Should Humor Be Used In Psychotherapy?

Should Humor Be Used In Psychotherapy?

Humor has a place in our lives. It eases social interactions, enhances feelings of connection, and helps build trust.

One study found that when men make women laugh, they are more likely to report feelings of attraction (Hall, 2015). Another study led by researchers from Georgia State University, found that laughter-based exercise programs improve older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance, and confidence in their ability to exercise (Greene et al., 2016).

Humor also plays an important role in healthcare, even when patients are terminally ill. After spending nearly 300 hours observing and carrying out interviews with staff, patients, and families in an intensive care unit and a palliative care unit for people with terminal illness, researchers from the University of Manitoba concluded that “when combined with scientific skill and compassion, humor offers a humanizing dimension in healthcare that is too invaluable to be overlooked” (Dean et al., 2008).

But what about in the mental health setting? Is humor appropriate for these patients?

Research suggests that humor improves group dynamics (Keyton et al., 2010), and offers an advantage in helping reinterpret challenging situations so that we experience them as entertaining, and consequently, less stressful (Proyer, 2017).

The use of therapeutic humor, say its many advocates, has many potential benefits beyond easing social interactions and helping reinterpret difficult situations, yet like any therapeutic intervention, should be used with appropriate caution. With an understanding of the research behind humor, the challenges with studying humor in psychotherapy, and the skills needed to use humor effectively, clinicians are well poised to enjoy, and help their patients enjoy, the many benefits humors offers.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:

The Use of Humor in TherapyThe Use of Humor in Therapy is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that reviews the risks and benefits of using humor in therapy and the relevant historical controversies of this proposal. Should therapists and counselors use humor as a therapeutic technique? If so, should they be formally trained in those procedures before their implementation? The paucity of rigorous empirical research on the effectiveness of this form of clinical intervention is exceeded only by the absence of any training for those practitioners interested in applying humor techniques. In this course a representative sample of its many advocates’ recommendations to incorporate humor in the practice of psychological therapies is reviewed. Therapeutic humor is defined, the role of therapists’ personal qualities is discussed, and possible reasons for the profession’s past resistance to promoting humor in therapy are described. Research perspectives for the evaluation of humor training are presented with illustrative examples of important empirical questions still needing to be answered. Course #21-02 | 2015 | 24 pages | 14 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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