Education via fairytale therapy. Interview with fairytale therapist Olena Petrushkevych

Education via fairytale therapy. Interview with fairytale therapist Olena Petrushkevych

The most important wisdom in this life is not hidden in the books of world-famous coaches, but rather in your favourite fairytale that your mommy used to read you before bedtime.

Why is fairytale an important means of education and how can we apply it correctly?  An experienced fairytale therapist and psychologist in CISC_Lviv Olena Petrushkevych tells us about the role of fairytales and metaphors in the life of children as well as adults.

  1. What is the fairytale therapy?

On the one hand, fairytale therapy is a system of education, and on the other hand, it’s a natural means of assistance, and on the other other hand  – it’s a philosophy and an approach to life.

Every mother reads  fairytales to her child. Yet, simple reading does not make it a fairytale therapy. But when a mother sets a certain goal, selects a special fairytale similar to the situation (for example, to make the child more eager to go to the kindergarten in the morning) – this is fairytale therapy, i.e. assistance through fairytale.

  1. How does fairytale therapy work?

Why is a fairytale associated with childhood? It’s because as children we don’t ponder over many things. We simply live, enjoy life and find interest in it. That’s why, in the process of working with a fairytale we return to that state, we discuss or live through different situations within a safe surroundings. Fairytale is a natural, comprehensible and ecological format that does not scare us. This method includes the instruments natural for a child – words, texts, metaphors. I think this is the main specifics of such method.

While working with a fairytale, we can be ourselves instead of being tense or playing an expected role. And it’s in the calm state that we usually can find the right answers.

  1. How many means of processing a fairytale are there? And in which cases any of these means will be effective?

There are various ways to process a fairytale. Listening to a fairytale is one thing. But playing in it is a totally different level, sometimes more effective. It depends on the type of fairytale, its theme and purpose.

For instance, if we want to correct some aspect of the child’s behaviour via a fairytale, we can do more than just read the tale, we can confirm it symbolically – by drawing illustrations, sculpturing a hero figurine or performing a play. And we can also WRITE a fairytale together with the child. All this will increase the fairytale effect.

Metaphors and fairytales are such a deep thing that we can notice a behavioral effect in the nearest future as well as in the prospective. But it will surely occur.

  1. In CISC, fairytale therapy is often used during the lessons. Please tell us about the advantages of implementing the fairytale therapy in school.  

Fairytale therapy provides the teachers with a variety of techniques through which we can enrich and develop the children even more. Fairytale therapy is not about finding out “who ate and who was eaten”, but it’s rather about searching for the wisdom and analyzing the heroes’ behaviour in different situations; it’s about conclusions, advice and associating the fairytale plot with the real life. Such processing of a fairytale is much more effective than using it merely as an instrument of reading and speech.

The teachers may use the already made therapeutic fairytales or may write those themselves in case they have the skills and experience.

  1. Is it possible to create a therapeutic fairytale all by yourself? If so, what are the guiding principles in creating a fairytale?

Yes, it is possible. If we want the fairytale to be useful for the child, we must have a clear understanding of the things we would like to change. If our goal is the correction of behavior, we can use the following pattern:

As a rule, the most difficult moment while writing a fairytale is what we would ADVISE the hero to do. It always causes many complications, and you need to have good psychological skills and a good life experience in order to undestand how the psyche works.

Because a fairytale must touch the person deeply, touch the very soul, cause the variety of emotions – it’s only then that the therapeutic effect will take place. And it’s how the talented writers do it, whose works are translated into all languages and with whose fairytales hundreds and thousands of readers would laugh and cry.

  1. Which mistakes do the parents usually make when using the fairytale therapy for their children?
  1. As concerns the age, which fairytales must be used for each age category?

For 6-7 years old children we apply the fairytales about animals, since it’s easier for the child to associate him/herself with an animal. For 7-8 years old children  – the fairytales about wizards and magicians. For the junior school students the fairytales about knights, princesses, dragons, adventures will be good, or other fairytales where the heroes are human. And closer to teenage years we must select the real-life stories or parables.

  1. When the fairytale therapy must be applied?

We can start soon as the child has at least some minimal discussion skills.

When my son was 1,5 years, I used to leave him with the relatives for a few hours while I had to do my errands. As soon as I came back, he would run to me with a book about the little bunny looking for his mommy. He would open the last pages and show me the pictures, one of them with the bunny crying and the second one where he found his mommy and they hugged. Sometimes my son would turn the pages several times, and the look on his face changed. It’s such a natural way of training the child’s patience – when the mommy is gone but she is sure to come back, and everything will be all right.

Actually, a child begins to understand many things even while in mother’s tummy. That’s why it is so important to listen to good music, read the right and kind stories. All this affects the child’s development.

  1. Some advice from you – which fairytales would you suggest to process with children?

From my own experience, I can tell that the fairytales tested by time bear the wisdom applicable even nowadays. That’s why I always suggest the folk fairytales, which can be discussed from the different points of view, analyzed, associated with our own lives.

As for me, the wisdom of life is understanding the variety of life scenarios and situations, at the same time being capable of forming your own opinion. It’s important for the child to know that in his/her family they do it this way, but in other families it may be different.


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