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New research aims to explore the therapeutic benefits of imaginary companions

BPS member Lauren Kinch aims to identify if imaginary companions (ICs) can be used to boost children’s mental health.

17 October 2022

She is embarking on a study that will assess the therapeutic relationships between children and their ICs, in two groups aged between 5-8 and 9-12.  She is interested in finding out how and why children use ICs, as well as about the impact of ICs on children’s wellbeing.

A lecturer in psychology at Arden University, Mrs Kinch will conduct the study as part of her PhD, having presented on it at the recent BPS Developmental Psychology Section conference.

She revealed that research had shown that up to 65 per cent of children use their imagination to create an IC – which can take many shapes including a physical form – and children who engage with ICs have more advanced social, emotional and communication skills.

 “Children can create an IC to see them through a hardship or loss, or when they feel lonely or afraid,” she said.

Children also use them, among other reasons, to enhance their self-esteem and life experiences.

“What we don’t know is what therapeutic benefits an IC can bring.

If these benefits were more understood in children, including them within children’s therapies could boost patient clinician communication, and the mental health and wellbeing of the child.

If we could harness this natural phenomenon, it could be used as a low cost global solution within children’s mental health services.”

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