What is the name of practice/method (if such exists) where psychologist uses a doll (or any other form of human-being representation) for patient to talk to?

I believe I have seen it in a movie or had read in a book (not exactly sure)

My guess would be that it could be used for patients that feel more comfortable talking to not alive objects that have human form or that portrait a human-being but that cannot respond (subconscious security for a patient that an object will not be judgmental towards patients issues or something like that..)

P.S. If such practice/method exists, which implications it has for the patient?



Movie: What about Bob?

forward to 1:40


What I found:

"Puppets allow a child to displace feelings from the significant persons with whom they were originally connected. In doing so, puppets offer physical and psychological safety that, in turn, invites greater self expression."

Source: link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01875812#page-1

Thanks to caseyr547 for Play therapy term

  • $\begingroup$ Could you please edit your title to be more reflective of the body of your question? "Psychological practice" is an extremely vague title, while the body of your post is solid. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev hope edited title reflects my inquiry $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


It's often referred to as "doll therapy" or "play therapy" and applies to adults as much as it does to children. For example, this new product, the "Inner Critic Doll" enables adults to hold a physical manifestation of their inner critic and start a dialogue with it. It has a zipper mouth which can be zipped shut to physically silence this inner voice.

The doll enables adults to confront an otherwise "formless" part of their psyche and has proven to be highly effective. It's used frequently by writers, artists, those suffering low self-esteem, etc., and I've even seen family members address each other on challenging topics via their inner critic doll, as it was easier than talking face-to-face.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. Any references to research "proving" its efficacy, or a source corroborating its frequency of use? Hopefully you could at least elaborate on the contexts in which you've personally seen family members use it, and why you say it was easier for them. I understand the rationale, but where's the evidence? $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2014 at 18:56

Play Therapy sounds really broad, not as specific as getting a patient to speak more comfortably by directing communication toward a non-human surrogate who can't respond. The emphasis is on the one-way conversation, not on 'playing' with a toy. No research to find a label already in use, but I like the phrase "Conversational Surrogate" to refer to dolls and the like inclusively, based on the function they perform in the context of the original question. If an adult is talking to the surrogate, but not otherwise playing with it or other toys, Play Therapy is probably a misnomer in that case. As a therapeutic tool its use is not restricted to Play Therapy sessions, thats just an easy association.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not an expert (I know very little of psychology and psychological methods/practices), but the definition from the link based on Dr. Richard Bromfield essay, this term can also be applied to adults (my opinion) And a term, proposed by you, namely, "Conversational Surrogate" does not seem to be an officially coined term $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 7:56

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