• Humor can help the therapeutic process in more ways than one: first, it can help to solidify that bond between therapist and client.
  • A therapist can also demonstrate humor as a healthy coping mechanism for handling the stresses of life to their client.
  • Additionally, humor can help a client feel more comfortable in this new setting and in opening up to their therapist about the challenges in their life.
  • Furthermore, humor can aid one’s thought process: learning to laugh at one’s thoughts or even one’s circumstances is an important and beneficial life lesson.
  • Finally, humor can be used in therapy to acknowledge our humanity—to recognize that things won’t always go our way and that’s okay.

When you think about humor, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s a funny moment you shared with a friend, a joke that you heard the other day at work, or a funny movie you just watched. Whatever it is, it probably has nothing to do with counseling or therapy.

Why? Because therapy is viewed and depicted as serious: as a let’s-get-straight-to-business matter. And while it is serious—something that requires hard work and commitment—it isn’t void of happiness, celebration, humor, or laughter. Your therapist is there for the good and the bad, through the highs and lows. And as it turns out, humor can play an important role in guiding the therapeutic process. Here are a few examples of how it can prove beneficial for therapist and client:

1. It creates a bonding experience.

First, humor can create a genuine bond between client and therapist, which is crucial to success in therapy. “I absolutely love sessions where my client and I can engage in a healthy sense of humor with each other. It can be really appropriate, depending on context and outcome,” says Meredith Riddick, Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Certified Eating Disorders Specialist. For one, being able to laugh together is a wonderful bonding experience between two individuals. It lights up part of our brains that is associated with pleasure and can release oxytocin which helps reduce stress.”

2. It models a healthy coping mechanism.

Utilizing humor in therapy (as long as it’s done correctly) can also model a healthy outlook on life and means for coping with difficulties. “Humor can model a great coping mechanism for handling life stresses, as the therapist can use humor to break tension in the moment of therapy or to relax the client after a very hard topic or help close off the session so that the client/patient can easily make the transition from the session to the real world,” John Mayer, Clinical Psychologist, explains.

3. It can help a client open up.

Humor can also help a client ease into therapy and feel more comfortable opening up to their therapist. “When a client uses humor, it may be used to communicate an idea that is otherwise hard to talk about. It can also be used to avoid talking about topics that are particularly difficult,” says Christina Nolan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “Additionally, it can be used to take a break from talking about difficult material.”

4. It furthers one’s thought process.

Furthermore, humor can help to lighten thoughts and teach the client not to take themselves so seriously. “Modeling a good sense of humor can help the client see their thought processes in a different light,” Connie Habash, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, explains. “With some skill and appropriate application, over time the client can develop more perspective about their thought patterns and reactions and even learn to laugh at themselves when the old patterns rear their heads again.”

5. It acknowledges our humanity.

Last but not least, humor reminds us that we’re only human—a reminder many clients benefit from. “Humor in therapy can be a great way to lighten the mood. Many times, therapy is a space where deep emotions and feelings are processed,” begins Alisha Powell, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “It can be triggering for clients as they identify and work through personal difficulties. Using humor is a way to acknowledge our own humanity. Everything is not always going to go according to plan and sometimes we laugh instead of crying because it just feels better and helps us be more optimistic.”