There are several definitions for humor (2011), one being “[t]he ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd”. The emission of smiles or laughter does not constitute something or someone is humorous, but is often a reaction to humor also known as mirth. Over the years, there have been several articles written on the use of humor in both the medical and psychological fields. In regard to the psychological field, this body of literature most often covers the definition of therapeutic humor, the benefits of humor in therapy, the risks and limitations associated with the use of humor in therapy, and therapeutic humor techniques with the need for ...view middle of the document...
The use of therapeutic humor could also diminish a client’s mental guards as levity often provides pleasure and relaxation. This phenomenon can present a segue to confront sometimes awkward issues like sexuality or familial discord in a lighter but poignant manner. Due to its relaxing effect, it could also be argued that therapeutic humor can also be used as a sort of desensitization technique as well, but this has not been founded in any of the literature currently reviewed. Therapeutic humor is then valuable to its recipients by facilitating coping skills and self-understanding in a non-threatening manner.
As with other therapeutic interventions, the use of humor does not go without its risks or limitations (i.e. hypnotherapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). There has been much debate over whether or not humor is appropriate in psychotherapy (Franzini, 2001). Most of the risks involved deal with the therapist and his or her ability to competently and skillfully integrate humor into therapy as a means of benefiting the client. Both Prerost (1983) and Yonkovitz (1997) agreed that while humor cannot be taught, understanding when its use is appropriate (which can depend on the client’s humor style, the presenting problem, and the therapeutic relationship) must be developed. Gladding (1995) suggested using discretion, as an abundance of humor in therapy can sidetrack or stagnate the client’s growth in therapy.
While the literature does sufficiently address the use of therapeutic humor, its benefits and limitations, there is very little on actual training or development. Some might argue that humor is like a right arm, either you have it or you do not. In his discussion of the literature Yonkovitz (1997) argued that a sense of humor may be developed utilizing McGhee’s 8-Step Program for Sense of Humor Development or for therapists, attendance to a training workshop focused on appropriate use and timing of therapeutic humor interventions.
I would argue that a more viable option to training would be utilizing a community of practice to disperse knowledge regarding effective ways of using therapeutic humor. Humor has often been described as a complex construct with many of its layers hard to define or pin down. Baker-Eveleth, Chung, Eveleth, and O’Neil (2011) referred to this knowledge as “tacit in nature, thus contained in the memories and experiences of individuals” (p.39). A community of practice draws on the sharing of this otherwise implicit information allowing its members to be more involved in the practice of techniques and other applications by learning what actually works from their peers who have...