Seidman 1

Ariana Seidman
Colette Searls
HONR 300
12 April 2015
Puppets and Therapy
Professors Richard Carter and Perry Mason reflected, “Puppets are a key that can
open the door to the inner world of childhood.” When dealing with emotionally unstable
children, puppetry has both diagnostic and therapeutic uses. Its benefits have been vastly
demonstrated over several studies. Puppets are effective in therapy for several reasons
and are helpful in treating many childhood psychological issues. This paper will outline
the benefits of puppetry in therapy, discuss several studies, and list what types of puppets
are frequently used.
Puppets allow a projection of emotion and conflict onto a character and help the
child feel safer in therapy sessions. They depersonalize complex feelings, making them
easier to talk about. Puppets hold a child’s interest and can also “overcome a child’s
resistance to treatment”. Children are likely to feel uncomfortable having a conversation
with their therapist and often lack the communication skills to do so. However, by
creating characters with the therapist and acting through different issues, the child can
creatively work through his or her problems (Carter and Mason).
In Richard Carter and Perry Mason’s, “The Selection and Use of Puppets in
Counseling,” the authors quote that Jewel (1989) recommends the use of puppets for the
following applications: developing language and communication skills, overcoming
emotional and physical isolation, building self-esteem, encouraging emotional release,

1952) looked at the use of puppets in group counseling. “the therapist helps the children develop a sense that they can function safely at school. the patient must learn to “control physical symptoms such as tense muscles or hyperventilation”. “help the children develop strategies to control intrusive thoughts and images”. They developed shows with plots based on the themes or conflicts and helped the children to work through their problems. Jewel also encourages the reader/therapist to remember that creativity and flexibility are important when using puppets. used profanity. Because of this. he returned to the standard classroom. Brown suggested the following steps for treating these children. Then. 1951. Carter (1987) discussed the application of puppets in therapy with a boy who witnessed the murder of his father. Carter and Mason also discussed Brown’s study (1996) in successfully treating children with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. By following these steps. and even physical therapy. Bender and Woltmann . While resistant to other forms of therapy.Seidman 2 making decisions. the child should be able to gradually overcome his or her posttraumatic stress. Matthew Bernier discussed in great depth studies performed by Bender and Woltmann. Additionally. Bender and Woltmann (1940. Eventually. In a 1936 study. “the boy became aggressive. the boy was placed in a special needs class. and in the community without a threat of danger”. the boy gradually began to express his feelings through the use of puppets. This discovery is a useful diagnostic tactic and therapeutic method. they usually reflected the child’s “area of conflict”. Finally. First. frequently hit other children and teachers. In his unpublished dissertation. and destroyed property”. at home. and Jenkins and Beckh. According to Carter. they found that when asked to create their own stories.

They believed the use of symbolic characters could provide. Jenkins and Beckh. Marionettes’ movements are a bit more life like than hand puppets. or. the most frequently used in therapy are hand or finger puppets. however. the child’s relationship with his or her mother. Their mouths are manipulated like a hand puppet. Bender and Woltmann preferred the use of hand puppets in their studies as they believed they are more direct. Finally. marionettes. In “Play Therapy Techniques”. Muppets. they found puppets to be most effective on children from ages five to eleven. Muppets are described as a combination of hand puppets and marionettes. legs. In their studies. Ventriloquists’ dummies generally create the most realistic movements (Carter and Mason). Contrastingly. Hand puppets are placed over the puppeteer’s hand and the bottom jaw is manipulated. There are several guidelines and recommendations as far as how to select puppets for therapeutic purposes. and head. There are many different types of puppets. and siblings”. and encourage audience participation. it is also important not to have too many puppets. on the other hand. focused on individual therapy. and are controlled by several strings attached to the arms. Marionettes are more complicated. However. “a free expression of aggression without causing anxiety or fear”. so the child . or ventriloquist’s dummies. but their arms and body are controlled with strings and rods. more convincing. ventriloquists’ dummies are operated with strings and rods inside the body. Charles Schaefer and Donna Cangelosi suggest having fifteen to twenty puppets in the room so the child has plenty to choose from.Seidman 3 determined that puppets are ideal for “expression of aggression against the child. capable of more aggression. Jenkins and Beckh preferred the use of finger puppets because they require less skill than hand puppets. or by the child with guilt. father.

This would allow insight into the child’s projection of a relationship. They say that the puppets should be simple. prince. posttraumatic stress. Additionally. Finally. some. Schaefer and Cangelosi argue that it is all right to have universally symbolic characters such as a witch. and the goal is to have the child believe the puppet is really alive. One should not move the upper jaw of a puppet. They also state that the puppets must have a “range of affects” such as aggressive. the goal should be . puppets should fit adult and children’s hands. It is important for the therapist to be able to interact with the puppets as well to encourage play and expression of emotion. If the puppet is stuffed in a box at the end of the session. Puppets should be soft and cuddly as well as washable. as it might inhibit the child’s imagination. Carter and Mason recommend that the puppets not appear as universal characters such as Santa Claus. In conclusion. puppets have many applications and are extremely useful in therapy. or superhero. However. in order to engage the children and prevent the spread of germs. or all of the suspension of disbelief will be lost. Carter and Mason provide even more guidelines for the appearance and functionality of the puppets. so that the child can easily manipulate them. Additionally. as that does not mimic humanoid movement. and other emotional disturbances. friendly. Carter and Mason also provided some suggestions for manipulating the puppet to make it the most believable.Seidman 4 does not become overwhelmed. the therapist should store the puppets after the child has left. and neutral. While there are many different options for the actual style and character of the puppet. It has been demonstrated in several studies that puppets have helped children with aggression. The puppets should engage the audience and never stop moving.

creativity. .Seidman 5 to make it appear as life-like as possible in order to help the child feel more comfortable in therapy. and imagination. a therapist can use puppets to help young children overcome a variety of social and emotional disturbances. With hard work.

Mason. Carter. N. and Perry S. Charles E. 2002. eds.Seidman 6 Works Cited Bernier. and Donna M.d. Cangelosi. Richard B. Hahnemann U.." Professional School Counseling 1. 1983. .p. N.: Jason Aronson.5 (1998): 50-53. Matthew G. Web..: n. Diss. 2nd ed. Schaefer..p. Print. Print. "The Selection and Use of Puppets in Counseling. Puppetry as an Art Therapy Technique With Emotionally Disturbed Children. n.p.