The life threatened child and the life enhancing clown: towards a model of therapeutic clowning

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar;5(1):17-25. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem033.


In the last decade, there has been a rapid growth in the presence of clowns in hospitals, particularly in pediatric settings. The proliferation of clowns in health care settings has resulted in varying levels of professionalism and accountability. For this reason, there is a need to examine various forms of clowning, in particular therapeutic clowning in pediatric settings. The purpose of this article is to address what therapeutic clowning is and to describe the extent to which it can provide a complementary form of health care. In an attempt to apply theory to practice, the article will draw upon the experiences of a therapeutic clown within a pediatric setting while providing a historical and theoretical account of how clowns came to be in hospitals. Toward this end, a proposed model of therapeutic clowning will be offered which can be adapted for a variety of settings where children require specialized forms of play in order to enhance their coping, development and adjustment to life changes. Finally, current research on clowning in children's hospitals will be reviewed including a summary of findings from surveys administered at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Keywords: child life; clowning; complementary care; hospitalized child; pediatric psychosocial care; therapeutic play.