Teddy Bear Therapy As a Play Therapy Tool

Teddy Bears are natural tools for healing all types of mental health problems. As a licensed clinical social worker, I have spent quite a few years teaching professionals how to organize these cute, appealing toys into a model that can be highly effective in gathering information extraordinarily fast in a treatment session. I have heard stories of the benefits of sleeping with a teddy bear, giving teddy bears to trauma victims, and of holocaust survivors holding on to teddy bears as a lifeline of support. The teddy bear in spite of over a hundred years since it’s origination continues to be viewed as a single object, and little research has occurred to demonstrate it’s effectiveness organized into a model to heal pain and loss beyond simply clutching onto the bear. The teddy bear originated about the same time as psychology, but the teddy bear developed as a child’s toy for boys, while psychology originated as a method of healing the mind of middle age, affluent women. Psychology has expanded over the years, and is now viewed as a method of working with every age, group, class and income group of people.

The teddy bear has continued to be viewed as a single object to be held and clutched by children. Teddy Bear Therapy as a model has remained stagnant. Outside of describing benefits of holding a teddy bear, naming the teddy bear, and speaking to the teddy bear for comfort, it has been overlooked as a model for assessments and interventions, or as a model for play therapy for adults. In fact, it hasn’t even been viewed as a model, it’s been viewed as an individual object. An evidenced based model of applying teddy bears has been developed in a community mental health center in Georgia. This model demonstrates tips and tools from social work, marriage and family counseling, and psychology to work with people of every age, race and socioeconomic group. The model is interactive, and expands clinical training from viewing the teddy bear as a single object, to viewing the teddy bears as a model that moves beyond simply naming the bear and projecting onto the bear, to a tool that can give clinicians objective methods of measuring subjective thoughts and feelings.

Over seven years of applying this model with substance abusing adults, adults released from prison, adults and children who have been sexually abused, and with women who have lost their children to social services, only to repeat generational patterns, has demonstrated the powerful and fast method that teddy bears organized as a model can have to create change fast. The benefits for applying teddy bears as a model to identify problems, heal pain and loss, and demonstrate measurable results are huge. The greatest benefit is the speed in which this model can create change with adults and children of both genders.