• Viva Sarah Press

I want to do that: Therapeutic clowning


Therapeutic clowning has fascinated me for years.

As a journalist, I have the good fortune of meeting people from all walks of life. Every time I interviewed a therapeutic clown, I left the interview thinking, “I want to do that.”

I first met medical clowns when I was a print journalist, early in my career. I would meet them again as a television correspondent, then as a radio host, and again, years later, as an online news editor.

There was something about this art form that captivated me.

You could say, I became a secret admirer of therapeutic clowning.

I didn’t think I had the time or capability to make it my reality. Moreover, as I am based in Israel, I knew that if I were to study clowning here, I would have to do so in Hebrew, not my native tongue. So, I put it off.

For over 20 years, I have been writing about other people. What they do. How they’re changing or innovating something in the world. I write about people who help others and people who create amazing things.

And I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people.

Often, after writing an article about someone amazing, I’d think about how I wanted to add to my own personal story, to what I do.

But was I ready to study in Hebrew?

One of the themes to run through my writing is the fail forward culture of Israel. I preach it to my kids: better to try and fail than not try at all. I also instill in them the need to learn something new every day.

So, finally, at the age of 42, I took my own sayings to heart and signed up for a medical clowning course at a Tel Aviv college. It was the best decision I could make.

I am smitten with this theatrical arts-based practice that is designed to reduce stress.

Therapeutic clowns are doers of fun and good. I love sharing these values.

As a clown, I can help lighten a dark situation; add joy to despair; try to lessen boredom and stress.

I connect with people in need of a connection.

Initially, I thought my first year of training would launch me into the world of medical clowning, a branch of clowning that is recognized the world over as a paraprofessional medical career.

But my teacher is behind a new initiative to put therapeutic clowns in the classroom. What luck in timing! Upon graduating from the one-year course, I signed up for a second year to train as an educational and mental healthcare clown.

It is the highlight of my week.

My fellow clowns-in-training and I clown at schools, where we know humor is needed in the hallways, the classrooms and among the school’s staff and students. (In 2019, we’ll add a mental healthcare hostel to our roster.) We come to share a sense of fun. We come to celebrate the funny side of the mundane.

Clowning has also pushed me to write more. Suddenly, I have blog ideas swirling and queuing up in my mind.

And while I clown for myself, I have noticed that the reactions to what I do have changed. At first when I told people I was going to study clowning, I got mixed reactions. Often there were looks of bewilderment or people asking if I had bumped my head (hard).

After all, killer clowns have given clowning a bad rap. American author Stephen King's It character has also bestowed upon clowns an evil identity. Being a class clown is not a positive reference. And, we’ve all been to events where some overly made up, wig-wearing, microphone-shouting party clown is just, well, scary.

As I experience more and blog about what I do, I’ve found that these looks and opinions are changing. In fact, I have found a great appreciation for therapeutic clowns. I’ve even been told by a number of people, “I want to do that.”

Trust me, I get it. If I could, I would clown every day.

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