The use of irony and humor in psychotherapy

Irony is something serious: It is a great human resource, although Freud called it a defense mechanism.

Lately, its importance has been reassessed in therapy, and this element was considered as a facilitating resource for the construction of the therapeutic relationship.

The role of humor in psychotherapy

Humor stimulates laughter, and as we know physiological stimulation through laughter has a number of health benefits. It is associated with reduced stress and also appears to increase pain tolerance.

But on top of that, laughter also helps us have a satisfying emotional experience. It not only induces us to states of intense physiological activation. If a person is angry or sad and laughs at a playful comment said by someone around them, their mood will instantly change from anger and sadness to a more pleasant feeling, even if only for an instant.

that’s why irony, as part of humor, can be a powerful weapon in combating bad humor and sadness.

Indeed, recent research from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor has highlighted the positivity of therapeutic humor by defining: “an intervention that promotes health and well-being through stimulation, discovery, expression and appreciation of inconsistencies and absurd situations in life. These interventions can be used to improve health or be used as a complementary treatment for illnesses to cure or cope with physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual difficulties ”.

What is irony for in psychotherapy?

Irony is an excellent therapeutic tool, Because being able to laugh at something that oppresses us, even for a moment, is a bit like relieving the tension that has built up.

The basic functions of irony in psychotherapy are as follows:

1. It is adaptive

It represents an adaptive and effective coping strategy to contrast painful mental states, offering an alternative view of critical events. Through an ironic intervention, which leads to a change in the rigid view of a problem, the therapist can teach the ironic aspects of an event by helping the patient to experience it with more disaffection and lightness and learn to adaptively deal with negative emotions.

2. Increases the ability to deal with problems

Increases problem solving ability. As Borcherdt says, “If we can laugh at a problem, it’s solved”. Most situations, even the most difficult, have an ironic side, however. experiencing certain negative emotions prevents us from perceiving the fun side of them. Over time, the decrease in the intensity of negative emotions puts the critical and painful aspect in the background, allowing the comedic side to be appreciated.

3. Increase optimism

It acts as a mediator between positive emotions and humorous commentary, which can lead to the experience of confidence, optimism, and happiness. In addition, irony makes it possible to express certain feelings that are intensely felt. This expression occurs in a controlled and safe manner. Irony it also allows you to express emotions and feelings otherwise they would have remained silent.

4. Improves the patient-therapist relationship

It helps to increase the therapeutic alliance, help establish and maintain a positive therapeutic relationship. During a psychotherapy session, a humorous comment expressed by the therapist can help communication between him and the patient, further reducing resistance to the sessions, as it leads to establishing a more relaxed and open conversation.

5. Helps improve self-esteem

It is easier to increase self-esteem: laughing at oneself is a useful mechanism for the patient to achieve self-acceptance and acceptance of his faults. Those who have the ability to laugh at themselves exhibit a higher level of well-being as they develop fewer depressive symptoms and increase their tolerance for negative emotions.

Indications for the correct use of irony in psychotherapy

Keep in mind that humor and irony should be used as a complement to make recovery processes easier and smoother, and not as something that is used just because “it’s fun” , as this could disrupt the dynamics of psychotherapy. It is used as a way to more adaptively interpret the facts that cause discomfort.

In addition, it should be remembered that irony and humor must be used once the therapeutic link has already been established and consolidated as such, at a time when the patient can also use it in his comments towards the psychologist or the patient. psychologist. Otherwise, such comments can be interpreted as a lack of respect or professional seriousness, which would greatly hamper the progress of therapy.

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