The Importance of Humor in Therapy

Have you ever heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine?” Turns out that there is some evidence behind those words. Humor is a way to make people laugh, and even laugh so hard that they cry. Laughter and humor are also used as ways to ease the tension or awkwardness that may come when interacting with strangers or new acquaintances.

Within the last few decades, humor has been a major construct in therapy (Brooks, et. al., 2021). Brooks, et. al. (2021) shares some information about Martin and Fords article (2018) relating to three procedures where humor is used in therapy. Their first approach is humor as therapy itself. There are two therapies that use humor as their core constructs. Those approaches are Rational-Emotive Therapy and Provocative Therapy. Rational-Emotive therapy’s goal is to challenge clients using sarcasm, to identify their unhealthy beliefs and develop a more rational understanding of them in order to turn them into healthier beliefs (Brooks, et. al., 2021). Provocative therapy’s goal is to help clients change their negative beliefs, which will provoke a change in their actions (Brooks, et. al., 2021).

The second approach by Martin and Ford (2018) is using humor to help create a state of muscle relaxation when working with clients in desensitization (Brooks, et. al, 2021). Brooks, et. al. (2021) also shares Martin and Fords (2018) third approach when using humor in therapy. The third approach is humor used by the therapist. The therapist can use humor in the joining process and create a pathway to develop and solidify the therapeutic relationship (Brooks, et. al. 2021). When beginning a new relationship with a client the most important thing is to develop a close therapeutic relationship. This is done by getting to know the client and the client getting to know the therapist. A good way to create that bond is by using humor. Humor can ease tension and create a positive environment for deeper connection.

Although humor may be seen as a positive thing most of the time, there are also negative implications that can be found in humor. In some cases, clients might think that the therapist is not taking therapy seriously, if humor is used. Another occurrence may be that the therapist and client have a different sense of humor and may create a clash. Some clients may also use humor as a coping mechanism to disguise their pain or struggle (Fox, 2016).

Although there are many ways that humor can be used or can affect someone, it is all up to the therapist to decide whether humor should be used or not. Some therapists may use it right off the bat, and others may wait to gauge the client and their relationship. Every therapeutic relationship is different, but humor can be used in a positive way to elicit positive results within therapy.


Brooks, A. B. J., Herrmann, P. L., & Andreas, S. (2021). The use of banter in psychotherapy: A

systematic literature review. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 21(3), 570–586.

Fox, L. E. (2016). The use of humor in family therapy: Rationale and applications. Journal of 

Family Psychotherapy, 27(1), 67–78.

Martin, R. A., & Ford, T. (2018). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Academic press.

Robinson, L. (2021). Laughter is the best medicine. [Photograph] Retrieved

November 14, 2021, from


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