Bringing the Magic of Fairy Tales into Psychotherapy

Coming soon to John F. Kennedy University Berkeley Campus in June 2016

A course designed to illuminate the connections between fairy tales and psychological growth

Bringing the Magic of Stories to Psychotherapy

Fairy Tales- Pathways To Transformation imageThe major contributors to the development of Psychotherapy-Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, and others looked to fairy tales and myths to understand the working of the psyche. Classic stories still yield new insights and clinical directions for contemporary therapists. Narratives are important in our lives. We gain a sense of ourselves through telling stories about ourselves to others. Identities form by integrating our personal histories with the legends and myths of our cultures. Sometimes individuals get stuck in sad, rigid and competitive stories. Their tales may then become the subject of the therapy hour. Illuminating fairy tale patterns often reveals pathways to happier endings.

The hero or heroine leaves home on a journey or a quest. She overcomes dark forces through courageous action. Protagonists enter disturbing realms, encounter fabulous forces, master challenges to ultimately win a victory. They typically 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 changes processes for expanding personal and social development. During our times of rapid planetary, economic, and cultural upheaval, a study of heroic action has special meaning.

The applications for psychotherapy will be delineated: Fairy tales enable clinicians 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 through expansion of the inner world are 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.

The goals of the course are as follows:

  • 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 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
  • Participants will learn the standard path of the hero’s journey
  • Participants will learn and use Jung’s theory “We have a favorite fairy tale that goes with us throughout life”
  • Participants will gain understanding of the wisdom teachings in fairy tales in order to apply then in psychotherapeutic settings
  • Participants will know and use Jung’s theory of archetypes
  • Participants will learn the path of the fairy tale hero and therapeutic applications
  • Participants will delineate systems processes in classic stories
  • Participants will understand characters through psychoanalytic, systems, Jungian and Compassion focused frameworks
  • Participants will understand and use archetypal symbolism
  • Participants will recognize fairy tale characters in their own, and in client’s psyches

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

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