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Humor in Psychotherapy

Humor is Helpful

According to the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor www.aath.org , humor is “any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations.” Goldin and Bordan, leaders in the counseling field, indicate they both plan to use humor as well as use it spontaneously.

Humor can be useful in therapy in two ways – as an assessment tool and as a therapeutic tool to:

  • Strengthen the rapport between the client and counselor
  • Facilitate communication, keep the client focused and make the counseling process more interesting
  • Assess the client’s degree of psychological functioning
  • Enable the client to change to a more useful perspective by seeing the world’s absurdities
  • Offer the client a less painful perspective of a painful problem
  • Add to the client’s social repertoire and coping tools
  • Reduce stress and tension during the therapy session

Timing is Everything

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” – Joe Ancis

Humor must be used properly to be most effective. If humor is used too soon, the counselor might be viewed as someone who is insensitive to the client’s concerns. Goldin and Bordan explain that humor can be inappropriate in counseling under certain conditions:

  • When it is experienced as disrespectful or could offend the client
  • When it makes a client feel they are not being taken seriously
  • When it is used to frequently and becomes boring
  • When the counselor uses it to avoid dealing with client anxieties
  • When a client views it as irrelevant to his or her reasons for being in counseling
  • When it is inappropriately timed

Develop Your Own Sense of Humor

Humor can be powerful medicine but only if it is a regular part of one’s life.

In order to share the lighter side of life with others, it helps if you actively seek out things that make you laugh.