Puppets in Therapy - Information
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Barbara Scheel.

This side will be in English only!

Contents :

puppeteer, puppet therapist, stage director, puppet maker

After finishing school Barbara Scheel studied Mathematics, Chemistry, German, Fine Arts and Psychology.
She was teacher at school and lecturer for mathematics and psychology at the University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

Barbara Scheel
  • is member of UNIMA Germany since 1.1.1976, her puppetry teacher was the late Friedrich Arndt.

  • began to perform with puppets in 1976, working together with Dieter Brunner,

  • was editing the UNIMA-Almanach in 1979,

  • established "BABUSCHKA-Theater" in 1983,

  • wrote about 20 puppet plays for adults and children,

  • put about 45 different puppet plays on stage,

  • began to combine different types of puppets in one play in the early 80th,

  • did performances, stage directions and lectures in over 20 different countries and in 7 different languages,

  • created a special puppet-technique for table-puppets in 1983,

  • did the first theatre play with table puppets for adults in 1984,

  • was one of the founders of the "German Association of Puppets in Therapy" in 1984,

  • wrote many articles about puppetry and puppet therapy (mostly in German),

  • opened a stationary theatre in Eppingen/Germany in 1990, since than with more than 100 performances each year for children and adults,

  • did workshops in puppetry and puppet therapy worldwide with children, students, elderly people, disabled people, professional puppeteers, therapists, social workers,

  • was elected as "best actor of the region" in 1999,

  • helped puppeteers in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami in 2004,

  • was elected UNIMA councillor in Perth in 2008,

  • is member of the UNIMA commission "Puppets in School, Development and Therapy" since 2008,

  • etc.

Puppets in Therapy
Barbara Scheel

In 1984 the „German Association Puppets in Therapy“ was founded by psychologists, puppeteers and teachers. The aims were to exchange information, to document, to research and to support those people who work with puppets, shadow puppets or masks, in situations of healing in psychological, physiological and pedagogical surroundings.

Therapists and teachers were asking what puppetry does to children and adults and why puppets are a very successful way to communicate between therapists and clients, children or adults in depressing or other problematic situations as traumata and shock are and where they are not able to communicate in a normal way.
Puppeteers were asking how puppets work when they are on stage. They wanted to know what is up with the audience when they look to a puppet performance.

We developed an explanation why puppets help to communicate in situations where other mediums fail. The reactions of people on puppets deal with the so called “interims object” well known in psychology. It says that in childhood we all have things/dolls/puppets/pillows etc. what we take a substitute for persons which we need to survive emotionally. It deals with the process of personal independence.

  1. Puppets can heal if they are in the hand of trained professional therapists.

  2. Puppets do manipulate if they are in the hand of people who want to do this. Soldiers during the Second World War were indoctrinated with puppets as well in Germany and Russia. (We have documents about this.)

  3. Puppets in the hand of puppeteers deal with the emotions of the audience. Puppeteers should know what they do and should know why children/adults react to a “thing” like a puppet.

  4. In difficult situations in psychotherapy and also physiotherapy puppets, at hospitals and homes can clear situations and help to communicate to open bridges for the process of healing.

  5. There are rules that therapists, teachers and puppeteers should learn when they deal with puppets. That does not only mean correct manipulation of puppets but also to know for instance which kind of puppets should be chosen in a special situation; handicapped people need special puppets that can be developed specially for them; how to begin with a communication through puppets etc.

  6. It is possible to work with puppets in groups of disabled, mentally retarded, physically handicapped or other handicapped people, people in hospitals, under cancer or near death, seniors and small children. Puppets not only can reduce the level of medicine given to them. Clients will also be less aggressive, can deal better with their emotions, have a better understanding to stories and a better communication to the therapists/social workers/doctors and build out a better group understanding and self understanding.

The “German Association Puppets in Therapy” was founded in 1984.
Since then we have a yearly meeting where we exchange techniques, theses and thinking and show other members what we do and discuss difficulties. People from all over the world were guests at these meetings and reported about activities they know in their countries. There is also a yearly journal. (See: www.dgtp.de – sorry in German only)

Sorry , most of the articles are in German. There is only one in English which will be published at the book “Magic Puppetry” by UNIMA Commission “Puppets in School, Development ad Therapy” in 2012. The article was a lecture at Ljubljana University, Slovenia, June 2011. Here it is: