Laughter in the therapy room?
Listening to ‘Pause for thought’ on BBC Radio 2 this week, I found the sentiments of the Tibetan Buddhist Alison Murdoch ran in parallel with some of my own reflections on ‘laughter’ in the therapy room. For example, I quite often experienced the pleasure of relating through the use of metaphor and analogy with some clients, which has resulted in great amusement.
At the same time, I am aware that the nature of our work requires a level of seriousness which is usually evident in the counsellors contracting, boundaries and continuous positive regard or the client. I am also conscious that the therapy room is often typified as a place of serious contemplation exploration and a place for self development, a place of calm, a quiet atmosphere, to facilitate a relationship of trust and to enable the client to explore their issue(s).
To envisage laughter in such a place then can imply a lack of respect, a lack of seriousness or professionalism of the therapist. It can suggest to clients that one does not take their issue seriously or that the issues of the client are trivial or irrelevant.
Nevertheless, as a natural part of being myself, being real with my clients, I have found that laughter appears to facilitate a relationship of trust and mutual respect for the other. It can break down the invisible wall of power in the relationship and bring a sense of real relating from one human to another, as Murdoch suggests ‘laughter can help us to chip away at our pride and self-importance, and open up to new experiences’ (2010).
In short, Pause for thought’, reminded me of the value of not altogether taking myself too seriously in the therapy room, and that when I laugh with my client I am laughing also at myself. As the Tibetan Buddhist pointed out ‘it seems then that laughter is more than just a feel-good factor, as to laugh with someone – never at them – brings us closer than words can say’ (Murdoch 2010).
References: Murdoch, A. (2010) A pause for thought. BBC Radio 2.
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