Expanding the Range of Puppetry in Expressive Play Therapy

Expanding the Range of Puppetry in Expressive Play Therapy

Michele J. Ferro (Lesley University, USA) and Julia Gentleman Byers (Lesley University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2224-9.ch010
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This chapter focuses on expanding the therapeutic application of using puppetry as a communicative tool in the service of psychological growth and integration for children. A continuum of more than thirty descriptors of puppetry formats are presented that each hold specific value within therapeutic interventions. The types of materials used to construct the puppet and their cognitive, emotional, and sensory connections are explored, as is the impact of uniquely created productions versus commercial products. The authors also define the limitations and challenges of certain types of puppetry, which can evoke or incite different reactions within different stages and phases of psychosocial treatment. Examples of case vignettes are provided from a Child and Adolescent public services agency in an inner-city environment.
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This chapter focuses on advancing the therapeutic application of puppetry as a communicative tool in the service of psychological growth and integration for children. Initially inanimate, the puppet can be brought to life through words and movement echoing the motions made by humans. Accordingly, puppetry has long been used and recognized as a vital projective and communication tool in therapy allowing for the safe disclosure of thoughts, emotions, affective responses, and physical expressions (Bromfield, 1995; Carter & Mason, 1998; Hartwig, 2014; Irwin, 2002; Ivon, 2014; Jenkins & Beckh, 2002; Lebedeva, 2012; Oaklander, 2007; and Steinhardt, 1994). Related literature (Bromfield, 1995; Burneikaite, 2009; Carter & Mason, 1998; Hartwig, 2014; Irwin, 2002; and Jenkins & Beckh, 1995) has highlighted the importance of choosing puppets that are suitable for therapeutic use. Despite these explorations, there is limited research integrating therapeutic issues within a continuum of the range of puppetry available to clients in play therapy.

The understanding of the physicality of puppetry and its range of therapeutic applications can be expanded through the proposed “Puppetry in Play Therapy Continuum” (PPTC) framework that considers the elements of structure, materials, process, and symbolic and metaphoric content. Carter & Mason (1998) defined puppetry into four basic commercially made formats – 1) Hand puppets, 2) Marionettes, 3) Muppets, and 4) Ventriloquist dummies. The authors propose an amplification of that premise naming at least thirty different descriptors of puppet making that hold specific value within therapeutic applications. Within the chapter, the PPTC of different puppets is outlined and explored. The authors also create a framework of therapeutic materials that define different uses of commercial and uniquely created products that meet specific treatment goals and provide opportunities for a range of diagnoses. For purposes of the chapter, examples of case vignettes from a pilot research project designed to explore the potentiality of this expansion using a non-directive, humanistic, and relational approach, are presented and examined.

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