The notion that humor possesses therapeutic properties has long enjoyed widespread support. A popular view is that a greater sense of humor enhances both psychological well-being and physical health. This idea can be traced at least as far back as the ancient biblical maxim that “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” (The Message, Proverbs 17:22). The world over, humor and laughter are frequently presumed to be measures people can use to cope with life's difficulties. Such cultural beliefs are reflected in slogans such as “laughter is the best medicine”, and in lyrics such as “with a smile and a song life is just a bright sunny day, your cares fade away, and your heart is young” (from Snow White and the Seven Swarfs, Disney) and “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile” (Powell, 1915). There is growing interest in humor research with humor and play conferences, newsletters, web sites, an international society for humor studies, psychology journal articles and an entire journal, Humor. Within the field of psychotherapy, there are textbooks and handbooks advocating the use of humor. There is also the American Association of Therapeutic Humor (AATH) which promotes the power of laughter and humor. The following reviews the research supporting both the positive and negative effects of humor as a tool in psychotherapy and the actual moderating effects a sense of humor has on stress, anxiety and depression.
Humor and Psychotherapy
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