Ashwood Therapy Blog

Humour in the Counselling Room

Therapy, you might think, is a serious business.  I would say that you would be right – except when it isn’t.

People may seek out the assistance of a professional counsellor when they are facing a difficult situation or perhaps when they want to work on an area of personal growth.  While there can be tears shed in the counselling room, what I have come to realise over the years is that there are also many occasions when laughter breaks out, and a smile lingers for a good few minutes.  When a client brings their whole self to the counselling process, they may be just as likely to grin as to frown.

When I worked at a hospice for children and young people, I was often struck by how one minute the tone of my conversation with a client could be quiet sombre, yet in the next we could be laughing together as the client was reminded of something their cherished son or daughter used to do that made them smile.  Were they any less sad at their loss?  No, I don’t think they were, but in that moment another emotion took over, and that, of course, was fine by me.  It can be the case that we are ‘expected’ to behave in certain ways by those who are close to us, or by those who we work with or are in regular contact with.  If we have suffered a bereavement, for example, people might feel they know ‘how to be’ around us if we are low, whereas if we suddenly feel lighter one morning, this can be difficult for others to deal with.  Similarly, if we receive a job promotion, we may be expected to be all smiles, whereas we might feel quite sad at what we will have to leave behind, despite being mindful of what we stand to gain when we move up the ladder.  You might not be completely understood if you are depressed at the party put on to celebrate your promotion!

A key part of the person-centred approach is its non-directive, accepting nature.  It is not up to the counsellor to tell the client how to be, how to feel or how to behave.  Hopefully over time the client will come to trust the relationship between themselves and the therapist, and will be able to be more ‘as they are’, moment to moment.  When counsellor and client are attuned, sharing a joke can lighten a session and can be a real expression of the proper functioning of the therapeutic relationship.

Picture the scene: a client is laid with her eyes shut on a couch in the therapist’s office.  The therapist stands behind her, with a clipboard and pen in his hands and spectacles perched on the end of his nose.  He gently tells the client, “you’re in denial”.  The woman replies, “no, I’m not” :-)

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

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Humour in the Counselling Room | Ashwood Therapy Blog