Counselor’s Corner: The Therapeutic Benefits of Humor in Substance Use Disorder Counseling

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ATTC on 3/21/2021 by Mark A. Sanders, LCSW, CADC; Illinois State Program Manager, Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC

Humor can be utilized in substance use disorder counseling to help reduce client resistance, increase rapport between counselor and client, and help facilitate recovery. Some of the therapeutic benefits of humor in substance use disorders counseling include:

Laughter as the great equalizer. Maya Angelou told Oprah Winfrey that only equals laugh with each other. Many clients with substance use disorder enter counseling feeling that they have failed, which often leads to defensiveness. Laughter can be instrumental in decreasing that defensiveness.

Laughter can bring the idealized counselor back to life. It is particularly helpful for counselors to occasionally tell humorous stories about mistakes they have made in their own lives. This can help clients be less guarded about their own life mistakes.

Laughter can decrease resistance to counseling. It has been said that the shortest distance between two people is a good laugh.

Laughter can also:

  • Decrease cross-cultural tension in counseling. It is hard to laugh and hate at the same time.
  • Facilitate bonding between counselors and clients.
  • Facilitate self-disclosure by creating a friendly environment.
  • Allow clients relief from painful experiences.
  • Decrease anxiety about taboo subjects.
  • Decrease stress and anxiety in counseling

Laughter can make the therapeutic hour seem quicker. Many clients report a great deal of boredom in early recovery. Therapy is more enjoyable when it moves quickly. Laughter helps!