Holly Stoppit


Holly's MA dissertation was entitled 'Clown-o-therapy; Dramatherapy Through Clown Skills Training (ha-ha, ha-ha, AHA!)'. This paper allowed Holly to explore the question; ”What are the potential therapeutic benefits of clown skills training?” through researching, designing, delivering and receiving feedback for a 10-week course in Clown-o-therapy for a group of 8 people.

Clown-o-therapy is a unique way to discover and / or recover playful, brave, spontaneous, strong, sensitive and vulnerable parts of the self through embodying your inner clown and taking heed of his/her crazy wisdom. Previous participants have reported major improvements in their personal, family and work relationships, through gaining insight into their patterns of relating and taking advice and courage from their clowns to “try something else!” The skills learned in clowning prove to be useful in any relationship including participants relationships with themselves. The course is delivered in an atmosphere of safety, care and permission, exposure to which alone can have a profoundly transformational effect.

Clown-o-therapy takes its theoretical framework from:

  • Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow theory
  • Rogerian and Jungian psychotherapy theory
  • Dramatherapy theory (especially DVT and Landy’s Role Theory)
  • Various exponents of laughter and humour in therapy including the principles of Dr Kataria’s Laughter Yoga and Dr. Patch Adam’s Clown Doctoring
  • Various exponents of play therapy for adults
  • Techniques and philosophies passed down from the many clown teachers Holly has trained with, from European style clowning to Native American Sacred Clowning.
  • Mindfulness meditation / mindful movement
  • Freeing voice work
  • Therapeutic writing / artwork

Holly has adapted and shared her research with psychiatrists in training at the London Speciality School of Psychiatry Conference, dramatherapists in training at The South West School of Dramatherapy, European Social Circus teachers through Educircation, NICE conference and Performers Without Borders, Street Arts students at The University of Winchester,  Site Specific Theatre students at The University ofThe Highlands, Comedy students at Bath Spa University and through her own courses in Bristol

Clown-o-therapy is available as: 

  • a 2-hour talk / experiential workshop
  • a day long taster workshop
  • a 10 week evening course
  • a 5 day residency

What the people say:

“I have never laughed as much, I don’t think, as I have doing these sessions.”

“Just laughing, having somewhere to laugh, real proper belly laugh once a week was so healing.”

“Adults don’t play. Not like that… I came out of there and I felt so elated, I just felt really, really elated, really like oh my god, I forgot what it was like just to be a child and be totally 100% engrossed in playing, just totally.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing but it’s OK (probably the most important thing that I have ever learned).”

“It’s like you’ve come in with a coat, and that coat says sad, or shitty, or whatever it says, first you took out one sleeve, you said [how you are] and then you’ve taken off the other sleeve because you’ve moved [in the body parts warm up] and then you might wriggle it off with a giggle and that coat is still there at the end, but maybe that coat isn’t so heavy any more. Maybe you don’t have to put it on when you leave, who knows?”

“It’s not trying to fight all that negative stuff…something you talked about a few times really stuck with me, which was kind of inviting it in, exaggerating it, bringing it in to the space, that was really powerful.”

“Going to something where I’ve learned something very different to the tools I’d had before which I can take into the real world has made a concrete shift for me in terms of feeling empowered to be able to affect my own happiness, I was feeling in a very stuck place after god knows how many years of therapy, just going round and round in a talking circle and I don’t feel like that anymore and that’s been incredibly powerful.”

“I think [it’s] due to the clown course, [that I’ve gained] a certain kind of self-confidence, because I believe now that I can be seen. And I don’t know whether it’s depression or what it is, but I don’t think I’ve ever believed really that other people can see me. I could see them, sure. But all that looking and all that attending makes me believe now that I can be seen and that’s a great benefit.”

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