John F. Kennedy University
Department GCPH
Depth Psychology Master Course 5100.3
Winter Quarter, 2017


Bette Kiernan, MFT


(650) 324-3639


Office Hours:

Palo Alto office


March 10 6:00-9:00 PM

March 11 10:00 AM-5:00 PM


1 Unit


Berkeley Campus



Fairy Tales: Pathways to Transformation

Bringing the Magic of Stories into Psychotherapy

The major contributors to the development of Psychotherapy-Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Otto Rank and others looked to fairy tales and myths to understand the psyche. Classic stories are still yielding new insights and clinical directions for contemporary therapists.

Narratives are important. We gain a sense of ourselves by telling stories of our lives.

Identities form through integrating personal histories with the cultural myths and legends of our culture. Per Carl Jung, the myths of human beings are essential to knowing oneself. He wrote: “He is like one uprooted, having no true link either to the past, or with the ancestral life which continues within him, or yet contemporary human society.”

Sometimes individuals and families get stuck in repetitive and sad stories which then may become the subject matter of the therapy hour. When classic tales are incorporated into psychotherapy, the process is enriched and the path towards happier endings is revealed.

In fairy tales, the hero or heroine leaves home on a journey, although sometimes on a quest. Protagonists enter disturbing realms, encounter fabulous forces, master challenges to ultimately win a victory. Typically, they return with a gift to society. As models and guides, they encourage us to do the same.

We will examine and apply the dynamics and change processes for expanding personal and social development. During current times of rapid planetary, economic, and cultural upheaval, a study of heroic action has special meaning.

Well-known stories such as Snow White and Cinderella, as well as lesser known tales, depict child abuse in the family of origin. Because of brutal treatment, although sometimes on a quest, the child leaves home and encounters fantastic adventures which ultimately lead to healing. The patterns of early abuse will be related to all bad or all good characters typically met in the forest. For example, the defensive “splitting” between positive and negative qualities of those encountered on the journey, mirror ways of those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Fairy tales will be further considered within Systems, Jungian, Psychoanalytic, Compassion Centered, and Cognitive Behavioral frameworks. The hidden patterns for redemption will be unveiled.

The applications for psychotherapy will be delineated: Fairy tales enable clinicians, who have roles analogous to fairy godmothers, to instill hope, offer compassion focus, use underlying patterns to guide healing, and expand upon the symbolic imagery that transforms suffering into creative action. By examining them through family systems, psychoanalytic, cognitive, and Jungian theoretical frameworks-new understanding of clinical syndromes, treatment means, and personal development will be revealed.

We will use enactments of stories, active imagination, the creation of fairy tales, and writing of the promised happy ending of our stories for the rest of life. As we do, you will gain deep understanding fairy tales represent the “anatomy of the psyche”, soothe yourself by reading a fairy tale to your inner child, gain comfort through the journey, and interchange fairy tales, dreams, and nature as metaphors.

Bette Kiernan, MFT is a psychotherapist in private practice in Menlo Park, California. She has taught courses on fairy tales and myths through Santa Clara University, UC Santa Cruz Extension, UC Berkeley, and John F. Kennedy University. She also provides crisis interventions and trainings throughout Silicon Valley corporations.



At John F. Kennedy University (JFKU), our Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) reflect the broader mission and purpose of the institution. As the overarching set of learning outcomes that all students, regardless of discipline, achieve by graduation, the ILOs represent a profile of our graduates at completion of their degrees and as such, also represent a promise to our students, their families, and communities.

Graduates, at a level appropriate to their degree, will be able to: Intellectual Skills Demonstrate intellectual skills and abilities appropriate to a particular field of study.

Specialized Knowledge Apply specialized knowledge in a particular field of study.

Ethical Practice Apply relevant ethical principles or frameworks to help inform decision making.

Multicultural Professionalism Effectively practice with an awareness of a multicultural and diverse community.

Community Service Demonstrate commitment to service to the community.



*Display the capacity to build a therapeutic relationship with client

*Competently apply clinical skills

*Articulate heoretical comprehension and apply critical thinking



 ~Participants will attain new knowledge of the interfaces between contemporary psychological theoretical frameworks and the Hero’s journey motif in fairy tales and myths by examining them through family systems, psychodynamic, Jungian, cognitive and other theoretical perspectives

~Participants will understand fairy tales as representing child abuse within the original family

~Participants will learn how to apply the cycle of myth in psychotherapeutic treatment to establish positive cognitive reframes for change

~Participants will use the means of fairy tale heroes and heroines, such as resilience, empathy, and strategy to model these for clients

~Participants will learn and use Jung’s theory “We have a favorite fairy tale that goes with us throughout life”

~Participants will delineate the phases of the hero or heroine’s journey within the framework of systems processes

~Participants will understand and use archetypal symbolism

~Participants will recognize fairy tale characters as archetypes in their own, and within client’s psyches

~Participants will understand that fairy tales, dreams and nature may be used interchangeably within clinical settings


Campbell, Joseph (1968).

Hero with A Thousand Faces.
New Jersey. Princeton University Press.

Bettelheim, Bruno (1968).
The Uses of Enchantment. The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York. Penguin
Random House.

Fromm, Erich (1951).
The Forgotten Language. Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales and Myths.  NewYork. Grove Press.

Johnson, Robert A.(1986)
Inner Work.
San Francisco. Harper and Row Publishers.

Kiernan. Bette U.
(2006) The Uses of Fairy Tales in Psychotherapy.
Cambridge. Massachusetts Institute of

Rossi, Ernest (2000).
Dreams Consciousness and Spirit.
Malibu: Palisades Gateway Publishing.

Tatar, M.M. (1987)
The Hard Facts of the Brothers Grimm. Princeton. Princeton University Press.

Tatar, M.M. (2015)
The Cambridge Companion to Fairy Tales. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Von Franz, M.L. (1996)
The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.
Boston. Shambala Press.


Given that the subject matter of the course, fairy tales, emerge through process like happenings and events, I use analogous teaching methods. For example, the didactic and experiential instructional components typically evoke important questions long held within the deep psyche of students. In the moment response is essential to teach that fairy tales and dreams are symbolic means of expression for the most relevant issues in individual development. Socratic questioning is especially useful given that students typically know far more about depth psychology concepts than they may be initially aware. Complex concepts and patterns pertaining to archetypes and the psyche are amenable to knowing through exploration. I also use various experiential methods, such as enactments of favorite fairy tales, symbolic imagery to demonstrate the creative story making capacity of the psyche, writing and visualization of analogous processes in nature and fairy tales to shift feeling states. Anxiety and depression, for example, are symbolized in fairy tales with imagery such as the dark forest. As the hero or heroine comes into the light, emotions become enlivened and more positive. Through encouraging in the moment awareness of changing feeling states as the hero or heroine passes through the stages of the journey, one may gain direct experience of the power of stories to change emotions.


Please review and bring your favorite fairy tale from childhood to the class.


Credit/No Credit

Based upon class participation and gaining of introductory knowledge of the uses of fairy tales in psychotherapy



March 10, 2017

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Relevance of classic stories to the theory and practice of
psychotherapy 1 hour 30 minutes

Carl Jung’s theory that we have a favorite fairy tale that goes
with us throughout life.

Through connection to special stories, we highlight coping and
problem solving abilities, and patterns for potential development

Experiential exercises designed to identify special stories,
demonstrate myth making capacity within the psyche, and access
archetypes within.

Introduction to the application of contemporary psychological
theory and subsequent clinical applications for fairy tales

15 minutes

Standard path of the hero or heroine’s journey and the power of
myth for therapy

1 hour 15 minutes

A. Fairy tale hero or heroine as abused child in disturbed family

B. Leaving home as systems change and cycle of myth

C. Transformation of hero/heroine result from encounters with nurturing
others and reflect changes that occur in psychotherapy

D Fairy tale characters are archetypes such witch, fool, king, godmother, evil
stepmother; qualities may be diagnosable in DSM V and
congruent with contemporary psychoanalytic theory

E. Experiential exercise to encounter inner archetypes and fairy tales as x-ray
of the anatomy of the psyche; suggestion to note dreams


March 11, 2017

10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Expansion of themes in fairy tales

I hour 15 minute

Experiential exercise with prior night’s dreams

Analogous patterns in art, fairy tale, dreams and nature

Using themes in psychotherapy as positive cognitive reframes

Periods of suffering do not last

Life as a process of change

Instillation of hope

Duality of light and dark to normalize emotional pain

15 minutes

Enactment of Favorite Childhood Fairy Tale

1 hour

Relevance of themes to life pattern of development

Pointers to future potential

Emotional Transformation through phases of the journey

One hour


Example of Use of Fairy Tale in Couples Therapy
1 and 1 ½ hours

Italian fairy tale “The Glass Tunnel” reading

Enactment of story

Identification of Systems, Psychodynamic, Cognitive and Jungian interpretations

Use in clinical settings

Break and bring back item from nature

½ hour

Creation of Happy Ending of Personal Story for Rest of Life
1 and ½ hours

Symbolism of Object from Nature

Writing exercise

Who put a spell on you?

Who were your helpers?

How did you get through dark forests of your life?

How did you gain wisdom from your journey?

How did you bring gifts to others?

How was emotional pain a prerequisite for growth?

Sharing of story

Identification of Class Myth


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