Laughter And The Importance Of Humor In The Treatment Process

The treatment process tends to be complex. Often times one provider may give suggestions for you and details regarding your care based on their best practices and experiences. Perhaps you’ve met with a Therapist, Clinician, Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, School Counselor or Doctor. Perhaps you’ve had meetings or recommendations from all of them. These professionals may have given you their very best based on their education, training, experiences in the field, and the care they looked to provide. While we all share the field as professionals our training and best practices may at times provide differing views, recommendations, approaches, and most importantly treatment outcomes.

As I’ve addressed in previous blog postings having your own voice and direction heard from the professionals allows you to better guide them in supporting you to a healthy outcome. If laughter is part of your coupling, family, parenting, or an aspect of your day you enjoy it makes sense to explore this further to better understand the reasons for this. In these postings it is also important to provide outcomes for all clients regardless of individuals intellectual, physical, or emotional functioning. These three areas are also referred to as ones mind, body, and emotion.

Here’s how laughter assists the treatment process and these three areas of your self.

1. Mind: A solid laugh is typically spurred on by intellectual processing or experiencing elation in watching slap stick comedy or a video of another’s epic fail where one’s glad their not involved in an experience where ones body has been pushed their own limit to a point of a physical injury or pain.

2. Body: Laughter releases endorphins to the mind and allows more oxygen to enter the blood stream. It also is physical exercise as anyone can attest to after copious laughter that’s lead to abdominal muscle pain. Laughter is also often spontaneous and the breathing pattern one has becomes another release. At times having the ability to be present and sitting and breathing for many clients creates a hurdle for other mindful practices such as meditation or yoga. Laughter is a wonderful introduction to a process which is able to achieve many similar outcomes including release, peace, freedom, and internal balance.

3. Emotion: Humor has the ability to keep things processing long after the session concludes, the report has been read, the school meeting as occurred, and your family continues to manage the day to day reality of the issues present. It seems to humanize a process which can be as draining as complex. While this is a broad example laughter is something we can do with others, around ourselves, or simply listening to a morning radio show and giggling on our way out of the school drop off, lunch break, or on a drive home. As this occurs a natural and individualized release will occur which in turn allows for an individual to be more present within themselves and those they choose to share themselves with.

It does not seem productive to joke about treatment issues, emotional struggles, academic struggles, or marital issues as this reverses the trust, commitment, and exposes an opposite experience. It does seem productive to experience the benefit which can come with sharing space, laughing, and removing yourself from the stress of the day. There was a time not too long ago when a good sitcom was enough to join together, watch, laugh, and focus on other individuals and how they got through things. Their are shows throughout the time of television that represent this. From the Honeymooners and The Carol Burnett Show in the 50’s, The Addams Family in the 60’s, All In The Family 70’s, through the 80’s with Different Strokes and Cheers, to the 1990’s with Roseanne and Seinfeld, into the 2000’s with The Bernie Mac Show, Malcom In The Middle, and Modern Family.

The process of choosing to engage as an individual, couple, or family allows us to catch a breath, and ideally, breath effortlessly as we giggle or are dumbfounded by the dysfunction we see in another family system or situation entirely. All of these examples and hundreds of other choices provide an individual an opportunity to stop, observe, be present, turn off their other distractions in the world, and share space with others as your choosing to engage. In addition it also may provide a visual example of some of the issues your treatment plan hopes to address This might be examples of depression, anxiety, anger management, bullying, gender identity, race issues, religion issues, financial issues and much more. All of these examples provide talking points and families are better able to weave their messages into some of the mainstream information their children and peers are receiving.

Many of the older and current sitcoms are available to watch with providers you already have. I’d suggest picking one of the shows mentioned look to watch a few episodes. Perhaps share one with another, perhaps keep it for yourself for a personal break. Regardless laughter should follow after enough risk taking where you’re willing to try. Some on your treatment team may have also seen some of these shows growing up and it may provide an opportunity for you to describe or gain more examples of some of the struggles you may be experiencing. This leads to increased client clarity and thus more effective treatment.

I’ve found clients who engage in active based and solution oriented approaches tend to develop more comprehensive perspectives on their issues. In addition to being encouraged and validated by identifying and expressing how they feel, which may be positive or negative, a perspective shift or different point of view is often imperative for one to relearn and thus evolve with increased understanding.

Engaging with others around things we enjoy increases our opportunity to share more of ourselves and also learn more about others. As technology takes hold of our children’s interests, parenting, works ability to monitor our performance, medical care and daily living, it seems important to push back while still providing an outlet all can relate with. Find a show most in your family will watch. Order a pizza, serve a meal, or desert to lure those in who are resisting. Turn off the work calls, homework questions, apps, games, etc. Lead by example and honor this time. Soon those around you will understand the importance and the same way we tend to turn our phones off when a movie starts. Families will start to respect the space it creates more than the rule your looking to enforce.

Grinding it out, faking it til you make it, and many of the other metaphors we use in this field often leave others feeling lonely, confused, tired, and unable to communicate clearly to professionals regarding their ideas and needs. This impacts the necessary client clarity to heal and the treatment process is impacted. You may find some of the activities such as watching tv or comedy shows allows there to be more understanding, examples, and in turn clarity so professionals who’ve earned your trust are better able to utilize their knowledge and experiences to offer recommendations and support as you look to grow through the treatment process.

Putting a routine of laughter into your day, week, month, and year can become a plan you stick to for yourself and those you share space with. As this builds laughter may become a safe place for you and your loved ones to take shelter from the world in a connected and shared manner and thus remember to stay connected regardless of how the treatment process progresses.