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The Patch Adams Approach: Incorporating Laughter and Humor into your Therapy Room

Grasping for air, tears clouding your vision, pains in your sides beginning to form, as you are laughing at the top of your lungs. Laughter, giggles, the occasional snort are all things that happen if you are thinking something is funny. It can be a joyous experience, and it can brighten your day. Laughter is a universal experience that everyone has experienced in their lives. It has so many applications: connecting with people, spreading good moods, exercising, or even being used as a therapeutic intervention.   

Laughter is such a unique experience that is constantly evolving and changing our bodies. According to a study done by Melkie Gogan (2018) over the effects of laugher on feelings of anxiety and stress, they found dramatic results that showed decreased levels of anxiety and stress. Laughter has a way of making people focus on the mind-body connection, helping to elevate stressful situations.  Just a little bit of laughter each day was able to enhance people’s quality of life.

There are several different ways that you can incorporate laughter within your therapy sessions. There is a certain amount of skill to craft such a unique experience for the therapy session. Crafting the experience to loosen the tension between therapist and client (Mora-Ripoll, 2017). It is a great way for the client and therapist to get to know each other and break the ice so to speak. It has a way of moving individuals into different headspaces for therapeutic work to be done. Laughter low’s inhibitions (Mora-Ripoll, 2017). Getting the client and therapist into a place of calm and peace, creating an open environment of expression. Laughter is such a multifaced tool to be used within the therapy room.   

Using laughter within the therapy room can be a good way to connect with the client or even help put them at ease, but like any other therapeutic intervention, it must be strategic. Howes (2013) warns that some clients may use laughter as a way of avoiding the problem. It's easy to laugh things off and move to a different subject, but that at times will cheapen the experience or allow the client to avoid the topic at hand. This incongruence can harm the therapeutic process, robbing the client of their chance for growth and change (Howes, 2013).  It’s easy to get caught up laughing with your client, but you still must be able to direct the session back into those processing pieces for the best possible client care.  

A therapy room doesn’t have to be a stoic, lifeless place, it can be fun, imaginative, and warm. Laughter is a great way to brighten up anyone’s day.  The giggles can often be unescapable, the therapist and client are both humans and I think that that is easy for anyone to forget. If you are ever in the therapy room and you and your client bust up laughing about something enjoy the experience to deepen your therapeutic bonds.

References:

Dogan, M., (2018). The effect of laughter therapy on anxiety and stress in university students. Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health.

Howes, Ryan, (2013). Laughter in therapy. Psychologytoday. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201312/laughter-in-therapy

Mora-Ripoll, R., (2017). Simulated laughter techniques for therapeutic use in mental health. Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry, 8(2)

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