Counselor: Laughter in therapy provides benefits

Ashley Tsao

A licensed counselor explained how he uses improvisational comedy to promote laughter therapy at his clinic in a lecture put on by the DiNitto Center for Career Services on Monday.

Lane Ingram, a licensed professional counselor and self-proclaimed comedy nerd, said when combined with therapy, laughter is helpful to patients of all ages by serving as a healthy coping mechanism, encouraging the use of creative problem solving skills and giving perspective to serious issues. Ingram demonstrated the comedy improv techniques he uses on his patients at the lecture.

Improvisational comedy promotes many therapeutic benefits such as validation, empathy, positive thinking, unconditional acceptance and communication skills in people, Ingram said.

“I would see patients recovering from overdose and suicide attempts using humor to process their experiences,” Ingram said. “Soon after I integrated laughter therapy into my sessions, I realized that they were more helpful to my patients.”

Assignments for patients at Ingram’s clinic, Upside Wellness, include doing laughter exercises, watching funny movies or TV shows, making time to laugh every day and playing improvisational comedy games.

“Most people that are depressed are watching sad videos that only help to reinforce their sadness,” Ingram said. “If we are talking about breaking bad habits, these funny videos combined with improvisational comedy games is a good way to start.”

Ellen Line, a social work graduate student, said comedy improv techniques could improve her interactions with future clients.

“Laughing together would help me to connect with them,” Line said. “These methods would help myself and my clients grow because laughter can be a way to break down barriers between two different people.”

According to Ingram, laughter therapy recognizes humans are able to laugh without watching something funny because the brain does not know the difference between a genuine laugh and an induced laugh.

The limbic system in the brain responsible for happiness is normally only stimulated by drugs, alcohol, sex and sugar, according to Ingram.

“It is a difficult part of the brain to tap into,” Ingram said. “And yet, laughter taps into that part of the brain. It’s a free, unlimited, natural resource, and we can have as much of it as we want.”

Laughter allows individuals to recognize mistakes are OK, and change can be good, Ingram said.

Jasmine Doshi, a social work graduate student, said she understands how important laughter is in the field of social work, where employees constantly deal with serious issues.

“Being able to laugh things off is a good way of releasing stress instead of internalizing it and keeping it within you,” Doshi said.

According to Ingram, time spent laughing is not time wasted, but is part of a healthy lifestyle.