The benefits of humour in therapy and recovery
I work with some incredibly funny people. Individuals that are able to see the funny side of both the tragedies and trivialities of life. They are not comedians. They are not entertainers of any description.
These people are members of a multi-disciplinary team that I co-lead. As a collective, we function as an acute psychiatric assessment team. We run a 15 bedded mixed-gender ward. An Emergency Room for the insane to come to, when needed. And that’s just for us, the staff. For the patients, we provide a place of safety, care, assessment and treatment. An assessment ward for individuals experiencing acute psychiatric disturbances.
The traits of these funny, kind colleagues of mine manifest themselves as unconditional positive regard even in the most challenging of circumstances. We once had a patient admitted; floridly psychotic and naked. He was wrapped from head to toe in cellophane. Despite his threatening and socially disinhibited demeanour, we treated him with dignity and kindness. Although you could clearly see his nuts.
Evidence informs us that humour promotes therapeutic relationships and recovery. Although, there was that one patient that claimed he had imposter syndrome. He would walk around laughing at all our jokes. But it turned out he was just faking it.
There was also that time when a psychotic dwarf who had escaped from the police was admitted to us. Believing he was Tutankhamun, he had mummified himself and thrown himself down the nearest hill. I would tell you the story, but it’s a little condescending. And it takes a while for the story to unravel.
And then there was that patient who believed he was a kleptomaniac. He would constantly ask if there was anything he could take for it. It is my firmly held belief that it was the humour of the team that supported this individual to recover just in the nick of time for him to attend the Annual Kleptomaniacs Convention. He wanted to arrive early before all the seats were taken.
The appropriate use of humour also binds a team together. One of our doctors, a massive advocate for reverse psychology, has just finished writing her first book. She was walking around telling us all not to buy it. I told her that was a shit joke and that she could do better. She told me I was an idiot. “I want a second opinion!” I cheekily responded. “You’re ugly too!” She told me.
In nursing, particularly mental health nursing, we underestimate the importance of humour in treatment and recovery. Humour is versatile, adaptable and beneficial for your health. Unlike my ex-wife.
I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to work alongside such kind and positive people.
Originally published in Medium publication ‘The Haven‘ 07/10/19.