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Bold Women No 1: Dr Viola Brody

Born: 3 June, 1908, Michigan, USA

Death: 11 August, 2003 (aged 95 years), Florida, USA

Viola Brody was one of the humblest women I have had the honour of meeting.
And, in her unique way, she was also BOLD.

In the USA, Vi Brody was nationally recognised as one of the leading pioneers in the field of Play Therapy.

She was committed to being an genuine participant in actively creating relationship with the children she worked with, rather than being a detached observer. She had the most amazing presence and communicated delight and acceptance of whatever presented in front of her.

I first met Vi when she was 83, in 1991 when she came to the UK to work with Parent Network, the parenting organisation I co-founded with Ivan Sokolov in the mid 80’s.

I will never forget picking her up from Heathrow airport, a tiny diminutive woman. She may have been small but she was a powerhouse of wisdom.

I was fortunate enough to attend several of her trainings in 'Developmental Play' : developing authentic connection and relationships with children.

She firmly believed that if children were cradled every day until the age of 7 years, the world would be transformed. She got the participants to cradle each other in a loving, non-sexual respectful way. It was a powerful experience of being seen and totally accepted.

She was way ahead of her time. She was bold in her beliefs about what children needed, not in a 'Ra ra, look at me' way. She just quietly got on with her work with children, refining her ideas and methodology. She was one of the humblest powerhouses I have ever met.

As Janet A Courtney. PhD said: There is no doubt that Play Therapy pioneer, Viola Brody, founder of Developmental Play Therapy (DPT) was a woman ahead of her time. Why? Because she advocated early on that children needed caring touch for healthy emotional and psychological growth and development—a fact that modern research now reveals as true. “Touch is our first communication” she advocated ~ hence the name of her book, The Dialogue of Touch (Brody, 1997).

She was my first teacher of attachment theory in action. She embodied what she believed. She gave me a deep sense of knowing the importance of touch and secure attachment that I have carried ever since. She was an inner support to my experience as a new mother and her approach was instrumental in the philosophy which lay behind the establishment of At Home Childcare in 2010. I will be forever grateful to her strong beliefs in the rights of the child to be seen and heard.

Vi had the most wrinkled skin I have ever seen: soft soft skin on her face that asked to be touched; beautiful soft hands that were full of love.

While staying with us many years ago, we watched the classic movie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie starring Maggie Smith. The next morning Viola announced,

‘When I am old, I think I want to live in Edinburgh.’

We all fell about.

She was one of the most present people I had the privilege of working with. She often said,

“There is plenty of time.’

She embodied a spaciousness, an acceptance and a highly developed sense of being with and attunement. It was impossible not to relax and be authentic in her presence.

I thought of her this morning again - hence this blog - when supporting a new mother, Ava, to feel resourceful. She was anxious and unsure whether she had a healthy attachment relationship with her baby of 4 months.

I drew on Viola's wisdom in encouraging Ava to look at her baby and describe - just describe - what she saw:

"I see your eyes looking at me"

and wait....

"Oh, I see your smile."

and share how she felt in seeing her smile "I love your smile .... and so on

All we need to do is look and listen ... everything we need is in front of us.

Thank you Viola Brody.

Thank you for all you gave me, the many children, professionals and teachers you worked with, and the world.


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