Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Therapeutic clowning in hospital settings: more than a play-fool proposal
  1. Fiona Finlay1,
  2. Anna Baverstock2,
  3. Simon Lenton3
  1. 1 Department of Community Child Health, Virgin Care, Bath, UK
  2. 2 Department of Paediatrics, Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, Somerset, UK
  3. 3 Child Health, NHS, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Fiona Finlay, Virgin Care - Community Child Health, Newbridge Hill, Bath BA1 3QE, UK; Fiona.Finlay{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

The role of a clown and a physician are the same

—it’s to elevate the possible and to relieve suffering.

Patch Adams



To many readers clowns in a paediatric intensive care setting may seem counterintuitive; however, the paper by Mortamet and colleagues1 provides a helpful framework for the introduction of therapeutic clowning in paediatric intensive care units, which could be adapted for many other healthcare settings.


The first published paper referencing clowns indexed in PubMed dates back to 1969 and their use in dental health education.2 However it was not until 1998, when the film Patch Adams was released portraying the life and philosophy of Dr Hunter Doherty Adams, that the medical world woke up to the therapeutic potential of clowning. Since then there have been numerous publications related to the many positive effects of clowning within the health sector, especially in children’s healthcare settings.

It is important to differentiate between a therapeutic clown or clown doctor and the clowns normally seen in the circus or at children’s parties. Therapeutic clowns aim to relieve stress and anxiety in hospitalised patients, supporting them with the intention of restoring, maintaining and improving mental, physical and emotional well-being. They do this through arts-based programmes, which include comedy, juggling, magic, mime, story-telling and music, choosing the best intervention and improvising for each individual child depending on age, ability, preferences and clinical condition. When children are in an alien hospital environment, particularly in an intensive care unit, they may feel they have little choice or control, and therapeutic …

View Full Text


  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles