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therapeutic clowning

Cosmo and some super stars

what is therapeutic clowning?


Therapeutic clowning is an emerging profession that is growing worldwide, and has been developing steadily in Canada for over 30 years.  It is gaining increasing  respect among Healthcare professionals, and continues on a path of promoting excellence in the field. In Canada, we are lucky to have a number of long standing programs in Healthcare institutions across the country, including one of the pioneering programs, the BC Children's Hospital (BCCH) Therapeutic Clown Program. 

A professional therapeutic clown is defined as one who:

  •  is specifically trained to work in the health care field

  •  abides by a code of ethics

  •  is committed to being a regular presence in the health care setting

  •  collaborates routinely with other members of the health care team

  •  engages in on-going training and development

  •  receives appropriate remuneration for the work

what does a therapeutic clown do?

A Therapeutic Clown is a professional entertainer who has been thoroughly trained in the specifics of working in the hospital environment - physical hygiene, emotional hygiene, infection control, confidentiality, and professional etiquette. This individual must be highly sensitive to personal and cultural boundaries, recognizing and respecting pain, shyness, fear, and the privacy rights of others. In Canada, a therapeutic clown works on a regular basis within the institution, and is fully briefed by members of the extended medical team before engaging with the patients and their families. The clown then makes rounds, interacting individually through humour and play. 


background history of the program

The BCCH Therapeutic Clown Program was conceived in March 1993, by professional clown, Paul Hooson, who had been inspired to explore the field by the world renowned Big Apple Circus’ “Clown Care Unit” in New York City. He developed the much beloved Doc Willikers, a warm hearted but bumbly character who began making the rounds in 1994, to the delight of the children, families and staff. In 1997, the BCCH Therapeutic Clown Program was expanded to include Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. In 2005, professional clown joined the fray. Sand Northrup (Fizzie the Phyrizziotherapist), a gifted and experienced juggler, clown, educator and musician, began making rounds.  Melissa (Cosmo the Dis-orderly) joined the Therapeutic Clown team in 2012 to help fill in after Paul's retirement, the following year. 

Currently Cosmo and Fizzie are making the rounds at the new Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children's Hospital, a state of the art facility that opened in October 2017. 



BCCH Therapeutic Clown Program

Sunny Hill Health Centre

 Therapeutic Clowns Canada

the assembly

Melissa is currently a proud member of The ASSEMBLY, a playful & lofty collective of process-oriented, performance-driven, self-identifying women clowns. Currently based in Vancouver B.C.

Together they have played to sold-out shows (rated A+ for adults only) since their humble beginnings in January of 2014.

This collection of performers is made up of 10 human creatures that aren’t your stereotypical clowns. They meet weekly to play and laugh and generate performance material in an organic and flexible feminist mode. Each member brings a diversity of skills to the group. When they aren’t clowns on stage, some of their day jobs include being a nurse, a teacher, a carpenter, a somatic therapist, a métis dancer, a storyteller, an actor, a shadow puppeteer and a hospital clown.


This group was co-founded in 2013 by Lisa Voth (Necessary Shenanigans), Jessica Gabriel (Mind of a Snail), Naomi Steinberg (Goosefeather), and several other longstanding members.  Since 2013, The ASSEMBLY has produced 4 successful full-length shows at several halls in East Vancouver, and 3 at The Revue Stage which is nestled midway between the east side and the west side of town. The ASSEMBLY aims to bring their particular style of clowning to a wider audience.

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