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The use of humor in psychotherapy and guidelines for its clinical application: A review of the literature

26 July 1991


The present paper examines the value and role of humor in therapy. The underlying premise of this paper is that humor, if applied appropriately, enables therapeutic gains to be. made and allows both clinician and client to find enjoyment and pleasure in the therapeutic experience. Clinicians who oppose the use of humor in therapy typically assume that one is not serious about one's clinical work if therapy involves humor. The destructiveness of humor decreases as therapists' knowledge about the subject increases. To assist clinicians in this task, theoretical bases of humor, current research on humor, and potential negative and positive consequences of humor usage will be discussed in this paper. In addition, numerous therapy approaches which value and utilize humor, as well as specific humor techniques, will be reviewed. Guidelines on appropriate and inappropriate uses of humor · will also be presented. By being aware of and understanding the information in the present paper, clinicians will be better able to decide the extent to which one wishes to utilize humor in therapy. It is important to know that therapeutic humor is more than telling a client a joke. Humor r as presented in this paper r is a global term r reflecting (a) a frame of mind, (b) a way of being with oneself and with one's clients and (c) a variety of techniques. As with any therapeutic tool, humor must be used with care and with purpose. It is hoped that with an increase in knowledge comes an increase in acceptance of the value of therapeutic humor and of this evolving field of study.


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