Are puppets really used for therapy, the way Mel Gibson's character claims to use his in The Beaver? GIbson's character claims the puppet, as prescribed by his therapist, is meant to "create a psychological distance between himself and the negative aspects of his personality," although in truth he simply found the puppet in a trash heap. In Slate's Explainer column, Christopher Beam looks into whether or not real-life shrinks use such furry tactics and, it seems, Hollywood took a bit of creative license.
Psychologists do use puppets to create distance between patients and their problems. Most commonly, though, they do so with children. Puppets help put kids at ease when discussing abuse, physical injuries, or illnesses, and help facilitate emotional role-playing. While therapists do occasionally use puppets to treat adolescents and adults, it would be very rare for treatment to involve a patient's taking a puppet home with him, or integrating it into his everyday life, as Gibson's character does with his Cockney-accented beaver pal.