1st Edition

The Hero’s Mask Guidebook: Helping Children with Traumatic Stress A Resource for Educators, Counselors, Therapists, Parents and Caregivers

By Richard Kagan Copyright 2021

    The Hero’s Mask Guidebook provides practical strategies to be used alongside the The Hero’s Mask novel. The Guidebook has been designed to promote an understanding of the impact of traumatic stress and what counselors, therapists, educators, parents and caregivers can do to promote healing and recovery. The Guidebook and storybook can be used together to spark conversations around the difficult topics of loss and trauma and to create openings for renewing and strengthening emotionally supportive relationships with distressed children after traumatic experiences.

    The Guidebook identifies resources to access information about treatment programs and strategies that can help children and families with traumatic stress and integration of The Hero’s Mask books with Real Life Heroes®, an evidence-supported treatment program for children and families with traumatic stress.


    1. Promoting Awareness of Traumatic Stress and What Can Be Done to Help Children, Families and Schools
    2. Suggestions for Use by Parents and Caregivers
    3. Developing Trauma-informed Schools and Child and Family Service Programs
    4. Curriculum Guide for Educators and Use in Groups
    5. Use by Psychotherapists and Counselors
    6. Resources for Trauma Treatment and Research on Traumatic Grief


    About the Author


    Richard Kagan is a clinical psychologist and the author and co-author of 12 books and 35+ articles, chapters, and papers on practice and research issues in trauma therapy, child welfare, foster care, adoption, professional development, program evaluation, and quality improvement in family service and behavioural health care programs. Dr. Kagan’s publications highlight practical and innovative approaches that counselors, therapists, educators, parents and caregivers can utilize to help children and families strengthen resilience and reduce traumatic stress.

    "The Hero’s Mask tells the story of children becoming heroes! It will inspire all who read it to face and overcome challenges with courage and bravery. The Hero’s Mask is not about what has happened to you but who you can become. The Hero’s Mask Guidebook combines research on the impact of trauma with a magical unfolding of the individual uniqueness and beauty of each child. It integrates theory, knowledge, and evidence-based practice with a soul depth that transcends the moment and calls us to be our ’best’ selves to children. It provides a sacred pathway for child, parent, and adult healing."

    James Henry, Ph.D. Professor of Social Work and Project Director, Children’s Trauma Assessment Center, Western Michigan University.

    "In the tradition of Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, and J.K. Rowling, Dr. Kagan uses the stories of heroes to illustrate how children can go through difficult times, learn from past mistakes, find strength in friendship, cope with the fear, discomfort, and paralysis of traumatic reminders, and become heroes in their own lives. He also illustrates in very practical ways how adults can nurture a child’s inner resilience by showing grace and compassion, guiding them to shape their own narrative and make heroic choices.

    In The Hero’s Mask, Dr. Kagan tells a story that children will love, full of mystery and friendship, bullies and heroism. Through that story children can relate to a hero in Carrie, whose relationships help her to overcome her fears and understand the strength she and her friends have to make a difference in other’s lives. Through Carrie’s story, children can understand the power of connection and engagement as paths towards healing and heroism."

    Jane Halladay Goldman, Ph.D., Director, Service Systems Program, UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

    "The Hero’s Mask is an engaging and timely novel about the impact of traumatic loss on children and much of what it takes for them to heal: good friends, nurturing adults, cultural wisdom, personal courage—and the power of storytelling itself. The companion Guidebook is a rich resource for caregivers, teachers, and counselors wanting to engage in deeper understanding and the difficult conversations that can support children through these toughest times."

    Martha B. Straus, Ph.D., Professor, Antioch University and author of Treating Trauma in Adolescents: Development, Attachment, and the Therapeutic Relationship.

    "In his novel, The Hero’s Mask, Dr. Kagan beautifully demonstrates the profound power of connection in promoting healing and resilience. Through his characters and the theme of a hero’s journey, he is able to bring the thematic of loss, human stress and the role of relationship to life in a context that is relatable to young people and the caregivers who support them. This novel along with the practical guidebook for parents and professionals is a unique tool written by someone who has clearly dedicated a career to understanding trauma, attachment, resilience and young people! Youth serving systems, families and children alike will benefit from this approach."

    Kristine M. Kinniburgh, LCSW, Director of Trauma Services, Justice Resource Institute Connecticut, National trauma trainer and consultant, The Trauma Center at JRI. ARC Co-Developer and Co-author of Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents; How to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency (Guilford Press).

    "The Hero’s Mask is a very engaging, age-appropriate, and inspiring novel for middle grade children, especially for those who have experienced traumatic losses, bullying, disengaged parents and harsh authority figures. The central characters are multi-dimensional and relatable, and the narrative moves forward in an adept, fast-paced manner that will engage most young readers. The Hero’s Mask and the accompanying Guidebook represent a significant contribution to an understanding of children’s trauma and actions that can be taken to reduce and resolve trauma."

    Cheryl Lanktree, Ph.D., Adolescent Trauma Training Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

    "For children and young teens who are feeling a lot of big emotions and are struggling to be understood, follow Carrie, the "hero" of The Hero’s Mask, as she puts the feelings shared by so many others into words. This novel beautifully describes the way stress and trauma can show up in our bodies and affect our relationships with family and peers. Young readers learn with Carrie as she begins to connect the dots between her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—to change the direction of her own story for the better.

    The Hero’s Mask is a great resource for schools that illustrates what students are really experiencing, how this affects their ability to learn and their behavior in the classroom, and the transformative role that educators can play. The accompanying Guidebook provides educators with a framework for understanding trauma-informed schools, as well as a structured approach for using The Hero’s Mask with students in the classroom."

    Jenifer Maze, Ph.D., Deputy Director, UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

    "In writing The Hero’s Mask and Helping Children with Traumatic Stress, Dr. Kagan offers a gift to children and families who have experienced trauma and to the caregivers, educators, and therapists who support these families. The Hero’s Mask works as a standalone piece of literature with its well-developed characters and salient themes of interpersonal, community, and cultural adversity, trauma, and loss. Through 11-year-old Carrie and the other children and adults in her life, many readers will identify with the somatic, emotional, and behavioral experiences associated with trauma and will gain a narrative of hope, possibility, and healing through connection. Helping Children with Traumatic Stress, a companion resource to The Hero’s Mask, offers accessible evidence-informed tools to support children and families in their journey of healing from trauma. Caregivers, educators, and therapists will find the curriculum guide with its specific objectives and activities invaluable in supporting connections with children and in providing developmentally-appropriate, culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed care."

    Mindy Kronenberg, Ph.D., IMH-E®, Clinical Psychologist and Adjunct Professor, University of Memphis, Co-Editor of Treating Traumatized Children: A Casebook of Evidence-based Therapies.

    "Brilliant psychoeducation on trauma, resilience and the power of relationships disguised as a middle grade novel. Reading The Hero’s Mask together should stimulate supportive and healing discussions between middle schoolers and their adult mentors. Overall a wonderful therapeutic resource!"

    Laurel J. Kiser, Ph.D., M.B.A., Associate Professor, Division of Psychiatric Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

    "The Hero’s Mask, written by a national expert in child traumatic stress, creatively addresses important ways educators, professionals, and caregivers can support a child dealing with pain from trauma and adversity. The Guidebook follows along with the novel as Carrie, our middle school role model, engages us with her courage and personality in facing overwhelming feelings, trauma triggers, and broken connections with family and peers that often occur when trauma and grief impact our youth. Kagan’s text offer guidance and inspiration to important adults in children’s lives to use the power of their relationships in informed, healing, and transformative ways."

    Lisa Amaya-Jackson, MD, MPH, Deputy Director, UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

    "The Hero’s Mask books go beyond the growing awareness of ACES and provide practical tools that concerned parents, teachers, counselors and therapists can use to rebuild the emotionally supportive relationships children need to thrive after experiences of hardship and trauma. The novel engages children and caring adults to experience adversity through the eyes of a child including what can help and what can hurt a troubled child. The Guidebook provides a curriculum for exploration of heroes that can help children, classrooms and schools to take steps to prevent or reduce traumatic stress. Together, these books provide essential resources for trauma-informed schools and programs."

    Heather Larkin Halloway, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Social Welfare, State University of New York at Albany.

    "Richard Kagan weaves together story with trauma-informed principles and interventions. As the reader learns about Carrie, her history, her challenges, and her strengths, they are learning important lessons about stress and trauma that they can apply to themselves or those around them. His metaphor of the mask is powerful, and through story, he offers dialogues about heroes, fear and how it affects us, the importance of taking a stand, reaching out for support, and showing up as your authentic self. These dialogues are core to both trauma treatments and trauma-informed systems, and it is refreshing to see them embraced in a story. Children, parents, and teachers will benefit from reading The Hero’s Mask, and I strongly believe it will help them open doors to important conversations that lead to healing."

    Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D., Associate Director, Child Trauma Research Program, University of California, San Francisco.

    "I finished the book and looked over the guidebook and I think that they are both wonderful! I definitely have a bunch of patients who could benefit from both."

    Debbie Greenhouse, MD, Past President of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.