The Role of Laughter in Psychotherapy

The Role of Laughter in Psychotherapy
Enda Junkins

     In 1990, I had the good fortune to stumble across real Laughter Therapy, not just the “laughter therapy” that refers to everyday laughter in life. First exposed at a conference on laughter and play, I followed up with more formal training in California. This form of psychotherapy made immense sense in a  way no other therapeutic modality had. I was delighted to add it to my therapeutic tool kit. It became my specialty and led me to professional speaking, authoring two books, and producing three videos on different aspects of laughter.

       None of my clients are pushed into utilizing laughter in their lives. I present them with the opportunity and the skills and leave the rest to them. If they are not ready to laugh, I follow their lead. My intent is to assist people to reach their goals in the way they need to go. However, laughter is powerful, important  and a wonderful addition to the therapeutic journey when presented as an option by a therapist who is well trained.

  Laughter in therapy does not refer to jokes in therapy nor does it minimize a client’s issues. It is one of three major forms of catharsis in therapy that also include tears and anger release. With the consent of the client, the therapist works to help find tools to create the laughter catharsis. Each client is unique and the means to be able to play with serious issues will vary from person to person. In order to achieve laughter one combines play with serious issues. Play may incorporate a different way of thinking, word play, props, phraseology, etc. Playfulness is not synonymous with silliness so one need not fear losing one’s adult dignity. Interestingly, laughter alone will not suffice to completely deal with issues. As feelings are accessed, crying, anger work and talking are often necessary along with laughter. Emotions are held in the body and all means of catharsis are necessary to heal. Which ones and how much depend on the individual. Laughter is the perhaps the most important because it releases three emotions (anger, anxiety and boredom) and it is the most pleasant and often the most acceptable. Clients who are willing to utilize laughter in therapy will generally move through their pain more quickly.

The following articles deal with laughter in therapy:

Laughter: Nature’s Best Bet for the Blues.
The Power of Laughter.
An Innovative Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Treatment of Sexual Abuse Utilizing the Laughter Catharsis.
Laugh at Your Abuse?

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