What is Therapeutic Clowning?

A DEFINITION OF THERAPEUTIC CLOWNING (Definition by Helen Donnelly: 2011)  The profession of Therapeutic Clowning is an arts‐based practice typically in healthcare and community settings with children, adults or elders. It is designed to reduce stress, restore a sense of control and dignity, and celebrate the personhood of each individual regardless of their physical or cognitive limitations. Working in pairs using imaginative play, improvisation and music, the Therapeutic Clowns bring connectivity, lightness and joy in a place where sadness, trauma and boredom often reside.  In most settings, they regularly partner with staff/clinicians as needed to provide playful diversion during medical procedures and aid various therapists to help clients achieve a better quality of life through directive or non-directive techniques. This is an evidence-based practice.  The Therapeutic Clowns play a key role in bridging relationships between family members and their loved one. They typically have an extensive training in theatre, improvisation, movement, voice and dance in order to serve a variety of clients’ needs and desires. They undergo ongoing professional artistic, psychosocial development and reflective practice. These are professional clown artists, working a minimum of 3 and a maximum of about 20 hours a week in healthcare.  They are remunerated for their work.

What does a typical shift look like?

Depending on the amount of clients/residents, a shift can last between 2.5-7.5 hours. The Therapeutic Clown Practitioners start their shift by connecting with staff and/or the electronic medical records in order to familiarize themselves with age, diagnoses, likes/dislikes, triggers and other healthcare psychosocial concerns. They then warm up into their clown personas and begin their interventions. After this they document (either electronically or otherwise), notating the kind of intervention they had with each client/resident; the level of engagement and the type of reactions, etc. This is designed to be shared with the rest of the healthcare team in order to contribute to their understanding of those in care.

Why is the duo clowning model so important?

There are many benefits to working in pairs. It remains the most popular model worldwide for many reasons including: 

  • emotional support

  • a witness to the work (built-in supervision)

  • increased safety for the residents/clients

  • improvement of one's practice

  • artistic growth

  • more choices to patients 

  • sharing of goals as a duo

  • sharing of chores

  • artistic contrast (instant comedy)

The duo model clowning therefore has been identified as 

demonstrating Best Practice within the profession.