Dr. Silly ®

Dr. Palumbo, Ph.D. works internationally to provide children living in traumatic conditions, opportunities and materials for play . As Dr. Silly® he has created adapted play materials for handicapped children, special education teaching materials, therapeutic play programs for homeless, hospitalized and traumatized children. His children's radio show is broadcast by college and public radio stations as well as web carriers. Dr. Silly's ® Play-Care © Programs have provided thousands of children with the chance to play and develop through the mobile play centers and toy donations.

Trained as a social worker and psychologist, Dr. Palumbo taught at several international universities before training as a puppeteer at the French Marionette Academy. After working as a professional, he collaborated with European colleagues and founded The Puppet Therapy Institute USA (NP), to develop and promote their use in the care and education of children . The Institute now conducts yearly professional seminars at Dr. Palumbo's Vermont farm in the Northeast Kingdom, where he also joins Native American tribes in promoting play services for local children and families.

As a trauma specialist he promotes prevention programs for at-risk children and families in schools, hospitals and mental health centers. He continues to promote Dr. Silly's ® motto: " People who play together, grow together" through his international child-care projects and broadcasts. 





Dr. Silly® was the transformation of Dr. A.J.Palumbo, Phd. After years of university teaching and social work with delinquent kids, many years living abroad, and many other personal experiences, Palumbo ended up in Europe, at the French puppet academy, Le Institute de la Marrionette, where these photos were taken.

Silly studied with Peter Schuman and his troup, both in the USA and Paris. In fact the Funny Farm Center that Dr. Silly created is only a few kilometers from Schuman's Vermont farm, where Silly spent Summers as a volunteer puppeteer helping with the Bread and Puppets pagent.

Learning the Indonesian style of shadow puppets from the very talented Sumandi of Bali, inspired creating the adapted shadow puppets for handicapped children; these "handi-puppets" were used by teachers to prompt children to create, play and increase communication skills. 

After 15 years as a university professor and consultant, Dr. Silly returned to Australia to teach groups of teachers and mental health professionals how to create play-care programs using his puppet theaters and special education teaching tools.The Children's Radio project was inspired by Dr. Silly's collaboration with Bed Rock Radio Australia. This method of child care serves kids in and out of hospital through radio and audio material.


Private Practice


  Dr. Silly's Perspective


There have been over 150 “psychotherapy” practices identified.  Some of these therapies have been “researched” and “proved” effective.  Nevertheless, no matter how much we study these procedures, the results seem to funnel down to the common sense conclusion:  some work, some don’t.  Currently, there is a professional revival to again “prove” their work; the research literature prefers the phrase, “efficaciously based therapies.”  Sounds like it might work,.. right?  The rush to judgment is led by the insurance companies, so there is some hesitation about the scientific motivation involved.  The word is that everything that is done is for the benefit of the patient.  No matter which research technique is used, it is impossible to leave the therapist variable out of the analysis. 

 One reason that psychotherapists are being evaluated more closely is not because of an expanded interest in children’s health but more so because of a mistaken equating of psychotherapies with medical procedures.  The medical costs are paid through an insurance system as well as the mental health costs; consequently there is an overlaid similarity between the two and this sharing is unfortunately expanded into an identity. They are not the same even though they are paid for out of the same pot.  It is a case of apples being compared with oranges.

Medical personnel need good clinical skills..but bedside manner, those “people skills” – can be inadequate. However, unlike physicians, counselors and psychotherapists must rely upon their people skills – their personal talents – and not upon medical technology.  In my work, I find that when you are dealing with difficult children all bets are off: you do what works.  Therapeutic success is a matter of trial and error.

 I have labeled how I work with families and kids as “Play-Care” (In. Press).  The basic operating formula is simple:  the therapist is the therapy.  Consequently, who the therapist is really matters – what kind of person, temperament, humor.  There is no “method” that I use, not like my Behaviorist past where details of procedure mattered.

Everybody involved with the child can get into the act; the more that a whole family participates the more effective the therapy seems to be.  I think that caring for kids is a family matter; children do not live alone.

My office is really an artist’s studio and toy store.  It is functional but also deliberately dramatic: there is an abundance of play stuff. It is crowded with things to do and play with.  The environment does not imply “therapy;”  the place says relax, take it easy, nothing bad is going to happen to you here.  The beach and playground are a block away.

Get to know any counselor you select.  When you collaborate, family changes are easier to make, child behavior easier to manage.  When there are enough laughs, the tears just disappear.  Humorous child therapists have an outlook on life that is closer to the way children look at life.  Dr Silly’s motto, “People who play together, Grow together” summarizes these ideas. 

The therapy experience is not like having a dental root canal.  It is not something one has to endure:  the therapeutic process can be a growing not just a repair.  So, good luck finding a professional who suits you.  Keep your wits about you: try to breathe more deeply during the hassles; and look for the laughs when you can.  If you do, then any needed counseling will be shorter and more useful.  It will take less effort for you and your family to play together and grow together.             

If you want a more detailed description of my therapy, see the Reader’s Digest article about Dr. Silly.  Yes, it was flattering to receive that notice, but more practically it showed how I try to tailor each therapeutic relationship to the specific needs of the child and their family.  The success is the result of these shared efforts between Dr. Silly and the people who love the kids we are trying to help.