along my busy private practice, I offer Clinical Supervision to Play and Creative Arts Therapy trainees and professionals. I Specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood anxiety disorders, and am passionate about alleviating symptoms of children suffering from anxiety. My I’M AFRAID anxiety disorders therapeutic children’s series was created out of this passion.

Did you always want to be an author? Being an author wasn’t something I aspired to perse, but occurred organically due to a need as I’ve always had many requests for therapy from parents of anxiety sufferers and was frustrated I couldn’t help them all due to a lack of availability in my private practice. One in ten children suffer from an anxiety disorder, therefore about 5 years ago I came up with the idea to create a therapeutic book series on different anxiety disorders in order to reach children worldwide, well beyond my practice, as well as have it serve as a therapeutic tool to other mental health professionals.

More recently, due to the pandemic, mental health professionals have long waiting lists as they’ve been inundated with therapy requests predominantly for children (as well as adults) who suffer from anxiety or depression. This series aims to provide a solution to many parents who struggle to find therapeutic help for their child.

What is the book series about? I’M AFRAID is a therapeutic anxiety disorder book series consisting of 6 books written for children in which the anxiety suffering protagonist, a different animal character per book suffering from a type of anxiety, wants to overcome his/her anxiety. He does so through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’s graded exposure process with the guidance of a wise owl.

Each book focuses on a type of anxiety disorder catered towards helping anxiety suffering children:

  • Specific Phobia (Sophia Swan Is Afraid of Water!)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder (Charlie Cub Is Afraid to Leave his Mother!)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Priscilla Puppy Is Afraid of Everything!)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (Khloe Kitten Is Afraid of Germs!)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder with Selective Mutism (Darcy Deer Is Afraid to Talk, Sometimes!)
  • Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (Pablo Parrot Is Afraid of Feeling Trapped!)

The first 3 books out of 6 on a Specific Phobia, Separation Anxiety, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder have recently published and the remaining 3 books will be published consecutively in spring, summer, and autumn.

How can your books uplift those who read it and help a child suffering from anxiety? The books provide therapeutic guidance to parents and children through the explanation in story form with a wise owl, Ollie Owl, and other sweet animal characters of the step-by-step process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s Graded Exposure therapy, the gold standard in anxiety treatment, and by including coping strategies as well as a stepladder for children (with the help of their parents) to complete before attempting any steps to overcome their anxiety.

Why is Ollie Owl who appears in each book of the series so important?
Ollie Owl is the wise companion who guides each protagonist, a different animal character suffering from a type of anxiety in each book, through the various graded exposure “stepladder” steps. He’s a fabulous support while the main character in each of the books goes through trials and tribulations when trying to overcome his/her anxiety. Ollie is there through sadness and joy and is very important in each story line!

As I wrote the books, I added a new animal character in each subsequent book while keeping most of the previous book characters as supporting characters to the anxiety suffering protagonist to create a familiarity of the characters with the reader. Some of the coping strategies Ollie Owl helps the anxiety sufferer with are positive thinking, talking back to your fear, fighting fear not just in what you do but with how you think – imagine yourself as a champion fear fighter! – slow deep breathing, creating a stepladder, and more!

What are you most excited about with this book seriesThe most exciting part is to be able to reach children worldwide suffering from anxiety and to relieve their suffering!

Does the book series replace actual therapy? We’ve tested the therapeutic graded exposure anxiety disorder process used in the book series with various families of different cultural backgrounds and geographical locations during the past few years and the books are an excellent tool to overcome anxiety as when the steps and coping strategies indicated in the books are followed and consistent practice is maintained, anxiety symptoms can greatly be reduced and sometimes even disappear altogether!

Although therapeutic children’s books are a valuable and much-needed resource, for more severe cases, I always recommend in-person therapeutic treatment with a mental health professional.

The illustrations in your books are timeless, of another era. Why did you decide to go for this look? It was important to me to create a series that would not only be therapeutic and useful for anxiety sufferers and mental health professionals to use in their clinics, but I also wanted it to look good and be attractive for children by using classic looking animal characters with soft colors in beautiful backdrop settings.

I’m a very visual person and know how much more I gravitate towards a specific book if I find the imagery or illustrations appealing. I therefore spent a lot of time with the illustrator to get the look right while making sure the therapeutic elements convey the correct message to the reader.

In particular mental health professionals will appreciate having all books of the I’M AFRAID series to serve as therapeutic tool when working with children suffering from anxiety in their clinic or private practice as each of the 6 books focuses on a different anxiety disorder: Specific Phobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety Disorder with Selective Mutism, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? Find your passion, learn everything you can about it, become the best you can be, trust your intuition, and follow your heart!

How do you handle setbacks and criticism? I take setbacks and criticism as learning opportunities part of life to better myself and to grow personally and professionally to do better next time.

Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? It’s hard work to keep up with every aspect of being an author, especially as I am also a doctor in Clinical Child Psychology and a mother of 3 little girls. I try to spend a few minutes every day on maintaining my social presence and to connect with my followers and readers so I consistently remain engaged.

How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I’ve always been a good self-starter and organizer! (As a child I never needed reminding that I had to do my homework as I had already done it! 😉 Once I set a goal, I make a plan and break it down into manageable steps and systematically work through each, while remaining flexible in case other priorities come up. For progress to take place it’s crucial to stay on course while it’s also important to adapt to change, when needed. Checking my work and doing a quality control is part of the process of achieving goals successfully.

How do you structure your day and make time for writing? Any time I have an idea or feel inspired I write down my thoughts. Then when I have a moment, I start brainstorming about my ideas and elaborate on my original thoughts until a writing structure starts developing. Although I’m a night owl by nature, I no longer have the luxury to write at night as I write when my children are at school, usually mornings when my brain is most active and least distracted!

What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? To be able to help children with their mental health and to alleviate their suffering!

What book uplifts you? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book has left a profound impression on me as the combination of mysticism, wisdom, and wonder inspired deep introspection in me (and I trust many others as well!). It contains so many valuable life lessons. We learn to listen to our hearts, to become aware of omens crossing our life journeys, and to pursue our dreams. Self-improvement positively affects everyone and everything around us. One of the life lessons that resonated with me is…

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything about us becomes better too.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Learn more about Dr. Madeleine Vieira via her beautiful and informative website.

Interview and Images Courtesy of Smith Publicity, Inc. 

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